Sleepwalking: The Art of Concision and Vulnerability

I’ve never been good at keeping things short and sweet. As a person who rambles in their writing, who takes a long time to say what they need to say, I deeply appreciate poets who master brevity. I immediately felt this admiration towards Gwyneth Atkinson after reading “Sleepwalking” in our Fall 2018 edition. Her piece has inspired me tremendously.

From a structural perspective, the poem is only comprised of twelve lines–each line no longer than ten words in length. Yet the content of the piece is so intimate and emotionally charged that the word count becomes irrelevant. In fact, it is strengthened by the fact that it takes up so few words on the page.

My favorite line is the poem’s first line: “I woke up this morning having dreamt of my mother.” There is so much implication! We don’t have to be explicitly told whether the dream was bad, or whether the dream was good. Or what even happened in the dream at all. We, as readers, can just tell that it was haunting enough to wake her up. And the rest of the poem parallels this structure of implying and not telling so beautifully…it greatly matches the piece.

For me, writing about my mother falls into a steady rhythm of sameness. I write about the same couple of events, the same couple of feelings, draw the same conclusions in the end. Reading this poem was a realization for me. You don’t have to tell the reader everything! In fact, Gwyneth says the word “maybe” three times in her piece. When writing a poem, you, the poet, don’t even have to know what you’re writing about! Allow the reader space to read, to think about what you’re saying…you don’t have to force-feed a message.

I’ve been trying to find other lines of the poem to quote, but I find myself wanting to excerpt the entire latter half: “Maybe, last night I crossed fields/ Of black grass and cow shit to step/ Into her room, to sit with her, my eyes moving/ Under my eyelids like animals./ Maybe she woke up having dreamt of me.” There is so much longing here. I was left thinking about my own mother: how parts of me still want to be with her, and how much I wish she wanted to be with me.

This is the haunting “Sleepwalking” embodies. We don’t know the speaker’s relationship with her mother. We know she is hurt. Her words sound like the most private confession; an almost guilty admittance. It doesn’t take a ton of words to be honest– it takes guts. In this piece, we know what the deepest and most subconscious part of she wants. And that is truly the most meaningful thing I can ask of a poet.

 – Olivia Meiller, Junior Editor in Chief

Growth & Experience

(Photo credit to artist: Anasha Barnes)

I’m hoping to gain a lot of experience from Elan, especially since it requires a lot from a person (in a good way) and is such a big part of both Douglas Anderson and the Creative Writing department. Experience is the key to what allows people to grow and shape into who they are meant to be. I’m hoping to gain at least a little bit of that from Elan because high-school is the prime time to be growing as a person and I know Elan will help me with sharing my thoughts and leading when I need to. Being a confident leader has been a huge struggle of mine for a while. I know Elan will change that.

My position is Junior Digital Media Editor and the biggest thing I’m looking forward to is learning how to grow and expand in the digital world. I’ve never really been a big person to use media as a way to connect to others, so it’ll be very interesting to see how being a part of the Digital Media team will teach me that. Another thing I’m definitely excited about with being on the Digital Media team is having a huge part in how Elan is seen as a whole. That sounds like a huge responsibility, but for me it’s also fun. As someone who runs two of the media pages, I get to
choose the art and what to say. I was very hesitant about taking this job at first because I was like, “Really? Is this for me?” Now I’m beginning to get used to everything I have to do it and not stress as much about what I’m doing.

The main thing that motivated me to join Elan was new experience. I’ve been telling myself that I’ll always put myself out there and do things I don’t feel comfortable with, and being on Elan, I believe, will challenge that. I’ve always had great experiences in Creative Writing, but I also needed something that would be a long-term challenge. Even though I said I’m feeling better right now with what I am doing, not everything is going to be like that all the time. I realize that sometimes it’s going to get stressful or I might be put on the spot for something and I’m willing to accept that because of the experience it will give me.

I see Elan helping me grow a lot. I’ve never really been a person who shares my ideas that much or someone who feel comfortable with leading all the time. I’m always very quiet and shy about sharing my thoughts and feelings. To be on Elan you do have to share sometimes so not everything is building up and you go into a spiral of things you don’t want to do. Being a part of Elan is giving me that chance to grow as a person and fill that role of being comfortable with my ideas and sharing them.

Catriona Keel, Junior Digital Media Editor

Something I Have Grown Accoustom To

When deciding whether or not I wanted to be a part of Elan I truly took into consideration what I could bring to the publication. For the last five years, I have been writing constantly for my assignments in my creative writing classes. It’s hard to remember a time when I wasn’t in a writing program. It’s become such a normal part of my life and I thought I would continue with the classes I have been taking these past few years. My expectations were I would gradually continue my way through my creative writing courses, adding to the knowledge I already have until I graduate, to possibly take more creative writing courses in college.  And I certainly have been, but Elan brought something different to the table.

Elan gives me a space where I am able to interact with other people’s work, which is extremely beneficial to me. When reading Elan all the work is so professional and well put together, I knew I wanted to be a part of that. To be able to collect all this work from my peers and students internationally and compile it into something that I will be able to keep forever is such a special opportunity. It was something I couldn’t pass up. I knew I had to try to play a role in this publication.

Throughout my time going to an arts middle school and high school, I have always found myself drawn to fiction. It’s something that has always come naturally to me: the ability to create a well-rounded story. Fiction is what I grew up with and found myself forming a liking to through elementary school. Writing has stayed present in my life mostly through fiction, so I knew that being the Fiction editor would be a good position for me.

 

I only began writing creative nonfiction in my first year at Douglas Anderson, so in the long run it is fairly knew to me, and I found myself having trouble with it. It was like I had made a barrier between how much I can reveal and how much I can keep to myself. Fiction gave me an opportunity to hide behind a character. Last year, when I began reading more creative nonfiction my appreciation for it grew but I still found myself unable to truly reveal moments of my life in a convincing and relatable way.

This is why I think being the creative nonfiction editor for Elan can help me. Reading more creative nonfiction that people like me have written will give me an opportunity to strengthen my skills with the genre. Since I do not have a class that I am writing or reading creative nonfiction in this year, I think this is a good opportunity for me to continue to learn more about it and try to improve my ability to write it. My position in Elan comes with something I am comfortable with: fiction, and something I am uncomfortable with: creative nonfiction. I believe that through my time in Elan I will be able to come to understand both better, and hopefully improve my own.

Anna Howse, Junior Fiction/CNF Editor