“Mixed Emotion Elegy” Demands Understanding, Engagement

The culture we live in is one with constant media coverage and constant headlines—so constant that one can easily become desensitized to it. In a world fraught on the daily, it can often be difficult to see oneself in the endless news cycle, especially if it wouldn’t directly affect the one watching. Barker Thompson’s “Mixed-Emotion Elegy for Closeted Me” is a complicated work that entices the reader to untangle it, forcing the reader to engage with a reality they may have shunned or ignored.

And what reality does Thompson explore? What terrible place does the speaker of the poem find themselves in? The poem takes place largely in an ecosystem of ignorance and immaturity, an environment known as middle school—what other setting crawls with raw hormones, petty politics, and juvenile angst? Middle school is never one’s ideal circumstance, so from the very first line of the poem, I felt magnetized to the speaker and their plight. How couldn’t I? When I was in that awkward stage of life, nothing felt right, especially as a closeted kid. Such a secret is heavy to a child, when all one understands is the schism it could rupture between oneself and one’s friends. In middle school, one’s identity is still in formation, and thus, as Thompson describes, everyone is self-conscious and afraid.

It is not until halfway through the poem that the true stakes are revealed, invoking the deaths of LGBTQ+ peoples often ignored by media, or else buried under other headlines. This is where Thompson’s subtlety reaches its full effect. There’s a term (used often to deride or diminish the poem) for a work that expresses outrage at the social injustices that pervade society: a “soap box.” But Thompson’s poem is special, as it doesn’t just express outrage, though the speaker certainly deserves to feel angry. The poem is thoughtful and reflective, a reminder of the humanity at stake when we shut ourselves off to what’s happening on the other side of the screen. The elegy transforms the personal into the universal, with a topic that could easily be cloaked in vague expression and unhindered fury. I saw a mirror of my own struggles coming to terms with my identity, that fear and loneliness and self-consciousness. Thompson’s words allowed those old wounds to heal a little more, and for that reason, this poem has a place in my heart.

Thompson’s poem, “Mixed-Emotion Elegy for Closeted Me,” is just one representation of authentic craft present in Élan’s Spring Edition.

Noland Blain, Senior Managing Editor

No Single Life to Live, or Way to Feel

There are many beautiful and thoughtful pieces in Élan’s 2020 Online Spring Edition. A poem that comes to mind is “Primal Instinct,” by Sophia Miller. The sensory images and tactile descriptions make it come off the page. The same could be said for the choice of diction in this piece; its words are lively, creating a flow for the reader to move through. “Primal Instinct” gives a haunting reminder of what, I interpreted, women must go through in society – what we must go through in life. The last two stanzas especially bring this idea to light, its bitter-sweet details almost sticking to the roof of your mouth. I highly encourage that this is read this with a careful eye and thoughtful mind. It is truly a beautiful work, and shows the diverse selection of writing we have accumulated this edition.

Another work that stands out to me is “His Love,” by Lily Stanton; a fictional piece that depicts familial love and its strength through trial and hardship. This piece introduces us to the tired, almost melancholic mood, which connects to the dark setting the two main characters inhabit. The casual tone of the main character, James, puts us into the situation, his inner dialogue true to the emotional trials of having an aging mother. The specificity also makes this piece to come to life; little descriptions, such as the color and texture of the couch, or the elderly mother’s hands, gives us a space to see and feel. The dialogue is also very telling of the writer’s skill, as it develops the relationship between the two main characters and sustains enough tension to push the story forward. The same could be said for both the character’s actions, as well; every gesture and choice of body language drives the emotional plot.

It’s the final moments of “His Love” that truly deepen the wounds of this piece. In those moments you see time reverse; you see James yearning for the past, when he was just a boy. Then, an aching quiet spreads over the page as those final words are said, leaving you unresolved. That is why I always go back to this piece – the emotional depth is thought-provoking.

“Primal Instinct,” “His Love,” and many more will leave you in a similar, thought-provoking state. These types of works are important to art, because they expose you to different ideas and experiences – that connectivity and understanding of individual human experiences is key. You will find that many pieces in Élan’s 2020 Online Spring Edition deal with family and hardship, both in our selections of poetry and fiction. Coupled with these works are visual pieces to amplify their depth.

As an artist, myself, I feel as though it is vital for art to show us the array of experiences a human can have; that there is no single life to live, or way to feel.

Reece Braswell, Senior Art Editor

Morning Chat, Élan, and Life in Isolation

The cover art of Élan’s new Spring Online Edition may bear some similarity to what you’ve been doing over the past few weeks. In our newfound isolation, we’ve all made adjustments, big and small, to our daily routine and how we use our time, whether that’s working from home or getting to spend more time with our cats.

We initially selected Keila Smith’s painting Morning Chat as the cover of the issue before it bore such an uncanny resemblance not just to our morning routine, but to our afternoon, evening, and night routines; now that it does, it seems like nothing less than fate that we should have picked it.

The cleverly titled piece depicts a moment of domestic bliss, a girl and her cat lounging in the comfort of their home, taking momentary refuge from the everyday troubles of the outside world. It’s grounded in comforting warm and earthy tones, paint skillfully rendering the depth of the scene. Like we’ve all been pushed to in the past month, it urges you to consider the time you spend alone, or rather, the time you spend with yourself.

In its station as the cover of the issue, Morning Chat doesn’t so much serve as an indicator of the tales of the contents to come. In a sense, it more so suggests a portrait of the reader, existing outside, escaping into, and taking refuge in these tales. They are not of any one thing– these are tales of woe and of joy, tales of grandparents, fathers, and farmers, of orange-picking and of spaceships crashing to Earth. It would have been impossible to choose a piece of art that perfectly encompassed the diversity of experience in this issue, so we instead looked to this piece as a way to celebrate the universality of humanity that exists within that diversity, time with ourselves being a constant and how we engage with ourselves and engage with others in times of isolation being fresh on the mind.

I hope this period of isolation will allow you to look more closely at what your life looks like in isolation: how you’re spending your time alone, what you value when you’re alone, and in turn, what that means for you and your life both in isolation and not. And in the meantime, I urge you to take a moment to cozy up with your cat, a blanket, a cup of tea and read the unique selection of poetry, prose, and art that Élan’s Spring Online Edition has to offer.

Blake Molenaar, Junior Art Editor