A Needed Intimacy: Élan, Spring 2020

One my favorite pieces in Élan’s spring edition is Noland Blain’s “When my Mother Calls Me to Say She Quits Being my Mother.” It takes a while, in this piece, for the narrator to come to terms with the fact that the mother is not somebody that they feel deserves to have the title of mother— but still, stuck in the past and the subconscious, likely from being manipulated into thinking the mother’s actions are somehow their fault, the speaker tries to understand their parent and why they, for some reason, feel bad about a relationship that clearly stopped being good for them.

Time and time again, I have heard my mother find ways to pin her dissatisfaction of the world on us children. For a long time, I took it personally when she would reach out to me only to say that she was done with us children, that we never loved her, were unappreciative and only wanted to do things that hurt her. Even as a child, even when I recognized that these words were only meant to get reactions, I ached. When I stopped talking to my mother, much like the narrator in this poem, I began to get nightmares that would scare me further and further away from wanting to call her my mother. I started to realize that there were and are times, definitely, that she isn’t. This poem articulates the desperate need to disengage from a parental relationship that many people have trouble articulating, especially when it comes to mothers, who we often expect to be the one person that will always love us and always be there when we need them.

The Spring Edition of Élan is packed with many deeply intimate and connective pieces such as this one– another that really sat with me was “Minor Grievances” by Katlynn Sherman, which explores how the speaker’s relationship with their paternal figure changes as she grows up and visits him in jail, now old enough to decide what this means to them and how they are going to process this moment and engage with the world from then on. What blows me away the most about this piece is that it was written by one of my good friends, and having talked to them about the situation in this piece and then reading the piece and seeing how they expressed and translated this piece into their art— it’s otherworldly.

I get chills sometimes thinking about how all of the pieces, poetry, fiction, and elsewise that I read are somehow derivative of somebody’s personal experience– even more so when I, often times a stranger, find myself in their work. With Élan being written by kids my age, sometimes when I read it, I think about how there is a chance that I could be friends with this person or know them outside of their work and see all the ways in which they manifest within their creative work. It feels like such an untouchable thought sometimes, because when I read these pieces, I am blown away each time by the amount of creative talent and intimacy that is in a world so close to me. Even more so, the amount of understanding and closeness I feel to strangers in another universe, might not end up being strangers.

Evette Davis, Senior Web Editor


Vulnerability and Truth in the Spring Online Edition

In Élan’s 2020 Spring Online Edition, there are many pieces that reveal a vulnerability in these artists’ background and where they come from/what has helped them grow in their lives. Both the art and writing in this edition are so raw and honest. I loved going through the process of looking at both art and writing for this book edition because there is so much personal truth held in each piece that makes the book as a whole truly unique.

A creative non-fiction piece I connected to as soon as I read it is the piece, “Faults in a Guitar Strum” by Mia Parola. This piece focuses on the relationship between a daughter and a father and how the relationship has changed and developed over time. I especially love the descriptions used in this piece moving from memory to memory, because each description shows a new layer that was added to their relationship as time went on and she learned/understood more about her father as she grew older.

I found it so easy to connect with this writing piece because it reminded me of memories with my own father and how we have grown apart and together again. I especially connected with the moment where Parola’s father had to temporarily move for work and she describes staying up with him often in hopes he wouldn’t leave when he came to visit during that period of time. I’ve had similar experiences with my father because he works so often that every moment I do get to spend with him I hold onto really tightly and try to wring it out to last as long as possible.

There is a fear in the idea of “losing” this other person or having them less in your life as you both grow older and have to do separate things. Several other emotions (i.e. happiness, sadness, etc.) are added to the fear created by the experience described in this piece as part of you grows separate from that specific person, even when you remain close. That aspect of the different emotions and development in the relationship is something many people can relate to and can remind them of their own truths. Many people have experienced a situation like this, and like I did, can reflect on their own personal memories while or after reading through Parola’s memories and experience.

The honesty shown in “Faults in a Guitar Strum” is shown throughout the rest of our 2020 Spring Online Edition, with each piece telling its own story and truth. Hearing and seeing other people’s hearts in their pieces can be so inspiring, especially when you can relate your own memories to each story being told, whether it’s in the form of art, fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction. I strongly encourage you to read the Spring Online Edition, which can help inspire you to create a telling of your own stories through writing and/or art whether you knew you needed to tell a specific story about yourself or not.

Catriona Keel, Senior Web Editor

On “Becoming a Wishbone” by Riley Bridenback

This year’s Spring Edition has a lot of vulnerable, brave pieces of art and writing ranging from a large host of subjects. Some delve into the nature of being human; others cling to heartfelt, specific memories; however, one piece that stood out to be initially was “Becoming a Wishbone” by Riley Bridenback.

Bridenback’s piece speaks to people who have lost loved ones. As one of those people, this piece speaks in tones I am familiar with. Starting with the title, “Become a Wishbone,” clearly documents the speaker’s journey from point A to point B in their life. It seems to me, through this piece, that the speaker is acknowledging a change in herself—one that is far from welcome.

In the last stanza, “my skin in tight with abandonment, soft with grief. Like a / wish bone / being pulled by the greasy hands of children, I am waiting”. This small snippet shows the reader’s knowing of a change, and that which has made her full of abandonment and grief. The speaker is becoming those two emotions, through a traumatizing experience. The speaker expresses frustration with other people asking if they are “okay”. I have a similar experience with this, so this also stuck with me.

I am really looking forward to seeing this spring book edition in the hands of others. I wish to see artists work come alive with this new edition, and for them to receive the recognition that they deserve.

Jasper Darnell, Junior Layout and Design Editor