The Little Things

Billy Collins has always been on of my biggest inspirations as a poet. I discovered in my freshman year of highschool and at first I didn’t really like him. Actually, I didn’t really like any poets but I remember one Christmas morning my grandpa handed me a small stack of poetry books. He told me he knew I was having trouble with my poetry and he saw these at a garage sale for a few dollars and thought they might help. Stuck in between Robert Hass and Yeats was a book by Collins. I think the cover attracted me more than the actual poetry did.

I didn’t really touch the books for about a month or so, until one day I was assigned to write about poem. Poetry was terrifying to me, I thought it was way to over my head for me to even consider being a poet. So I turned to the small stack of books that had been collecting dust silently on my desk. I reached for the Collins book and flipped through, until one poem stuck out to me. It was about yellow bathtub ducks he’d found in a drug store one night. Don’t ask me why I liked this poem so much because I wouldn’t really have an answer for you. But that one poem opened something for me. Pretty soon I started seeing the beauty in all of his poem.

The simplistic language, the beautiful imagery, the emotions I found hidden in each sentence. Collins isn’t the type of writer to write directly about his emotions. He always finds an image or an action to zone in one and he makes you feel it for yourself, instead of describing it. And I can tell you now, that for someone who hates talking about her feelings or sharing any type of personal information with stranger, this type of technique really intrigues me.

In a lot of ways Collins opened the door to the poetry world and sort made me see that not everything has to be complicated pros and metaphors that nobody understands. It was be simple, pleasant. You don’t have to rip through your emotional conscious or tear apart traumatic memories to get a good poem. Sometimes you can just write about the rain drops of a window or yellow bathtub ducks you find in a drug store.

Sometime when I’m sitting in front of my computer not being able to come up with anything, I’ll feel that fear inside of me. That fear that I’ll never be able to write poetry the way I’m “supposed” too, but Collins always finds a way to remind me that there will never be a specific way to write poetry. You write what you feel, what you see, what you experience. You write your truth.

Sierra Lunsford, Web Editor


Suffocation of Something Beautiful

Of all the beautiful artwork published in Élan, the piece that resonated that most with me is probably Slow as Molasses by Isabella Gardner. Not only are the aesthetics of this piece incredible, but the different meanings that could be behind it, how it connects to the pieces on either side of it, and how it connects to Élan as a whole are all amazing.

How this piece looks visually on the page is both intense and beautiful. While it’s drawn completely in black and white, the contrasts between the woman, the wall behind her, the bee, and the molasses dripping from her head allows for a lot of interpretation about light and color, even without those being present in the piece. The details of the woman’s lips and eyes allow for a lot of interpretation about what’s happening in the work; while the bees, which are often seen as symbol for discovering personal power, and the woman’s facial expression, which looks somewhere between self-discovery and pain, she’s also drowning in molasses, something incredibly sweet. Despite bees having stingers, the woman looks as though she’s being awakened as she’s being drowned and stung, and despite its ambiguity, the piece allows for a lot of personal interpretation. I personally see the work as a representation of how we often drown in our own vices and pleasures.

The piece also pairs incredibly effectively with the pieces around it. Altar Serving by Jaclyn Berry explores a girl finding pleasure in a time of intense emotional pain and stress, and Recipe for Baked Potato by Noland Blain explores themes of suffocation and the painful, unhealthy aspects of something delicious. As well as being one of the most thoughtful and beautiful pieces we’ve ever published, I think part of the reason it stands out in my mind is how it complements the writing and brings out themes in all three of the pieces that may not have been clear without the pairing

I also feel as though this piece epitomizes the message of Élan. We try to select pieces for our books that we feel are not only thoughtful and aesthetically pleasing, but also pieces that invoke an emotional reaction in the reader and that explores themes deeper than what’s merely on the surface. This piece allows for a vast amount of interpretations, is beautiful on the page, and totally fits in with the theme of the entire spring 2017 edition.

Oona Roberts, Senior Layout and Design Editor

Our Own Journeys

As artists, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of our own art form, and forget to look at the other ways people can express themselves. An aspiring actor might go to plays, but never visit any art museums. A filmmaker could attend dozens of movie premiers but never pick up a novel. Sometimes, the best cure for stasis in our own art form isn’t to continue to immerse ourselves in it. The best cure can be to remove ourselves completely, and experience artwork that’s completely different.

While we were compiling the fall edition, I got a chance to see some really beautiful artwork. I was amazed at the talent displayed by these teenage artists, some of whom were even my peers. I’m not going to pretend that I know anything about visual art, but in some ways, that makes my reactions even more pure. I have no knowledge about art composition, or any of the technical terms associated with the craft. When I respond to art, it’s purely based on what it makes me feel.

Several pieces stood out to me, but one that really resonated with me was Comfort of the Holy Mother, by Victoria Sherwood. Everything about this piece just drew me to it: the vibrant colors, the clear focus, even the details of the background.

In my writing, I’m often guilty of being too concrete. I can bog myself down with meaningless details and pointless asides. I’ll spend paragraphs describing something that ends up not being important to the plot. It’s hard for me to let go of reality and move into the abstract, and this is something I envy about a lot of art that I love.

Comfort of the Holy Mother portrays a girl, surrounded by a green aura, floating in the night sky. No other context is provided. Even my interpretation could be incorrect—maybe she’s not in the sky. Maybe she’s in the ocean. The title of the piece gives a little background information, but not much. It’s enough to pique your interest, but it doesn’t reveal too much.

And in a way, that’s the point. There doesn’t have to be an explicit intent. Everything doesn’t have to be explained. Art has value simply because it is art and it is beautiful. That applies to visual art, yes, but it also applies to other forms, including writing. Sometimes as writers we think that we have to express our ideas in ways that other people can easily understand, but that’s not true. There’s something appealing about complexity, about a little bit of mystery.

In Elan, we have a variety of work, from a very diverse group of students. The topics covered in our magazine span from difficult familial relationships to the struggles of growing up, and each piece explores life a little bit differently. We are all a little removed from reality, floating through space on our own journeys.

Meredith Abdelnour, Junior Layout-and-Design Editor