George Saunders

George Saunders, one of the most famous and prevalent fiction writers of today, is a man who uses his past and experiences along with events happening in the present to influence his writing, and create short stories which have a certain feeling to them that is uniquely his.

My favorite story by him that I believe conveys this very well is from his most recent book, The Tenth of December, is titled Sticks. It would definitely be considered micro-fiction since it is only two pages long, although I chose this one in particular because I felt like it was so beautifully crafted and got so much across in such a short amount of time. I know, from working with this specific genre before, that it can be hard to really make a story meaningful, have good transitions, create a well-developed takeaway, and not lose the heart of the story all in two pages.  The story itself is told from two children’s point of view, technically in first person collective (we) looking at their father and his digression through his life. The entire piece revolves around their father who begins by every year decorating for different holidays and slowly begins hanging arbitrary things that prove to almost be a cry for help after the death of his wife.

One of the things I loved about this story, and that I believe to be uniquely George Saunders style was the syntax and the grammar in the piece. George Saunders always does such a good job of not only considering the content of a piece, but the craft as well. In this story in particular, the capitalization was key to show further depth of emotion. For example, words like “Death,” “Mom,” “LOVE,” and “FORGIVE” were all capitalized which I think gives them special meaning in the story, making them not only just nouns but very specific and important objects that, although, are universal ideas, still maintain individuality in the story.

I also noticed that the passing of time is also very well-done. I know that often times it can be very hard to use transitions and make the passing of time clear, but by utilizing the decoration of the “stick” Saunders gave very clear indication of shifts during the story. Because there was not really a definitive plot, it was easy for him to just jump around and really speed up and slow down when he wanted to.

Overall it was a beautiful story and, although short, gave insight into human nature and the cruelty of life, which George Saunders is often known for.

Lexey Wilson, Junior Editor-in-chief

The Artist’s Inspiration

Being a writer, I am always looking for a sort of inspiration and depth; images that delve into the mind and explore the deepest desires within us all. This is exactly the reason I chose the piece Blank by Jasmine Hernandez as my favorite art piece. Not only does Blank split the idea of love open under a microscope, but the artist uses contrasting colors and vivid detail to engage the reader and tell a story no one else can. In it, I see the idea of human connection. The heart, which has always seemed to embody the emotions hiding within us, is in the exterior bringing into question a subtle battle between external and internal that I am too familiar with as a writer.

This conflict is what I always seek for in my writing. I use my character’s desires and needs to fuel the piece, allowing them to tell their own story, and that is what I feel that this piece does. I fell in love with this art for the same reason I fell in love with writing; having the ability to craft something new and give readers something to think about. Here we are viewing the struggle between an exterior world and interior emotions, which is both individual and universal, striving to strike a chord with all who see it.

I believe that the piece also represents Elan in this way as well. The art gives every person a voice by expressing the “heart” within us all, and I believe that this is also the mission of our literary magazine. We strive to make artists voices heard and express the emotions found within each and every one of them. As a team, we put a book into the world which holds something that cannot be recreated and is all new. After being on the Elan staff for almost three months now and finally experiencing what it feels like to upload a finalized issue, I can say that the book feels just like the heart in the piece. The art and everything in the book strive to evoke new emotions and with each twist and turn there is something lying under the surface you didn’t expect. To the staff, Elan is our heart and it is something which we hope to share externally in order to captivate an audience within.

I love this piece and Elan because they allow for the exploration into the self without confinement; they bring emotions to the forefront and speak not only about our emotions, but also the connection of our physical being and the things we feel.

Lexey Wilson, Junior Editor-in-Chief

A Prose Poem is a Bowl of Spaghetti That You can Read

ABC SoupIn most conversations about what makes a poem a poem, form is discussed. One of the seemingly defining factors of a poem is its line breaks. Whether it be sprawling free verse, or the strict nature of a sestina, a key identifying factor of poetry is its visual appearance. Line breaks are a key poetic tool to manipulate mood and to segment images—they are, in many ways, one of the few things poetry has no other genre does.

I’ve always considered myself someone who can express themselves better narratively than abstractly. Because of this, I have struggled with the more nebulous nature of poetry, particularly regarding telling a story within the form. Then, I discovered the prose poem.

Prose poems are the Weird Westerns of the writing world. Prose poems dip their French fries in milkshakes, and put Cheetos in their sandwiches. Prose poems pronounce milk “mulk”.

The ability to anchor my images within a prose-like structure in many ways enables me to let the images flower naturally, and my idea tend to follow a more natural progression when they aren’t being stuffed into visual tube tops. Don’t get me wrong—poetry is a majestic form, and line breaks are the stakes keeping the vine growing up. Take the stake away, the vine collapses into a bowl of spaghetti. A prose poem is a bowl of spaghetti that you can read.

For some reason, surrealism blooms in prose poems. But so does honesty, because the imagery and syntax of poetry bring emotion into the space that swells without form to keep it clean.

 

For a long time, I thought prose poems were not in fact poems, largely because of the aforementioned belief that line breaks are the foundation of poetry. Humans naturally reject things they can’t easily categorize, and prose poems trample on category. Some think they should be considered as a genre of their own—my previous self, included—which is fair. But genre, like so many other things, is only a set of rules meant to be broken.

However, the foundation of poetry is music—poems were originally meant to be sung. It is the sound of a poem that makes it a poem, which is why when you remove the line breaks of a poem, you can still tell it is one. It doesn’t matter to me if the prose poem is a poem, or something else entirely. What matters is that they are uniquely dynamic and engaging worms of writing that sometimes kick you in the face and tell you to like it.

 

PROMPT:

Take an experience within your life and explore it through a surreal prose poem. Use aliens, mythological figures, or any other fantastic images/language you can think of. Through the fantasy/sci-fi aspects, explore the emotional consequences of this experience.

-Zarra Marlowe, Managing Editor