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

Growing as a Writer and a Person

winnie            I think there came a point in my time at Douglas Anderson where I began to question a lot who I was. Part of it was the typical teenage questioning of trying to find out who I was and who I was becoming and who I wanted to become, but the other part of me was questioning who I was as a writer and what it meant to be a writer and if I was even valid in calling myself a writer. It is hard to imagine being able to claim a part of your identity when you are on the cups of everything changing in your life.

            Coming into Elan I couldn’t imagine begin a part of something as solidifying as being a part of a literary magazine. It was like a token to me being able to say I am a writer. Maybe if I was a part of something bigger than I could truly be able to call myself a writer and not feel guilty about it.

            There was an odd sense of guilt because I felt that since I had trouble being even to claim the writer part of myself. How could I be a part of something that other writers go to?

            As I went through my first year on the staff, I had to adjust. I had to adjust to being able to call myself a writer because that is what I am. It will always be a part of me in some way, shape, or form. There is no way for me to try and hide that aspect of myself and I have tried. I through myself into Calculus class and physics and swore that I was never going to study writing ever again. It was denial in its purest form.

            I am afraid of losing the part of me that found solace in writing when I go to college. Elan allowed me to feel the power that my own words can have and the power that other people’s words also have. I had forgotten the weigh that words hold.

            I want to be able to carry with me the need to spread the love for writing that manifested itself in me through my time spent on the Elan staff. I think that’s what I want to give my junior, too. As managing editor, I spend an ample amount of time reaching out to other schools and students to encourage people to submit to Elan. It is tedious, but I enjoy sending out the emails because receiving an email from someone in China submitting to our literary magazine. It sounds horribly stupid that sending emails can be something that I enjoy, but I am also the person that says she enjoys math and will rant about derivatives when given the chance.

            It has been difficult for me to call myself a writer because there is so much I don’t know about myself and am still learning about myself. I thought that all I could be was only a writer and nothing else because of the way I see the world in such black and white terms. I didn’t realize that I can be a writer and someone who majors in math and someone who enjoys sending emails.

Winnie Blay, Senior Managing Editor

Saying Goodbye

It’s hard to believe that my time as a part of Elan is coming to an end. For the past two years my experience on this staff has built so much of who I am today. Freshman year, before I even really knew what Elan was, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it one day. For two years now, I’ve made so many memories and learned skills that I’ll not only take with me after graduation, but also that I’ll cherish forever.

When I first joined the staff, I had no idea all of the incredible opportunities I’d be introduced to. I didn’t know all the wonderful events I’d be a part of. Listening to the seniors talk about their roles and the things they’d been a part of the previous year, I was struck with wonder. For so long I’d felt like I didn’t play a big enough role in the creative writing department and this was how I could change it; by becoming involved, taking advantage of the opportunities that come with being on the staff. At the time, I wasn’t sure what position I’d take on, I didn’t think it’d be something serious at all. When I took on the role of Submissions Editor, I had no clue what it would lead into, that I’d become Managing Editor this year. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, though, because this position has been one of growth and maturity for me.

I was quiet, invisible almost, for the first years of high school. Joining Elan and taking on those responsibilities was the push I needed to finally open myself up some (now, some of my teachers wish I would stop talking). Being a part of a team pushes you, required a constant input. This year more than anything, I had to step out of my comfort zone to make sure things were getting done when they were needed. I was afraid of making my classmates think I was being controlling that I didn’t really want to do it, but I had to step past that fear and find a way to ask for things within deadline without being demanding. But also, without being soft. In that way, Elan has pushed me in growth.

One of my greatest memories of Elan is last year, once the seniors had gone, and it was just the four juniors with Mrs. Melanson. Having that first chance to open the print book and think, wow, my staff created this. My friends wrote these pieces. This art. In that moment, I stepped back and thought of the voice this book has in the world. Because even though our reach is still growing, we are mighty. And our words have power. That’s when I realized, too, how much my own writing matters. Because even though it hadn’t been published, that book was proof that words and feelings matter. So do my own.

There are so many things Elan has showed me. So many endless memories from the stress of planning homecoming to last year’s excitement of new submissions and web updates. This staff has changed me in ways I’d never imagined possible. Beautiful, crazy ways.

Kinley Dozier, Senior Managing Editor