After getting the chance to be an audience to Billy Merrell at a previous Elan Alumni reading as well as seeing him at Writer’s Fest in 2016, I’m excited to see what he brings to the table at this year’s Writer’s Fest. Reading through his poems have been an emotional experience, but one that I’ve enjoyed greatly.

It takes a level of vulnerability and acceptance towards opening up to be able to write intimately and personally. This is something that took me three years at Douglas Anderson to finally do, but it was a freeing feeling once I finally opened up. I got the same feeling from reading Billy Merrell’s “Canon,” a poem I felt I had some secret connection to through my existence as a writer, as someone who looks onto the work of others in order to give myself the ability and the might to write on my own. I admire the way Merrell not only brings this connection into the piece but makes it specifically personal to himself through the listing of specific poets.

Another admirable aspect of the poem is its beginning, the very conversational tone it takes on from the start. I think much of this comes with the topic of the poem and how open it is to different types of readers to connect. The topic of the poem, self-acceptance, makes the conversational tone seem intimate. There’s an emotional understanding between speaker and reader.

I really enjoy reading poems saturated with emotions and experiences that feel very personal to the writer or the speaker themselves. That’s what it was like when reading “Cannon,” a saturation. I felt discomforted in the best way possible.

Another powerful poem by Merrell is “Folding Sheets,” from his collection Talking in the Dark. This poem describes the moment between a mother and son in which they carry out an everyday action like holding sheets together, but the closeness that comes with doing so. I’ve recently written a lot of poems concerning the relationship I have with my own parents, so this one caught my attention.

This poem focuses specifically on a single moment. It’s layered with many different images, the same object and action shown in different ways, symbolizing different things. I love that Merrell does this, that he makes this moment so vivid that I picture myself there. One line that stuck out to me the most is “And then the air underneath is undone/like hands just after a prayer.” This line, beautifully unique, felt like a breath of air. This moment feels very traditional and devotional. It shows the love between a mother and her son, how much it can be appreciated through such a simple thing.

Knowing that Billy Merrell comes from Douglas Anderson, that he returns to share the art he has continued to produce with much vigor and talent, is inspiring. It strikes down the fear of losing this passion after leaving a sanctuary such as DA. I look forward to being immersed in the art with all the writers next month.

Kinley Dozier, Senior Managing Editor


It Just Sort of Happened

It was sophomore year of high school and it happened like this, I’m pouring poetry from my fingertips, filling my journal with more ideas than I can keep up with and then nothing. It just stops and suddenly it becomes painful to pick up my pen. It was the hardest year of my life, I called it “writers block” because I didn’t really know what else it could’ve been. But when the months slipped by and the motivation was still lost to me, I had the revelation that maybe the passion was gone. It seemed as though I was stuck in a pivoting black hole, not sure what I supposed to do from here and I was scared. I don’t think I’d ever been so scared. Six years of dedication wasted on something that was just going to leave without a trace, like a bad ex-boyfriend. The one you tell your grandkids about.

Talking about it wasn’t an option because I didn’t fully understand what was happening myself. Not to mention the fact that no writing wants to admit they’ve lost their passion to practice their art because that in itself is a type of disgrace that’s hard to live down. Not being able to pick up my pen because of what? I just don’t have anything to say anymore. I don’t know why it happened either. It’s easy to blame it on stress, but a part of me wonders if this was my creative subconscious finding a way to tell to take a break. To stop forcing things out of myself that weren’t ready to come out yet.

I wish I could sit here and describe some life altering moment as to when I finally got my passion back but the truth was, it just sort of happened. A moment I didn’t even realize was happened until I took a step back and realized I wasn’t scared anymore. I was lucky, because when this happened was when I needed it the most. Writing assignments were being handed out left and write, and there was nothing inside of me to give back and be proud of. Until that one night. It was around three am and I couldn’t sleep so I pulled out a book of old writing prompts I’d picked up from the thrift store. On and off I would pick it up hoping that one of them would spark and interest inside of me. Well, who knew a Thursday night could be so lucky. The particular prompt asked me to start each paragraph I wrote with a quote I liked. There was nothing special about this prompt, but I noticed that even though it was slow at first as I begun to write, pretty soon I couldn’t stop. I’d gotten to use to over the past few months only writing a few sentences before feeling drained. I suppose you can imagine how I felt when I looked down and noticed two pages of my journal completely filled. It was euphoric.

Sierra Lunsford, Website Editor

A Loss for Words

I don’t think there has been a very specific moment in my life where I’ve lost my love for writing. I believe I’ve had a number of little moments where I felt like giving up on writing for many reasons; whether I was stuck in a piece or couldn’t get a piece started at all, or I was just disappointed in what I wrote, that it didn’t feel like I’d taken the writing to its full potential. I could never imagine myself totally giving up on writing. I can’t help but write every day, not just because of classes and assignments, but also because my need to put down the things I see. I observe my surroundings and in them, I find characters, plot and conflict, abstract ideas. These things I put down, mentally at the time, then later on paper. Truthfully, I don’t immediately put these ideas to the test in a piece. I write fragments and leave them as is.

Although jotting down ideas is a part of being a writer, it is nowhere near the full scope of writing. At the beginning of each school year is when I, in a way, reboot myself as a writer. During the summer, I never find time to write pieces and hardly find time to read. It’s not necessarily that I lose my love for writing, it’s just that I lose some of my abilities. I become unfamiliar when I’m away from it for too long. I attribute my ability to rekindle my love for writing to my teachers and peers. Again, I regain it at the beginning of school. Assignments in creative writing can be very stressful because they require a lot, mentally and emotionally. Being in the class environment with people who have the same love for writing as I do and knowing that they understand is encouraging. It’s a reminder that I’m not alone and that it’s not just a grade, it’s practice within my craft. I’m forced to clean off the rust of not having written anything for two and a half months.

Another way I rekindle my love for writing is reading other people’s work. It’s another way of understanding that I’m not the only one on a journey to knowing myself, things instilled in me and around me, things I know too well and don’t know at all.

Lindsay Yarn, Digital Media Editor