A Thin Line between Poetry & Fiction

kiara-september-blog-post-pictureÈlan Literary Magazine is celebrating its 30th year Anniversary. In honor of the evolution of our published writing, our editorial staff is appreciating the techniques and stylistic choices of those that have inspired them. 

I am a writer that is constantly battling whether I see myself as a fiction writer or as a poet. I think that I do well in both aspects but there always seems to be the need to categorize myself. Recently I have found that both worlds are attainable through hybrid writing. I am really inspired by writers such as Jamaal May and Lee Ann Roripaugh. These are artists who tell their poetry through a narrative lens. One of my favorite pieces by Jamaal May is, “How to Get Your Gun Safely out of Your Mouth”.

The piece is a prose poem in which the examination of the retaining the will to live, to take a moment and breath. The poem takes you through a series of moments, and lists out the ideas to get the reader to take their time and consider the options to move forward. May uses second person perspective to his advantage in the poem, as he’s talking to the “you”, but he is also speaking of himself in the piece. I recently, tried to do this in my own poetry examining a similar pool of thought, and I wasn’t as successful with my endeavors, but I want to be able to speak to the reader and for myself.

Lee Ann Roripaugh, is able to take on a more personal approach and even creates an almost, folktale, storyteller vibe. The voices in her poem seem wise and the structure of her poems mimic this. The poetic elements tangle with that natural and ethereal voice which makes me feel that her own story is something I can always take to heart.

I believe I am drawn to prose poetry and poems that feel like stories because of their relatability aspect. Story telling is something all people have exposure to, and it makes a poem seem more accessible, and the visual style of a prose poem or hybrid piece always seems to be a journey. I am always interested in how visual structure can change the perspective. A reader can see the piece and dive in, and afterwards, feel in their chest that what they experienced was unique.


How to Get Your Guns Safely Out of Your Mouth by Jamaal May

Go ahead and squeeze, but not before you put on some tea,

clean two cups, lift shades and pin back curtains. Not before the end of this

song, before dawn reaches in, before you turn the page or a woman

apologizes for dialing the wrong man again—not before you learn her

name, how to pronounce it, how to sing it with and without regret

catching in your throat—Are you done? Go ahead and squeeze after

the hinges are reinforced on all doors, the house secure from storm or

intruder, your laces tied, this commercial break over, drywall taped,

spackled, painted—a nail driven, a painting hung and adjusted—

there is still so much to adjust, arrange, there is still time—and you

write your letter, correct every letter,

scrawl the signature so swift and

crooked it becomes the name of another—relax the

jaw that holds the barrel in place,

remove gun, point to heaven, and squeeze until the clip

is empty like the chamber.

-Kiara Ivey, Senior Layout & Design Editor

A World Within My Own

Kat BP pic 2All people do their entire life is try to figure out who they are as a person.  Many people die trying. As for myself, I can’t say I know the essence of my entirety. My mind and soul and body are on wheels spinning in different directions, sometimes on different continents, it seems… But what I do know is that I understood myself less before I poured into the pages of the Harry Potter series. I’ve found my fingers flipping J.K. Rowling’s pages, becoming lost in the labyrinths of her plots, carried away in the compassion flowing from her characters.

As I’m reading this series, all these people see the body of the book, its spine, or the cover between my hands wherever I am. I heard things like: “I read that series in elementary school…” I couldn’t help but feel a flush of red overpower my cheeks and almost feel ashamed for being a seventeen year old reading this series. I kept reading and it was soon that I decided reading this series was the best thing that ever happened to me.  Anyone I’ve met that shares an interest and love for this series has felt instantly like family to me. These books hold so much invention and creativity, from creatures such a as hippogriphs and phoenixes, to things like death eaters and giant serpents, to settings of moving staircases and talking portraits…The plethora of uniqueness drips from page to page.

Perhaps the love I feel for the Harry Potter books is mostly due to its characters. Like Ginny, I am often shy and quiet around crushes. Every now and then I am the clumsy and unlucky Neville. Sometimes I am the ambitious and overachiever Hermione. I am the animal enthusiast, Hagrid. I am the embarrassed, red cheeked Ron as my parents discuss bills, or my sibling’s triumphs surpass my own. I am the average person who found out they are indeed brave and special and worth something.

Someone smart once said “you must love yourself before you can love others”. In a way, finding who I am is a step closer to being able to accept and love myself. I may not live in the world beyond the bricks of 9 and ¾. I may not fly Firebolts and speak to elves like Dobby, but that’s the magic of fiction. I can coexist as myself, in this world, or I can apparite into another world.

And to J.K. Rowling, you’ve made a world in which I love the characters, and in return, have found ways to appreciate myself. And so for all the days and nights flipping pages, I give my most real and honest thank you.

-Kathleen Roland, Art Editor 

Creative Nonfiction

I’m drawn to a certain style of writing that only specific genres can bring. Of course I love to curl up next to a fire scented candle in the winter and read a good fiction story. But fiction doesn’t have the honesty that I strive for when I read poetry. And Poetry, loaded with ambiguous language, can send my mind into another galaxy. So I look for one of my favorite genres, creative nonfiction. It is probably one of the most over looked and underrepresented genres in writing but it is a mix of truth, honest, imagery, and figurative language that connects like no other genre.

People neglect that Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is actually a creative nonfiction story. Under the lingering coarse details of a family murdered in Kansas, there is a pile of truth that no other fiction story or poem could reach, though creative nonfiction doesn’t have to be that dark. David Sedaris has written many essays and even published a book titled Me Talk Pretty One Day exploring his move from New York to Paris with a satirical witty approach. These writers both take either their own or other’s trials and tribulations in life load it with thought provoking and striking scenes before feeding it to readers.

-Chrissy Thelemann, Submissions Editor