From Fan to Senior Poetry Editor: How I learned what it meant to be a part of a long-standing tradition

Aracely's Blog PictureBefore I joined the Élan Literary Magazine Staff I was a fan and a contributor. In my sophomore year of high school I was giddy to learn the publication accepted my creative nonfiction piece about my process of character development. The following year, my junior year, they published my poem about my revelation concerning my sexual identity.

At the end of both years I held the glossy finished product in my hands. I flipped frantically to find my work in there, sure enough with its own page, and my name among the table of contents.  As with any budding writer it felt wonderful to feel validated, my words printed definitively into the page.  I still have the books, tucked lovingly next to yellowing copies of Black Beauty and The Collected Poems of Pablo Neruda.

But this time around the published book will hold a greater weight.

My Senior Year I joined the Élan Staff, not quite sure how I was going to contribute but knowing I wanted to dip my hands in the process of compiling and creating the book.

My first taste came when the reading process took place to prepare for the publication of our winter online book. Before I knew it I was bursting with nearly a hundred poems, all of them singing the particular cadence of a young writer. I sat there, knowing I had a major hand in deciding which ones would find their way to the book. I’ll admit, I was overwhelmed. To make matters worse the poet in me was flailing with indecision. One poem would distract me with its fascinating imagery, and another with the blunt, lyrical voice of its speaker. Eventually I settled myself and made decisive albeit difficult choices.

Next came helping those whose work fell into a tricky in-between. To clarify, those who the magazine wanted to publish, but whose work still needed some polishing. Again, my position came into play. I sat down with young poets like myself and tossed myself into their poetry. I sat for several minutes going line by line, making notes, and then later talking to them face to face. Though intimidated at first, I grew to love the investigative nature of it. Learning to respect the writer’s voice and work while discovering the intricacies that needed improvement.

Since 1986 someone or several people have been in the same position as I am. Falling gently for the poetry finding itself in front of them. As well as left pondering over paper with thumb pressed to their lips, brow thoughtfully wrinkled.

Though Élan has a myriad of books chronicling its literary journey since the 80’s, it also carries a group of former editors behind it. It pleases me to think that my experience with Élan is a shared one, and will continue on to be just that for those who choose to involve themselves in the magazine. The magazine itself will go on to enrich the community and encourage young writers through sharing their work, just as it did for me, and just as I am doing for others.

-Aracely Medina, Senior Poetry Editor

Becoming the Storyteller

jordan bp fictionWe learn the art of storytelling as children. We embellish our experiences, come up with new ones, more interesting stories to tell. This is not to be confused with lying, a not entirely separate art we master in the same time frame. Lying and storytelling serve different purposes, the latter definitely a more celebrated craft, and more enjoyable to be ensnared in.

The beauty of a story is that there is no one way to tell it, and it does not have to be your own. In reading and writing, I prefer the story behind a poem to a narrative in fiction. Longer pieces have more room to develop setting, characters, and so on through scenes. That can be done beautifully and uniquely with perspective, narrative voice, dialogue. But in poetry, the detail in describing a moment can tell a story just as vividly in a few words. I feel like there is more room for interpretation, and just enough is given to you to make the experience resonant. There is the opportunity to decide on backstory, character motivations, etc in either genre, but I feel like poetry allows the reader to feel more connected to the story. The reader becomes the storyteller to fill in the missing pieces.

I love the escapist quality of reading fiction, which is not always attainable with poetry, when the described experience becomes your own. Writing fiction remains a challenge for me since I’m so used to seeing the story in a moment. It’s hard to step back and create something full in a less confined space.

-Jordan Jacob, Junior Editor-in-Chief