Reading the First Élan

Jacob's Blog Post PictureWhen working within a publication with as long a history as Élan, it’s easy to forget how complicated and interwoven tradition is. For 30 years, this magazine has collected and judged student writing and art under the supervision of teachers and students. There have been dozens of print issues, ranging from handwritten construction-paper projects to typewriter printouts, from small wads of paper custom-printed for Extravaganza to professionally produced full-color journals. Hundreds of staff members have worked on the magazine, and thousands of authors have given their work to the custody of the advisors, the editors, and the staff members of Élan.

It’s easy to forget. You work on only the most recent content, the newest poems, stories still in such rough drafts that writers will change entire plotlines when asked to. For those submitting work, it’s the same concept. Writing is new—it’s unique, it’s singular for the person creating it. Even if a long tradition of writing exists for a form or a character type or a style, the work feels like it only exists in a moment. Still, over time I realized how much my own writing had benefitted from the ideas and works of other authors—never from my contemporaries as much as from long dead authors who had been all but forgotten in the modern day.

It was thinking about tradition that made me want to investigate the history and lineage of Élan. To understand my role in the publication and the role of the work we were creating, I knew I had to look to the past and see where we had come from.

It started in 1986 with the first edition. Élan began as a letter-size stapled magazine, supervised by the English department with advisors that included Ms. Lynch and Mr. Lipp. Each piece was type-written and Xeroxed into the actual magazine, often with strange but eye-catching layout and almost always accompanied by illustrations, not by contributing artists but by the staff members themselves. The cover is blocky, grungy, impressively raw. The art is black and white, simple, almost primitive in its action and emotion.

But the most impressive part of the first edition is the writing. One would think that writing so unpolished and unprofessional, so unguided by the structures of a formal department, would be hard to read—spiky, sharp. And one would be right—the poems often rhyme, the stories are simple, and the style overall is what one would expect from any high school, not an arts magnet. But the honesty of the writing still shows. An essay from an English class, strange as it would be in our Élan, feels like it has a place in the first edition because it was written with care and passion.

Passion sums up the first Élan. It was simple, it was D.I.Y., but the people making it cared about writing. They cared so much that they started a magazine. It’s our job to continue that tradition of caring and passion—even if it feels rote and mechanical, art began and still begins in a place of creative excitement.

-Jacob Dvorak, Senior Fiction Editor

This Album is Heaven Sent

PICTURE ChristinaI’m not the kind of girl who wonders why Katy Perry hasn’t been making new music. I’m not the kind of girl who cries herself to sleep with Lana Del Rey dripping in her ear like melting popsicles turned black and grey.

I’m the type of girl who listens to the weird musicians, with the mellow voice and cocky attitude. The musicians who don’t care if they have fans or not. I’m the type of girl that listens to bands from the 90s and early ‘00s. Who listens to the musician that only posts music on sound cloud, and expects their fans to post concert videos on random YouTube pages.

Ever since seventh grade, I’ve been obsessed with the album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis. Wonderwall is one of my favorite songs. I absorb the orchestral background like a washcloth absorbs sweat and grime. I bask in the off pitch voice of Liam Gallagher as he sings about some girl that he’s probably still in love with. His voice drifting in the prominence of the cellos, acoustic guitars, tambourines, and drums. Leaving me in a tranquil state that makes me smile, even when tears are fanned out on my cheek like a parachute.

This is the album I listened to when I got a phone call saying that I was accepted into Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. The album I listened to when I had to stay up until 2:00 in the morning, because I had to finish a “group” project by myself, since no one finished the book we were assigned. The album I listened to before my dog was diagnosed with cancer. The album I listened to when she died. The album I listened to when I decided to tell a good friend of mine that I had a crush on him. The album I listened to when he told me he was dating a girl whose name wasn’t even her real name. The album I listened to after an old friend of mine walked by me, and neither one of us said hello. The album I listened to when I won an iPad for a poem I’m not proud of. The album I listened to when I wore eyeshadow for the first time. The album I listened to when my friend told me it looked bad. The album I listened to when my doctor told me I was done growing. The album I will listen to when I get accepted into one of the colleges I want to go to. The album I will listen to when I get my first car. The album I will listen to when I get married, then divorced, and decide that maybe I should wait a while before looking for another man. The album I will listen to when I retire and live in a beach house, even though I hate sand.

As long as I listen to this album, I’m okay.

-Christina Sumpter, Senior Creative Nonfiction Editor

The Tradition of Magic Realism in Latin American Literature

Aracely PictureLately I have been feeding my identity as a Latino writer by way of absorbing as much Latin American literature as possible. It has been a daunting but rewarding task. In my quest, I have read books of fiction by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, such as the renowned 100 Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera, and currently Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. Though I have mostly read fiction, I hope to delve into the realm of poetry fairly soon.

When engaging with Latin American texts the common thread of Magic Realism begins to make itself known. This particular genre is very rich and vivid but not for everyone. Due to its fantastical nature and imaginative leaps some claim that it is far too unrealistic, unreasonable, and makes little sense. However, many Latinos agree that the perspective and tradition of Magic Realism speaks directly to their people and collective voice. In Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, it is perfectly acceptable that ghosts should appear to give the living company, or that butterflies should follow a character faithfully and, in turn, follow his lover. For me, the beauty of the genre borders poetry, with its slow lulling narrative, and truth concerning matters of life and love. Having been to Mexico several times throughout my life, the genre matches the rhythms and rituals of living and the way people interact in that country.

The tradition of this kind of writing fascinates me.  I have tried my hand at writing in this way and will continue to experiment with this style. For me, it seems that reading and writing about the Latin American experience is not only refreshing and exciting but rings true to preserving my culture.

-Aracely Medina, Senior Poetry Editor