Content warning: grotesque imagery, eating disorders, potential for self-harm, suicidal ideology
I was asked a little while ago to talk about some of the things that inspire me, my art, and my writing. I was actually planning to start doing so, but then a major moment in the #BlackLivesMatter movement occurred and allyship took the center stage in my life and, therefore, on my blog. As a result, I’m only just now finding my balance between “activism” and my creative/career/educational pursuits.
Furthermore, the past two weeks or so have been the longest I’ve gone without writing or making any art in some time now; 2020 finally got to my creativity, and it’s been very uncomfortable for me. Even reading has become a little bit of a struggle; my brain clearly wants a break from my usual activities, and at some point, I decided to just suck up my pride and listen to it.
Therefore, I went ahead and did what anyone would do: I abandoned hope that I could get my mind into the space it needs to be in for my Master’s thesis right now, and turned to my PS3 in the hopes of launching myself into Skyrim again instead.
Unfortunately, the Universe had other plans for me. I realized quickly I had taken the wrong PS3 when I moved here, and that this one is broken (along with all my hopes and dreams).
My immediate reaction was to “collapse into myself like a dying star” (Jan from The Office is so relatable on just so many levels). Then, after promising the rotting corpse of my PS3 that I would write it the sickest elegy of all time (which I eventually did and may post at some point), I headed over to my laptop and sighed in sad realization of what I was finally about to become: a PC gamer.
Of course, my original plan of action was to purchase Skyrim, download it, and get back to one of the only places that’s ever made sense to me, one of the only places where I’ve ever really and truly felt at home. However, when I reached the Bethesda website, I realized I had an opportunity to try something new without taking a major risk, since whatever I decided to delve into from their website would still be a member of the best gaming family of all.
So, I ended up choosing Elder Scrolls Online…
And my goodness have the past few days been an EXPERIENCE.
Firstly, and just to get this out of the way, yes, playing an MMO version of a Bethesda game is WEIRD. Not do I keep forgetting that Elder Scrolls Online is an MMO and therefore standing just way too close to other players like a total creeper, but it appears I can’t gleefully murder all the townspeople with my warhammer as I was always prone to do in Skyrim for X-Box, and then later on, PS3. This came to me as a major disappointment, but I decided I wouldn’t let it get in my way. Maybe this was the Universe’s way of telling me to do actual quests for once instead of destroying the towns, hopes, dreams, and lives of random people in the game.
This ended up being the correct call for just so many reasons, one of them being the concept, acknowledgment, and regard of and for the “Warrior-Poet.”
Now, as a poet and MMA fighter in a world where I am a very awkward anomaly (at least in this specific context), I feel so understood by Elder Scrolls. I mean, they even have a literal Shrine of the Warrior-Poet!
Furthermore, my friend later informed me that the Warior-Poet was once an actual thing! Should I ever time travel, either with or without the help of my evil, immortal rubber duck, I now know where to find the true kin of my soul. ⚔️
I also assumed I’d meet numerous characters in my quests (since apparently I play by the rules now), but what I never expected was to find my people (elves) along the way.
Not only does ol’ Fovus here get five fire emojis for via my “badass fire rating” system, but I’m also obsessed with his Blair Waldorf state of mind. He would do very well on the Upper East Side, should he ever decide to partake in high society.
Exhibit B: Uryne Radarys — “I’m not here to entertain the likes of you.”
Badass Fire Rating: 3/5 fire emojis. Please teach me how to say this to people…
Badass fire rating: 4/5 fire emojis. I hope she’s well, wherever she is now.
I don’t usually read novels. I can’t say I really read more than three in a single year and, as time goes on, I find myself more and more immersed in poetry, lyric essay, critical theory, memoir, and other forms.
Something I do read slightly more occasionally, however, is the well-written short story.
I know of Kelli Green and her work from Twitter and, from the time before she released May (her debut novel and Book 1 of The Green Ivy Series), “Elizabeth.” Anyone who follows Green on Twitter knows she’s an extremely unique, intelligent, and grounded human being, and that played a major role in my decision to purchase and read “Elizabeth.” And let me tell you…
In “Elizabeth,” Green managed to make me fall in love with her two main characters (Marianna and Elizabeth) while simultaneously ripping my heart straight from my chest. In fact, this is the review I left for “Elizabeth” on Amazon and Goodreads.
“Everyone needs to read Elizabeth. Firstly, the story is short and fast-paced while still remaining extremely powerful. Furthermore, the author has a special talent for detail such that you never feel weighed down by it; rather, the details here serve to get you deeply invested in these beautiful characters and their well-beings before you’ve even gotten near the middle of the story. There are also very important race dynamics at play here; the author does a spectacular job of allowing readers to see the impact of these for ourselves through a narrative that takes us on a bit of an emotional roller-coaster up until and even past the conclusion. Elizabeth is an extremely important story and an absolute must-read.”
I also knew upon completing “Elizabeth” in 2019 that, when the complete novel came out (since the short story is actually an excerpt from May), I would be ready to buy and read it. Therefore, months later (in 2020), when Green finally released her debut novel, the book shot straight to the top of my to-read list, only second in priority to texts I still needed to consume for classes and my thesis.
While Green’s short story “Elizabeth” absolutely reeled me in, it did not prepare me for the experience of May.
Marianna is a very unique and inspiring breed of human specimen. While I, myself, am not very much like her, I did know a Marianna once in my life. Proud, stubborn, and a tad bit impulsive, but also compassionate, intelligent, courageous, adaptable, independent, deeply aware of her white privilege, and unrelenting in her convictions — two properly dynamic and lovable women.
The Marianna I knew once upon a time also opted out of her legacy of white supremacy, ease, and ignorance, like Green’s, and traded it in instead for a more enriching, authentic, and activism-oriented life than the one she was born into. Green’s Marianna and my Marianna also both had/have a certain untouchable coolness, but not in an intentional way that makes them ridiculous, obnoxious, or cruel. Their inherent coolness is in their morals, their convictions, their constant need to stand up for what they believe in, their utter disregard for what others think about them, and their inability to support anything they considered unjust.
While Marianna is the main character in May, that doesn’t mean that Green didn’t spend just as much time shaping her other characters. They all have pros and cons to them, strengths and weaknesses. Human flaws in the “good guys” are balanced with extremely redeemable traits and a constant willingness to be better wherever possible.
Complacency and immorality make up the character profiles for most of the “bad guys,” but never in a way that makes them unbelievable to Green’s readers. Like the “good guys,” there is so much real-world relevance that the reader is able to digest how and why they are, even if how and why they are is almost or altogether evil.
The main character’s love interest is also worth noting here. His name is Jon, and while he’s like Marianna in most ways, the things he doesn’t share in common with her are most of what balances the couple out and makes them a perfect match. In fact, I found Jon to be the most relatable character in the book, and I love that Green created someone for everyone when she probably could’ve stopped after Marianna and gotten away with it.
I’m not an effortless cool girl like Marianna, nor am I brave enough to exist as boldly in the world as she does. Jon, however, in his constant understanding of the hardly ideal world we all live in, awareness of his privilege, and his passion to do his best within it while still somewhat abiding by its laws to keep his family safe…
That’s something I can understand and relate to.
While, at the end of the day, I’d love to be a “Marianna,”I know I am not, and I accept that. If we were all “Mariannas,” then the current “Mariannas” of the world couldn’t really exist as “Mariannas” themselves.
Nevertheless, one of the characters in May who truly deserves an honorable mention and all the best things in the world is the famous Elizabeth. Here, we have a strong-headed, individual-thinking, curious, and mischievous pre-teen girl who the reader immediately understands deserves a better hand than she is given.
Elizabeth, who didn’t have a family, friends, food, or a real place to stay before she and Marianna came together, is the little girl you want to take in, feed, tuck in for a nap, and then buy some ribbons and new dresses for before heading over to the adoption agency so you can figure out how to make her new, loving home with you official in the eyes of the law.
With the character of Elizabeth and her intricate story line, there is a lot to write and even more to unpack, so I won’t get into the details here. What I will say is to look out for her when you read the novel, and also to allow yourself to fall in love with what I consider Green’s most beautiful character thus far.
As I mentioned previously, I was actually super nervous about reading a novel since I usually read and write in other areas. Even when I do read novels, they tend to exist in very different genres. Nonetheless, while May can be categorized as a few different things, I strongly believe that it is a novel for all readers of any genre.
I felt comfortable in the pages of May before I even reached the second chapter; that’s a special talent of Green’s, among many others. Every page, place, character, chapter, etc. is written with love, care, intention, and detail. Green is also clearly a witty human being, and she’s not afraid to let this shine through in her writing.
Therefore, May quickly went from “this awesome book I’m reading” to my main source of escapism and the thing I looked forward to each morning. It pulled me through a very tough few weeks. There was laughter, there were tears, there were life lessons, and there were characters you’ll take with you even once the book is over.
Aaliyah Kylie’s Journey (Added: June 10th, 2020)
Medical Bill Fund for Dan Gregory (BLM Hero) (Added: June 10th, 2020)
Operation for Cris Gonzalez (Added: June 10th, 2020)
Top Surgery for Hunter M (Added: August 22nd, 2020)
Justin Carpenter (In Need Trans/NB Artist with Disabilities) | Instagram: @grotessk (Added: August 22nd, 2020)
Operation for Cris Gonzalez (Added: August 22nd, 2020)
The Official Peace and Healing for Darnella Fund (Added: August 22nd, 2020)
Street Legal Safety Gear for Trans Humans (Added: August 22nd, 2020)
Nearly twenty-six years ago on July 24th, 1994, my Naani delivered me in an emergency home-birth situation and, as a result, saved my life. Last summer, on July 1st, 2019, she passed away with my mother and I directly by her side. It was difficult, but it also made our family’s mission and passion to help girls complete their education feel more urgent.
As some of you already know, my late Naani was a feminist who understood the importance of education for young girls in a patriarchal world, and advocated for it [among many other things] her entire life. She was a doctor in India back in a time when it was frowned upon for women to work, least of all as doctors. Later on, she became a young widow and single mother in a society full of people who looked down on her for her situation (and wrongly so).
The importance of girls and women completing their educations is something she passed down to all her children (including my mother) and, as a result, her grandchildren as well.
In the year since her passing, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can do to keep her legacy alive, especially as her only granddaughter. Aside from my creative practice, as she was an artist, too, the thing I keep circling back to is our shared passion for ensuring girls everywhere, especially those of color, are able to complete their educations. Like her, my mother, and all the men in our family, we are of the unwavering conviction that this is altogether crucial, markedly in the face of all the varying but guaranteed circumstances constantly working against little girls, their successes, their dreams, their livelihoods, and their general happiness.
Now, it’s almost the anniversary of my grandmother’s passing, and in the midst of a pandemic and extremely heightened moment in the #BlackLivesMatter movement (both of which have the power to impact the futures of little girls everywhere, and Black ones especially), I request the best birthday present of all: a donation to give little girls the education, opportunities, securities, and simple joys every single human being on this planet deserves.
While this fundraiser is set up in regards to my 26th birthday, this isn’t the end — in fact, this is only the beginning. That’s why I plan to kick off a lifetime of actively advocating for this cause with a goal of raising $1,001 before July 24th, 2020. I know that’s a lot of money, but that still gives us 48 days to make a significant change. Stand with me and my Naani today — stand for little girls and a future that can actually be female after all.
In an age where instant gratification is all the rage and accountability is a lost art, Christopher Mahan rises above the current social climate in his poetry collection, Private Poems Mostly.
I found Mahan and his poetry through Twitter and discovered even more of it through his Patreon account. This is a man who lives his life for, by, and within poetry, never hesitating and never faltering in his dedication. I’ve also discovered he often takes the trouble to response to his mutuals with carefully crafted, poetic answers and comments. At other times, he shares slivers of his process, which is always strong-willed, extensive, passionate, and tremendously thorough. (more…)
I’m not going to lie — I didn’t even plan on reading it in the beginning.
It was assigned for class, but I missed the screening of Wanda, the movie this reading is based on. I learned about the death of a former teammate just a few minutes before we were supposed to start the film, and unfortunately had to excuse myself. It also just so happens I was scheduled to take a quick weekend trip on the day of the book discussion a week later.
Basically, I didn’t have to read it, but I did.
You see, my friend sold me on it. She loved Suite for Barbara Loden so much she posted the book on her Instagram story, and did her class presentation on it through a Twitter rant I adored even before cracking open the book myself.
Let’s just say I’m so grateful I packed my copy of Suite for Barbara Loden in my suitcase that weekend. On the return journey, after polishing off my previous read, I finally got around to starting it, and my goodness…
It was extraordinary.
For starters, I’ll admit the following:
1. I still haven’t seen Wanda, and
2. It took me ages to finish Suite for Barbara Loden since my ADHD makes it tricky for me to concentrate on one book for long. This, however, has improved significantly during the quarantine.
Still, even though it took me a while to buckle down and finish Suite for Barbara Loden after returning from the airport that afternoon, I finally did and, just as I expected from the start, it was intriguing, insightful, informative, well-observed, and profoundly well-written. This is the kind of book that probably shouldn’t have been interesting, but somehow it was.
It captured me from the get-go, and didn’t release me until the very end.
I didn’t regret a moment of it.
Now, believe me when I say my preceding rodeo with a movie/bibliomemoir combination did not go nearly as well as reading Suite for Barbara Loden did. It involved a renowned Andrei Tarkovsky film, Stalker, and a corresponding bibliomemoir by Geoff Dyer, titled Zona.
Watching Stalker was the kind of grueling experience that makes you want to call your mom and tell her you love her, even if you already did earlier that day. I remember I did exactly this, and then went on a three hour jog just to remind myself what sunlight and warmth felt like.
This film seriously had to be one of the most excruciating artistic experiences in my life; I actually believe Andrei Tarkovsky knew this when he made Stalker and did it anyway, just to see what would happen when people watched it.
Clearly, the sadists walk among us.
Okay, okay. I’m just kidding, but…
Film is, without a doubt, one of those artistic areas I definitely don’t gel with, so I am not a fancy enough film critic to enjoy a cinematic experience like Stalker. Maybe you have to be to it and understand why it’s so celebrated when all it does is create misery.
So, I honestly don’t know.
Regardless, I’d say the best thing about Dyer’s Zona is the simple fact that it isn’t the actual film itself. This made it ever-so-slightly less painful than the movie, but still made me want to call my mother and go for a barely shorter jog than the one I required after seeing Stalker for the first (and hopefully last) time.
As I said before, I am not a film person in the slightest, but even my peers who are seem to have struggled with the horrible experience that is being made to sit through Stalker.
Things really felt like they couldn’t get any worse at that point, but then we had to read Zona, which essentially reiterated the film with the author’s own, equally drawn-out, nearly identical, and painfully mundane perspective.
0/10 would recommend Stalker or Zona.
With this knowledge, imagine my relief when I discovered Suite for Barbara Loden is absolutely nothing like Zona.
Instead, it was altogether wonderful.
It was one-of-a-kind in the general sense, and unique in that it drew from the film without becoming it. It was supplemental, and felt less like an “after” than a “beside,” therefore embodying one of the primary aspects of bibliomemoir.
Léger did an eloquent job of discussing the intersection of the beautiful, seemingly happy woman and the ugliness and darkness of one’s own psyche. Suite for Barbara Loden, much like Wanda (or so I hear), did a phenomenal job of describing how women are expected to exist in this world — body first, mind second (if even) — and how that leaves so many of us feeling empty, wandering to the ends of the Earth in search of a sense of meaning we may never actually find.
Too many of us discover that we are these sad, smiling creatures, controlled by the wiles of misogyny, and we are all in desperate need of a break, if not an eternity, away from living in a man’s world.
You see, unlike Zona, Suite for Barbara Loden was not simply another book written by another man writing about the work of yet another man; it was a woman using the work of another woman to empathize with her and her character. Léger saw Barbara Loden in a way no one really cared to when she was still alive. She shone a light over the experiences, mind, and heart of this remarkable human being who deserved better than she got.
Léger did Barbara Loden justice.
So yes, it’s true that I haven’t seen Wanda yet.
I’ll definitely take the time to track it down and watch it eventually (as I should), but the point here is that I don’t actually have to.
The reason Suite for Barbara Loden felt complete on its own is because it is complete on its own. The only part of the Wanda experience it didn’t feed for me was the satisfaction of seeing the film with my own two eyes, which is a craving far beyond its responsibility as a bibliomemoir anyway.
Léger didn’t just do her job when she wrote Suite for Barbara Loden; she went above and beyond by fusing her glorious grasp of language, art, womanhood, history, and patriarchal dynamics with her passion for discovery and justice.
Suite for Barbara Loden stands alone and, in that, it establishes itself as an exquisite work of literature that I believe is absolutely worth exploring.
10/10 would recommend.
I’ve been following Momus Najmi on Twitter and Instagram for some time now, and I’ve found his unique and insightful posts deeply refreshing in a sea of social media sameness. Najmi’s voice on social media is identical to his voice in Mumblings of a Fool: honest, fearless, wise, and unrelenting. He’s that person who speaks those thoughts many of us have but are too afraid to release out into the world.
Even before picking up this collection, I found myself wishing time and again that I could be more like Najmi, or at the very least stop hesitating before liking those painfully honest tweets of his I know people are likely to misunderstand. He has a very special skill for being simultaneously unapologetic and compassionate, and this truly comes through in Mumblings of a Fool.
As a result, this poetry collection only reaffirmed my thoughts about him.
For one, it strives to embody more than just basic beauty and truth, therefore achieving a certain rugged combination of aesthetic and candor. Each poem announces an alarming truth, sometimes surrounded by more subtle ones, and leaves the reader just shaken enough that they momentarily pause before turning the page to continue reading.
Furthermore, and although the author has a brilliant hold of language, nothing in his book feels like cheap glitter; Najmi consistently cuts to the chase without sacrificing the material essence of poetic language.
This is the type of book I usually refuse to read in just one sitting. I didn’t want to risk growing tired along the way, as I often do. I realize now I probably wouldn’t have had this issue with Najmi’s collection since he had me absorbed enough that even my faulty vision and ADHD were no match for his work.
Regardless, I’m glad I read this book over the course of a few days. This way, I got to enjoy it to its fullest.
Something else I admired about the book was the assortment of symbols at the beginning of each poem. This simple addition made a difference by creating a certain peace and hospitality in a book otherwise brimming with uncomfortable [though very necessary] truths.
Najmi’s is the poetry you can touch – the poetry that will grab ahold of you and refuse to release you until you’ve heard everything it has to say.
It simply insists on being read.
In turn, it’s safe, although silly to say, that this book somewhat deterred me from reading Najmi’s published novel, The Silent Betrayal [although I already own it for Kindle]. I enjoyed this poetry collection so much that I almost don’t want to move on to his other book. I want to stay here for a little while first.
Regardless, I absolutely do plan on reading The Silent Betrayal someday. If it carries even a margin of the wisdom I discovered in Mumblings of a Fool, then it already has me captivated.