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.
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’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.
I don’t usually write book reviews; as a matter of fact, this is only the second one I’ve ever posted on this blog.
My [unintentional] “celibacy” in regards to not blogging about other authors’ books persisted for a long while without any glitches. It’s not exactly like I was going out of my way to resist reviewing other authors’ work either; blogging about books just wasn’t my thing, and there were other things I preferred to rant about back in former days.
But then came the Indie books…
Then came Nefelibata. (more…)
I ripped my face from my skull today,
Even savored it slightly
As it melted,
Fallen flesh seeping into the crevice between
The severing didn’t hurt so much as remind me of
Wrestling a slice of pizza,
An ooey, gooey slice of pizza,
From the remainder of its
Some cheesy carcass,
Striving to estrange itself
In stringy blobs and globs of marinara
This is what I offer you today:
My facial flesh,
Gathered in a tangled mass,
A slice of my soul
My gift to you.