November 23, 2016KR BlogBlogCurrent EventsEnthusiamsEthicsLiteratureReadingWriting

The (un)rest is history

In the weeks leading up to the election and following the election, I fell silent here on The Kenyon Review blog, and in my life as well, to some extent. In the lead-up to November 8, I felt like I had talked and written so much, and shared so much of what everyone else was saying (or should I say, warning), that I was becoming redundant. Hate, fear, bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia couldn’t win, and it was clear that those poisons were coursing through the system innervating Trump’s support, right? “Actual” white supremacists aside, there couldn’t be enough folks out there who could stomach those poisons just to get the party they supported into office, right? Right?

Of course, the rest is history.

Like many, I have been reading news articles and op-eds and petitions and friends’ Facebook posts to stoke my fire and resist normalizing the situation as hate crimes spike across the country and the President-elect takes to Twitter to malign those who exercise their right to the free press (The New York Times) and freedom of speech (the cast of Hamilton). I have been reading poetry for some semblance of solace – not solace that things are “okay,” but solace that there are always those who have the strength to “sing about the dark times.” I loved Kirsten Reach’s Kenyon Review blog post on turning to poetry in times of trouble, particularly her list of links to poems that Kenyon Review readers recommended on Twitter. I loved the Academy of American Poets list of Poems for After the Election as well.

My attention span is jumpy at best right now, but I find that even the fragments of favorite poems floating around in my consciousness are nourishing and sustaining:

What lines should we all
be crossing?

(“Cross that Line,” Naomi Shihab Nye)

bloom how you must i say

(“mulberry fields,” Lucille Clifton)

After the election, I felt lucky to have an incredibly busy week, not only during the day, work-wise, but after hours as well. I didn’t particularly want to be alone in my head. On November 10, I attended Katharine Noel’s reading from her new novel Meantime at The Ivy Bookshop. On November 12, I connected with fellow writers at the Baltimore Writers’ Conference at Towson University, where I particularly appreciated Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson’s insights on the need for freelance journalists to insure themselves in our particular historical (and legal) moment. On November 14, I returned to The Ivy Bookshop to hear Henrietta Rose-Innes read from her novel Nineveh. On November 15, I introduced Esi Edugyan and her novel Half Blood Blues, from which she read at Johns Hopkins University. On November 16, I attended a Q&A and performance by Jess X Chen and Safia Elhillo at Johns Hopkins University as well. I also attended an “Election Write-In” event with Writers In Baltimore Schools. While both informal and formal discussions at each of these events were dim, there was light in the simple fact of folks gathered around literature and free expression. (“Come celebrate with me…”)

Now, I’m most fired up about a writers’ initiative I’m happy to have a hand in—Write-In 2017. The project is simply one of gathering the voices of writers:

We are writers committed to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and empowering and listening now and in the coming years. At the 2017 Associated Writers & Writing Programs Conference, the largest literary conference in North America, many of us will gather in Washington, DC, just three weeks after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. In these months before both the conference and the inauguration (and in the years to come), we plan to make sure that our voices and values continue to be heard. We invite writers to contribute a piece of writing (a letter, an essay, a poem, a statement) to the “Write-In,” and then join us in person at a date and time TBD during the conference (February 8 – 11, 2017) to deliver our messages to the White House. Want to contribute? Read more here

#foresightis2020

I’m trying to get my voice back. I hope you do the same and share “your values, your convictions, your hopes, your fears, your metaphors, and your stories” with The Write-In.