Stop Defending Neo-Nazis


I originally posted this on my personal Facebook, but I think it’s a message important enough to share on multiple platforms.

In the wake of an act of domestic terrorism, I have seen a bunch of you unabashedly defending self-proclaimed Nazis and white supremacists. Whether directly or indirectly, you’ve had the backs of people who want my friends to die. And I am absolutely disgusted by everyone who believes that’s acceptable.

One of the most common arguments that has been proliferated over the past week has been that people from the left need to be more tolerant of the type of reactionaries who perpetuated violence in Charlottesville. In fact, many of you are saying, we should befriend klansmen, speak to them calmly, and refrain from returning what they’re doling out.

If you buy into this argument, then I have a lot of questions for you. Why should people on the left be the only people who are courteous? Why must every ounce of thought, emotional energy, and basic human decency in this debate come from the left? Why is there absolutely no expectation at all, whatsoever, that the people on the far right contribute even one iota of kindness or consideration?

Most importantly, why do you insist that this debate is even possible? How can anyone have a rational conversation with one of these people––especially when these people enter the discussion with the assumption that their fellow interlocutors are subhuman? Why do you insist that people on the left remain amicable with villains who think they are subhuman? Why does that make sense to you?

I’m not an expert, but it certainly seems that you are making it easy for Nazis and white supremacists to scream their horrendous ideologies from the streets––and at the same time, you are silencing the voices who are trying to condemn evil. It certainly seems that your rhetoric is upholding a history of atrocities and carrying them into our era.

Allow me to repeat something. The extreme-right people who took to the streets in Charlottesville want my friends to die. And they may very well want your friends to die, too (although, if you’re one of my addressees here, I have to wonder whether or not you are truly a friend to anyone who is threatened by reactionaries). But you’re still defending them.

That’s unacceptable. If you don’t recognize why that’s unacceptable, then please, explain yourself. At the moment, I can’t fathom one logical reality in which defending Nazis––people who want to kill the people I love most in the world––is okay.

Being a Writer in the Age of Trump


Like many of my peers, I felt the world shatter on November 8, 2016. I spent that night watching ABC’s live election map with a group of my friends; we all expected that the results would offer us hope and safety. As we were chatting eagerly, one of those lovely people, Veronica, recorded herself with her laptop’s camera.

“I’m going to show this to my kids,” she said. “I want them to know what it was like when the first woman president was elected.”

Another one of my friends––Matt, a human calculator––counted up the number of states that were poised to turn blue. According to his estimations, Hillary Clinton’s victory should have been a shoe-in.

But then Matt was wrong. And then Veronica closed her laptop. The faith we had had in our fellow citizens drained out of our bodies. Nearly half of the country had cast ballots for a man who threatened the existences of seven of the nine people in the room. All of a sudden, seemed that our lives were not valued by the majority of the people around us.

There’s no need for me to go into the societal/political/global fallout of the election that ripped apart all standards of kindness and human decency. We’re all aware of it. This is a post about the personal implications of living in a world that doesn’t care if you are safe. For multiple affected groups––women, people of color, Muslim and Jewish Americans, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities, among others––the red map that glowered from the television forced us to question our identities and our places in the world. And as a writer, that has been an steep and treacherous process.

Not longer after that fateful night, I penned one shoddy attempt at a poem about the November devastation, but otherwise I haven’t had much success in describing my distress. My spirit is empty. All I have left is my anger and a sense that I have been profoundly betrayed. What’s the point of being a poet if no one would care if I died? Why do my characters matter when the vice president of the United States condones child abuse? Why should I devote my soul to metaphors and assonance when I ought to be yelling and marching and fighting for my life?

Certainly, art can be a pathway to social action. A novel can spark a war for freedom. Carefully crafted speeches can move crowds. Poems can stir solidarity between marginalized people, creating unbreakable forces of resistance. But I hardly have the audience for that sort of impact, and it seems more imperative than ever to make my every action direct. The best use of my knack for writing would be in the composition of a letter to my senators. There’s no time to pique my muses with love or flower petals or quiet moments when I need to protect my friends.

I’m too angry to dwell on beauty. I can’t even think about art for art’s sake. Self-improvement is no longer about creating ever-better verse, but rather about eliminating any tendency in myself that might have helped put a monster into the country’s highest office. All I can do is shout and cry and focus on the tangible world, where tangible people are facing tangible threats, and tangible police officers are murdering tangible unarmed black civilians, and tangible hate groups are burning tangible crosses, and tangible billionaire celebrities are ogling tangible teenage girls, knowing they can get away with tangible rape and tangible assault because no one will believe the very, very tangible victims.

I can’t be bothered to emulate Billy Collins anymore because I’m too busy emulating the civil rights leaders of decades past who thought they were fighting the final fight. And I’m too busy realizing that we are still generations away from the final fight.

I’m too busy justifying my anger to write poems about my anger. I’m too busy restating the fact that my sadness and my disgust have merit to develop symbols for my feelings. If I seem distracted, if my recent stanzas seem subpar, know that it’s because I don’t go a day without fearing for my future––or wondering if there is even a future to fear for.

The just-world hypothesis has been supplanted by reality, and yet scholarly articles are telling me to empathize with people who wouldn’t bat an eye at my death. This is no environment for idealists; poetic fancies have no place in a world driven by hatred and bigotry. Everything I know about writing, every element of my writer’s identity, is irrelevant to the emotions that unite us, and that destroy us.

In 2017, creating art feels useless.

I don’t want to be a source of gentle diversion. I want to set people’s hearts on fire, send them to the streets, create action from dissatisfaction, let people know that they did something cruel, convince people to change their minds so that they truly understand “never again,” and help eradicate the forces that have put passions on hold.

To be realistic, I doubt that I can do any of that with lyrical quips or witty anecdotes. Over the course of the past eight months, my life’s purpose has shifted.

I can’t spend all day with notebooks and dreams anymore. My writer’s soul doesn’t matter when so many human bodies are at risk.

Ciao for now,
Mikki

Shaping My Summer Around “Jane Eyre”


The summers of 2014, 2015, and 2016 were rough for me. And by rough, I mean catastrophic. Each in succession was worse than the last, and at times I am genuinely astounded that I made it out in one piece.

This summer, on the other hand, has been totally palatable. Not amazing, but decent. Survivable. Nothing major has happened, and for that I am deeply grateful. There are a lot of reasons for the change (I have a job, college has empowered me, I’m not working through a breakup, etc.) but I feel like I owe a lot to a session with my therapist in June.

Historically, a lot of problems in my life are a result of the fact that I constantly crave validation from others. I sometimes behave in way that I myself abhor, and I know I annoy others with my incessant cries for attention. After my therapist revealed these facts about myself (which are demonstrably on-point), I gave myself a mantra that has been working really well. Every time I feel myself drifting from my resolve to rectify myself, I say this sentence quietly to myself and it will immediately bring ease to my bones.

Where else would a pretentious English major find a mantra but among the pages of Charlotte Brontë’s most famous work?

I admit that Jane Eyre is my favorite book. And while that fact may liken me to a slew of obnoxious YA protagonists, my preferences have a solid foundation (which I’ll explore further in another post). I’ve always wanted to attain the self-actualization that Jane achieves at the end of the novel, and one particular quotation is helping push me in that direction:

“The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” -Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Alright, so…it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. But those are the best twenty-five syllables of my life.

A first read of this quotation sounds rather bleak. But it really isn’t––it’s a woman proclaiming that she can be alone, with neither peas-in-a-pod friendships nor assurances of her worth from other people, and still have value because she sees herself as valuable. Her self-opinion became the only thing that mattered, self-respect more important than optics or popularity.

Whereas in years past I have felt empty and lonely, I’ve spent this summer learning to prioritize myself. I don’t feel the need to be constantly validated by others––a need that had only been growing more dire during my tumultuous spring––and that has been more liberating than just about anything. For the first time in a long time, I feel entirely self-contained. I’m learning to stop relying on other people, and it’s already a rewarding fight.

(Then again, I might find just about anything rewarding if it involved Jane Eyre.)

Ciao for now,
Mikki

Why I Won’t Be Posting Any More Poems


Hello, everyone!

The title of this post makes it sound like I’m about to reveal something sad, but it’s actually quite the opposite. I won’t be posting any more poems on mikkiaaron because I am hoping to create a new chapter in my life as a writer. That is to say, I hope to become published.

“Wait a second,” I can hear you blurting, “Isn’t it true that posting a poem on your blog is a form of publishing it?”

Well, sure. But weblogs doesn’t mean anything to the literary community at large unless you’re really successful––and, well, let’s be honest. I don’t have a massive follower base on WordPress, and my posts rarely receive more than ten likes. This site is only going to take my writing so far.

“That’s fair,” you’re saying now, “But why do you have to deny us your gratis Mikki magic in the name of the New Yorker?”

It’s against the rules of most major––or even respectable––poetry journals to submit poems that have been published before. And yes, that includes poems that have previously appeared on personal blogs.

“Oh,” you’re sneering, “I see how it is. You’re giving up on your underdog dreams in order to be validated by the Old Boy’s Club. What a sellout.”

This blog has actually been really great for me, and I fully recognize that. It’s helped me grow as a writer by providing me with motivation, feedback, and a space for self-expression. I’ve been able to publish my own work without worrying about being funneled, which gave me the opportunity to be experimental and uninhibited. I’ve found my voice: if you scroll through the mikkiaaron archives, you can watch the evolution in real time. My tiny corner of the Web has given me the chance to uncover myself to the world, and from there I figured out the type of writer I want to be.

Unfortunately, as I said before, I can only do so much growing with a limited readership. I need an expanded audience that will include critics as well as supporters (which is not to say I don’t value those who have been supportive––see above paragraph).

Although you did get one thing right. It’s partly for the validation.

You sigh. “I’ll sure miss you. I like your blog.”

That’s so sweet, but I’m not going anywhere! I haven’t totally decided what to do with mikkiaaron now that I can’t upload verse, but I promise it’ll be good. The most likely option is that I’m going to write about writing, instead of posting the actual fruit of my labors.

“But your poems are so good, and I want to keep reading them.”

Worry not! That’s what I want, too. It’s just that you might encounter them in a different medium.

“No, I mean, I want to keep reading them here, for free.”

Surprise! Poets actually need money. Money is necessary for food, food is necessary for human life, and human life is necessary for poetry.

“You’re right. That was kind of inconsiderate of me.” All of a sudden, you get excited. “Oh, wait! Does that mean I’m going to see your name on a book one day?”

Hm.

I wouldn’t count on it.

“Why not?”

Excellent question.

Ciao for now,
Mikki

 

Poem Every Day in July 12: The Truth Comes Out


The women in Romantic paintings
are not always dainty. I admire Truth,

who pushes against beauty––
anger in the hoods of her eyes,

honesty in the folds of her skin
and fat as she climbs.

No mascara could glamorize
her whip’s brittle, broomy eyelashes;

her breasts fall so that her clavicle
can be fully confrontational;

her fingers are designed to propel,
not to nurture. We’d all do well

to meet her sunken gaze, to hear
the black voice that booms

from stone to stone, and to know
that the naked creases of her flesh

are a warning.

Poem Every Day in July 11: Hotel Blanket of Clouds


a moment’s pause when work
is rushed
reveals clouds outside
the window

grey and huddled
overhead
like a hotel blanket’s
woolly drapery

that can never reach
the edges
of the sky’s
wide bed.

it’s only a temporary reprieve.
harrows inside
the room of your body
can be put to rest

behind mostly-
closed eyes,
but before long the clouds
will dissolve––

you always wake up
to styrofoam cups
and cold powdered eggs
and cracked spoons.

Poem Every Day in July 10: Half an Hour


On roadtrips, we all moaned
of squished toes. The minivan lacked
legroom; it seemed our knees
were millimeters from goring
our eyes. One of us would pull a chair back
and smack into another––
like a humanoid chemical equation,
shifting towards equilibrium,
fluctuating and hitting
each other’s shins.

We spent hours like that. Days.
Mom pulled her hair
and drove with her elbows.
We bickered while leaving the hotel parking lot
in the morning, and we sneered
as the car screeched into the next at night.

That was years ago. With a bigger van
came less time for the road.
We pack lighter now, only seven days
of clothes. We stretch our arms outwards
and still can’t feel the window.
We have space, but no time
for chatter, for yelling, for chair-fights.
The clock moves too quickly
for laughter and violence.