BURN PILE: A New Year, a New President, and a Writer's Call to Arms

Today, amid simultaneous outcry and applause from a deeply divided country, Donald Trump was sworn in as the forty-fifth U.S. president. The day after the election, Dan Piepenbring of the Paris Review posted the following under the headline “Writers, Start Writing.” His call to arms bears repeating today:

“This site is dedicated to literature, arts, and culture. Electoral politics are usually beyond our remit. On a morning like this, when America has chosen a bigot and a xenophobe as its next president, my job feels pointless. But I don’t want to add to the chorus of despair, because I do believe there’s a role for art at a time like this, and I don’t say that lightly—words like these don’t come easily to me. I would rather make fun of things, and I’m struggling against an inborn fatalism. (My iPhone just reminded me to water my plants, and I thought, why bother?) The creative impulse is such a fragile thing, but we have to create now. We owe it to ourselves to do the work. I want to encourage you. If you aspire to write, put aside all the niceties and sureties about what art should be and write something that makes the scales fall from our eyes. Forget the tired axioms about showing and telling, about sense of place—any possible obstruction—and write to destroy complacency, to rattle people, to help people, first and foremost yourself. Lodge your ideas like glass shards in the minds of everyone who would have you believe there’s no hope. And read, as often and as violently as you can. If you have friends, as I do, who tacitly believe that it’s too much of a chore to read a book, just one fucking book, from start to finish, smash every LCD they own. This is an opportunity. There’s too much at stake now to pretend that everything is okay.”

Entropy Magazine, beloved by writers for its lists of "Where to Submit" throughout the year, has included a section for "Post Election Calls for Submissions." (Deadlines include Jan. 27 and Feb. 28., with Anti-Heroin Chic taking submissions through midnight tonight "on Trump, the election and the trauma/coping/resistance surrounding this event.")

If the muse fails you, and you instead feel the need to turn to the writing and wisdom of others, (a move Piepenbring also suggests), you might pick up one of (former!) President Obama's recommended books, as shared with New York Times chief book critic Michiko Katukani in a recent interview, itself well worth reading.

If all else fails, try my recipe for an essential oils blend I call "Feel Better":  Frankincense (6 drops) for grounding, Cedar (6 drops) for grieving, Lavender (6 drops) for calming, Ylang Ylang (6 drops) for boosting mood, and Mandarin (2 drops) for energizing.