4 / jasmine, poppy, clematis montana

Hello! Happy Holidays!

I come to you now from a flat with high ceilings and rickety windows and what its location would determine to be an ample surrounding of trees. I’ve got two pieces of writing due to be published in the new year.

[My best-friend-and-grandmother is also currently on holiday and unreachable and I jokingly said I might have a manuscript for her to come back to, so I am tempted to launch into hyper-productivity as I did eighteen months ago—how has it been that long since June-July-August-2018?—and ensure her just that. I’ve got ideas. I’m reckless enough. Love and spite are equally wondrous motivators.]

In other news, here is a nugget of wisdom from my friend Kate:

THE MOTH CAN’T OFFER THE FLAME SHIT.

So let’s take that energy into 2020!

In the meantime, have a very tonally- and content-disparate newsletter—

6:30pm, 1 December, 2019

(In present tense:) I read Bill Manhire’s poem, ‘Erebus Voices’, posted on The Spinoff for the 40th anniversary of the disaster. I read it a few days late. I read the line—

And I am still a hand, a fingertip, a ring.

—and I think of the ring on my aunt’s hand, now in London, and how it was originally my great-grandmother’s, found in the wreckage a whole world away. I learn you can grieve, viscerally, for someone you’ve never met. That there is a state of loss which you can feel when you know it has been felt by the people responsible for you being born.

10:47am, 2 December, 2019

I am thinking about what Sylvia Plath wrote in The Bell Jar:

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

And I’m thinking about I am as exactly that, the beat of a heart, almost syncopated yet impossibly so, because it is the beat, the beat without which no other beat may exist—a flam, even, if I can be granted licence on the term. I’m thinking about I am as iamb, and the same beat, the same sound, the pun that links centuries of poets, and that the iamb—and iambic pentameter—as it has come to exist on a stage is so truly a sign of I am, I am, I am, I am, I am; that no actor is more present and vital than the one within arm’s reach of their audience. And I’m thinking about how, in Shakespeare, iambic verse is the language of lovers, and how love can return us to our most elevated and most innate state: bound to our lifeblood, to the beat of a heart.

8:22pm, 9 December, 2019

We as a collective are largely aware that three months ago, almost to the day, I wrote an article for The Niche. This article outlined, in meticulous detail, my conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift’s ‘The Archer’ was, in essence, a work of Virgilian fanfiction. We know this, we are aware of this, Tate cannot do things by halves and most definitely contains multitudes. Sure. However, I have another conspiracy theory about the Lover album, which I’ve kept close to my chest until now.

(I tweeted about it in passing; friends then demanded elaboration—

Dan. I WANT IT. WHERES MY BLOG POST IN FULL DETAIL

Sen. pardon

—I never back down from anything.)

So, without further ado, probably in less detail than Danielle would like (or that true tinfoil would ask of me): Hear Me Out, Taylor Swift Wrote ‘Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince’ About Hillary & Bill Clinton

First of all, yes, we know Taylor wrote this song about disillusionment with the current state (ha! pun!) of the ol’ U.S. of A. We know she’s releasing a Netflix doco entitled ‘Miss Americana’, and we know she’s meant to be seen in [Beanie Feldstein voice] the titular role. But! There are several crucial details which point specifically toward the Clintons, and I’ve already made my bed, so come settle into the absolutely platonic, middle-of-13-Going-on-30-esque slumber party. (I have cast myself as Jenna Rink—no, I do not take critique.)

  1. The first verse sets the scene, and doesn’t do much for these purposes, but does signal something of a resurgence in their relationship, which I guess aligns with the fact they’re still going strong after BC’s transgressions. Fun fact: LyricFind mistakenly writes ‘I’m crazier for you/ Then I was at sixteen’, so if anyone’s looking for a copyeditor, hmu!

  2. ‘American glory/ Faded before me’—speaks for itself.

  3. ‘I saw the scoreboard/ And ran for my life’—this relates to the continuous stream of voting results on election night, which (obviously) signalled the victory of the Republicans across all branches of government; HRC was famously seen walking in the woods in the aftermath of the election, which is what we’re using to contextualise the second lyric. (BC was also with her, which lends itself to the narrative Swift pushes in the song of the two of them against the world, standing by each other through adversity. I’m not gonna harp on about it because, like, newsletter. Corner me at a party and we’ll talk.)

  4. ‘No cameras catch my pageant smile’—what can I say! Media circus!

  5. ‘They whisper in the hallway/ “She’s a bad, bad girl”’—Nasty woman! Nasty woman! Nasty woman!

  6. ‘The whole school is rolling fake dice/ You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes’—this lyric puts forth an indictment of the faults of the electoral college, which allowed T***p to succeed over HRC, despite having received fewer votes over all.

  7. ‘We’re so sad/ We paint the town blue’—they’re sad ’cause HRC lost and they’re painting the town blue ’cause they’re Democrats! Come on, sheeple!

  8. ‘Voted most likely to/ Run away with you’—voting! Elections! ‘Most Likely To’ could even be the superlative for the popular vote! (Re: ‘Run away’, HRC was also touted by the press as having ‘runaway’ victories earlier in the election process.)

  9. ‘My team is losing/ Battered and bruising’—we know, Swift-Narrator-as-HRC; we were there, I had an exam the next day that I wasn’t studying for because I was watching the results come through via the Internet, it all sucked

  10. ‘I see the high fives/ Between the bad guys’—the GOP! Locker room talk! Bad!

  11. The rest of this verse is about the support and solace HRC found in BC, hopefully, following her defeat. I don’t know—and frankly don’t care—enough about their relationship to confirm or deny this.

  12. ‘American stories/ Burning before me’—I could tie this to many things, but I feel like it works just to leave it here.

  13. ‘I’m feeling helpless/ The damsels are depressed’—‘the damsels’ = anyone in their right mind; I don’t need to explain these things, we all lived them—

  14. ‘Boys will be boys, then/ Where are the wise men?/ Darling, I’m scared’—the GOP! Locker room talk! Bad! (Both Clintons have been referred to as ‘darlings’, either of Wall Street or the media.)

  15. ‘No cameras catch my muffled cries’—media circus! Composure! etc.

  16. The bridge—and, essentially, the rest of the song—are testament to the two of them staying together, which I feel ties more to the scandals of the BC presidency and his infidelity than anything else. [In this house, we support Monica Lewinsky, and are also very thrilled that Beanie Feldstein will be playing her in the upcoming series of ACS. But that’s beside the point!]

  17. Finally: ‘Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince’—HRC gets the moniker ‘Miss Americana’ from the fact of her running for President. The ‘Miss’ is, admittedly, somewhat infantilising, but we could construe it as a means by which she is emancipated from her husband, and recognised on her own merit, if we wanted to clutch straws so tight they imprint on our hands. (Which, hey! What else are we gonna do on a Monday night!) BC is ‘The Heartbreak Prince’ because, y’know, he was a heartthrob in his heyday, or whatever. Ask John Mulaney’s mother [see: The Comeback Kid] [Mega Tinfoil Moment: ‘The Comeback Kid’ and ‘The Heartbreak Prince’ share several linguistic characteristics (lotta –istics there, sorry about it):

    1. ‘The’

    2. The amount of syllables in both sobriquets

    3. The second syllable of the middle, disyllabic word begins with ‘b’ and finishes with ‘k’

    4. The assonance of the significant vowel ‘i’ in the third, monosyllabic word

    5. I dare you not to think ‘Miss Americana & The Comeback Kid’ next time you hear this song. I dare you!]

I rest my at-once-long-winded-and-heavily-condensed case.

[other undocumented occasions]

A few choice phrases, from various projects here and there:

  • Not speaking about things doesn’t mean they don’t exist

  • […] and there will be people I love who never know him; people who know me and somebody I share time with, perhaps, and somebody who comes from me, or several somebodies, and they will have him coursing through them and they will not know him. I know the answer is that they will know him in me, and I ought to take the qualities I want to emulate, and also I have his love with me always, because feelings like that are big enough to defy life and death and the universe, or I must believe they are, but that doesn’t stop this. None of that stops this.

  • ‘Wait—do you think “Ten-Seven” is a nickname for the police?’ / He looked confused. ‘Is it—not?’

And, to close out—

I feel I ought to take back what I said in my last newsletter, about longing as an incurable theme. It was true at the time, and, I suppose, is true still, yet I find I don’t want it anymore. I’m sick of living, by choice, unsatisfied. Of pointedly Not Reaching for that which is quite plainly not reaching back for me. (This simultaneously aligns and contrasts with my favourite Bonnie Tyler song.) I’m sick of letting the thing hurt me by default simply because it’s better than having the thing hurt me by choice—because at the end of the day it’s still hurt, isn’t it! And there is enough of that already. (Don’t get me started on the disappointment and unique confusion of when the thing does evolve to hurt you by choice.)

I need to box up the impulse to yearn, and instead barrel at full speed towards joy, for its goldenness, for its simplicity, for the fact it is wide open. For the art, for the experiences, for the people who give it. For the things that—as Jenny Slate mentions in Little Weirds—surprise me and meet me halfway. For the willingness. For the fact that, by virtue of my occupation, the vast majority of my time is spent exhausting myself for the baseline possibility of being chosen, and so to inflict that same internal combustion on any other facets of my life is at best inadvisable and at likeliest unhealthy. And I’ve found that if you say something with your whole chest, make yourself purposefully vulnerable, it can’t be used against you. So here I am, saying the thing with my whole chest.

Also, life is short! Smell some flowers! Get some sun on your face! Don’t eat paint, but, like, do whatever the spiritual version of that is! Be around people who make you laugh, and who show up for you, and show up for them right back!

We are all just reeling through the stars in tender, godly bodies, listening to music and feeling things. That’s precious. That’s lovely! Just—delight in it. And the flame was burning before the moth ever looked its way, and the flame will continue to burn. Be kind to yourself and also be kindling to yourself. An arbitrary New Thing is on the rise. Go in with [ba dum tss] 20/20 vision.

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