Review of Alexandra Elle's Neon Soul

All quotes from Elle’s work appear in italics, and titles of her poems appear in parentheses

 

At nineteen, the rupture happened. It was the ripping of false flesh that I hoped explained all the sadness I had refused to express in my teenage years. How fitting that it would occur in the last months of my teens – November 2012.

           

For years, feeling wrong in my body was a feeling that threatened me in various seasons of my adolescence. Feeling that the sadness itself was wrong, I repressed that too. Made it small like my body, refusing to take up space.

 

Then nineteen, when I realized that I was gay. That I would never fit the roles I set out to play. My first real cry, and it was the ugly kind, like a damn breaking down after a long build up of nature’s most earnest course. But at least I knew in that moment which mountain I was moving. My challenge loomed over me, but the journey was obvious – up. The heavens would part at the peak, all darkness finally conquered by the hero’s journey.

 

But even as I came out, sadness lingered. I had climbed a mountain, yet altitude could not freeze the tears that fell, had started falling and wouldn’t stop. My angsty teenage years turned into gloomy twenties. My sensitivity masqueraded as fragility. I was certain that my emotions drove away my first great love. Broken, unlovable me. Sadness and misery would chase me for the rest of my life, I believed. I had disappointed the universe, and I could never give them what they wanted. Not for the last time, I knew.

 

That’s how the world looks from your twenties when you are overly aware of your eccentricities. The world gives you boxes to fill, and you know that you’ll never check out. We label ourselves as incapable, so far from the ideals we long to meet. It is exactly this chasm that Alexandra Elle looks unto in her collection Neon Soul.

 

These false ideals, the boxes that do not / belong to you plagued Elle in her twenties too (uncomfortable). The constraints of expectation threatened her, just as they threaten all of us too young to know the difference between making goals and making promises (loss). That first great rupture that I felt, it was only the beginning. Elle teaches that these ruptures are the process of breaking away from that which are not us – the things that we grow terribly attached to, believing, wrongly, that they are ours. The clothes we wear, when removed, allow us to breathe for once (unravel).

 

Elle rewrites our journey as solitary. Self-love takes on a spirituality in Elle’s gentle hands. The refusal to love oneself plagues us all. Elle allows us to see that it was not misery and sadness that chased us, but we who chased misery and sadness. We attached to the wrong things, the wrong people, the wrong masks. It’s so tempting to hold onto our suffering, perhaps because we believe it might contain our truths, if only we had more endurance, if only we were less weak.

 

But truth lies within. To not love oneself is to believe that love lies elsewhere. Searching for the place or person where we believe love lies won’t fix it. How can you swallow them up into you if love doesn’t live inside of you too?

 

This journey to self-love isn’t easy. You must first render yourself / hopeless to regain hope (learning alone). The key to this paradox is that we are hoping for a world that isn’t ours to long for. We must lay barren, knowing that all hope is lost for good in order to finally give birth to our true selves.

 

And the rupture is essential. Elle writes:

 

i would’ve done anything

to find myself sooner –

if i could keep the lessons,

too.

 

(along the way)

 

We must feel the pain of tumbling, of breaking away so that we can see how tightly we held onto meaningless things. Imagine if we gripped so tightly to ourselves. Then after the wreckage we can see that still, we stand (pieces). After that pain we survive – how invincible it feels.

 

Elle teaches that loneliness isn’t what it appears. Loneliness, hopelessness, these words help us face ourselves, naked in the mirror. And when we have nothing left, when we have stripped ourselves clean of everything we were supposed to do and be, we can build. We have torn down a mountain, the same one we once believe held liberation at its peak.

 

Now we must use these boulders to build our home. When we’ve done that, one rock at a time, we have built unbreakable things (boundaries). And there we find love. Love that isn’t borrowed. Love that we alone have license to give.

 

And then, out of what we once called loneliness, we can find love that lasts.

 

We learn that the most permanent love lives in us and we can only share what is ours.

 

When we build something that stands alone, we can weather storms. We can invite people in, we can kick people out. We must love the house for itself, not what rests inside. And knowing this is powerful. Storms will pass.

 

Self, love, self-love. These are all the same thing for Elle. This is not to say that we spend our lives alone. The epitome of hope is the knowledge that no matter what, we can stand, we can love if love is ours to give; unconditionally, it is self-sustaining. It lives not in others, not in between two people, but to us. Know this and feel the power of hope.

 

For the secret that Elle helps us uncover: We peel away layers, but rather than shrink, we grow. Amazingly, life without attachment is a life without constraints. We trust in ourselves and we journey farther. We don’t look upward stand on mountaintops. We look around at a world of opportunity. It is exactly our atomic singularity that opens us up to the infinity of possibilities.   

Annie Krabbenschmidt