Commentary: My Body, My Protest (After Mon Laferte)

The story behind the poem My Body, My Protest, begins with me stumbling into bed at 4:30am, slightly (or not so slightly) intoxicated after a night out dancing. I was doing the habitual scroll through my Instagram timeline when I came across an E! News post detailing the events occurring at the Latin Grammy’s. This is where I first saw Mon Laferte’s political red carpet protest moment, where she completely bares her chest to strategically raise awareness of the grotesque acts of police brutality taking place in Chile right now.

Chile is currently experiencing a season of political unrest as thousands exercise their political right to protest. Protesters are taking to the streets to express their fury at the establishment and are demanding social reforms to address the high levels of inequality the country is experiencing.

Here is a useful link for more details on what is happening/has happened in Chile during the protests:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-50512093?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c452lzylemmt/chile-protests&link_location=live-reporting-story 

In summary, 22 people have been killed as a result of excessive police force, while thousands have been seriously injured, tortured and/or sexually assaulted. These are absolutely abhorrent acts of injustice and I was profoundly moved by this whole situation, compelling me to write something about it then and there. I deeply admire Mon Laferte for using her platform to raise awareness of the human rights abuses that are happening all over the world. Mon Laferte reminded us all that our bodies are not merely sexual tools, they are powerful vessels – holding, giving and supporting life.

Here Mon Laferte chose to use her body to express a significant message. She utilised the power of the naked female form to highlight our human right to protest, to challenge norms, to shake systems, to change the world.

Commentary: Gethsemane

I was in my room reading Matthew 26:36-46 and I was struck by the sheer humanness of Jesus. The lines –

38 “and he said to them, ‘The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me.’

– hit me first and birthed the opening lines of my poem Gethsemane. We have all experienced extremely low and painful moments in our lives, what this passage reveals to us is that Jesus has been there too. In my weakest and most heartbroken, when the sorrow in my heart was so great it almost crushed me – God has felt this too. I am floored that this is a Love and this is a God who intimately knows my suffering and that through suffering I can grow deeper in my relationship with Christ.

The lines –

40 “Then he returned to the three disciples and found them asleep; and he said to Peter, ‘How is it that you three were not able to keep watch with me for even one hour?'”

– hit me next and I felt the disappointment Jesus must have felt in that moment when he found his disciples asleep. The experience of being disappointed by your friends and loved ones is profoundly universal and I wanted to capture that my poem as much as I could. People let us down and the weight of that disappointment can be enormously heavy but I have found in my experiences of disappointment God can meet you there and help you carry that weight (and even take it away).

‘Mentis Inn’ Commentary

 

John McGregor’s “We Were Just Driving Around” is where I initially drew inspiration from for my short story, where speech is used as the main indicator of the character’s personality, age and gender. The speech also leads the reader towards making particular assumptions about the character and what kind of situation they are in. “Mentis Inn” explores the psychological state of a mentally unstable character who suffers from a range of mental health conditions that distort her perceptions of reality. The mental institution she inhibits “Mentis Inn” is initially described as a hotel, purposefully misleading the reader from the offset. This allows the reader, through indications in speech, to decipher that Bertha is psychotic, and that Mentis Inn is not in fact a hotel. Just as John McGregor, I chose the narrative technique of in media res to give the reader a sample of an ongoing narrative that goes beyond the perimeters of my short story.

Specific details about the character’s personality in “We were just driving around” were revealed indirectly through certain idiosyncratic speech patterns. Mannerisms, such as the repetition of “like” and “basically” in a particularly colloquial syntax, reveal to the reader that John McGregor’s character is a teenager in an informal setting. The mental instability of my character is depicted through language and syntax; the fragmented sentences mirror Bertha’s fractured and unstable mental state, which is expressed in her speech, as she takes various unexpected pauses. My character’s sudden rise and fall of voice volume “BUT YOU MUSTN’T. Speak. So loud” is used to convey that Bertha is bi-polar. Her mood changes at a flip of a coin, stressing the need for her to be in a strait jacket to restrain her potential violent outbursts. The intended purpose of specific diction choices, such as “Shh. Shh. Hush now.” was to create a sense of panic and derangement to convey Bertha’s internal conflict as she struggles to maintain control. This picture of derangement is furthered through descriptive detail, such as “matted silver hair”, which is an external representation of Bertha’s internal torment as her hair is “matted”, highlighting her decline in self-care. I mirror Bertha’s internal decline with her external deterioration to ensure the reader can envision Bertha’s regression in two dimensions.

I chose to leave my ancillary character nameless to highlight the character’s purpose as a tool that is used to illuminate the reader’s understanding of Bertha. This character helps to reveal the reality of Bertha’s situation. The reader is initially lead to believe that the secondary character is simply delivering the room service at the hotel; however, as the plot develops the reader discovers this character is actually one of the workers at the mental institution that takes care of Bertha. This can be compared to McGregor’s “The Chicken and The Egg”, where the subject of the egg was just a device used to subtly unravel the wider reality. Bertha has an obsession with her illusory reality as a result of her psychosis that prevents her from confronting the truth of her situation. To a similar degree, the persona in “The Chicken and The Egg” has a fixation with an egg and projects their fear of finding out about their unfaithful partner on to the egg. Similarly, John McGregor and I drop subtle hints that our personas are actually subconsciously aware of the reality but chose to supress it “and that harsh light. WHY is there, nowhere for me to call room service?” My persona becomes aware of certain truths that threaten the foundations of her illusion and it is through the suppression that my character’s psychosis is perpetuated.

Names are vastly significant in my short story, “mentis” is the Latin word for mental, which gives my title an ambiguous quality through the way “Mentis Inn” can be seen as a double entendre. I chose the name “Bertha” for my protagonist as it is the name of the mentally deranged first wife of Mr Rochester in “Jane Eyre” and as they have similar mental disorders I made my character her namesake. “Bert”, who is Bertha’s imaginary friend, is the male equivalent of Bertha. The lack of imagination portrayed by this name choice conveys that Bertha created this imaginary friend at a young age, so to have a companion that is connected to her by sharing similar names. This imaginary friend has followed her into her senior years “stands of matted silver hair”. Bert is an aspect of her schizophrenia; a voice that was derived from her lonely youth that has driven her to commit heinous crimes. His identity is concealed to propagate the feeling mystery through blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. My story explores the power of psychosis and how reality is shaped through the mind.