by Megan Clark
I spent the night of the election frantically texting everyone I knew, including my friend Wendy, a poetry MFA student at Syracuse. At one point, after discussing the many social repercussions of this election, Wendy said something very profound and very sad. “I think,” she wrote, “I’m still kind of shocked that my faith in an America that has a place for everyone has been naïve in a way… I feel like this will change my writing somehow.” If you interpret the results of the election in that way, how could it not affect the way you write? If this election fundamentally changed the way you view America, or confirmed your worst fears, this perception shift would have to affect the way you write about people and the world. Even if it doesn’t directly impact your writing, it would have to impact the way you think about your writing. All of these thoughts that have been percolating within me since the election have led me to an exploration of politics in writing and what political writing even looks like.
The mantra, “The personal is political” has always resonated with me. However, at the same time, I’m uncomfortable with the ways in which certain identities are politicized while others—white, straight, male, cisgender, etc.—are viewed as the default. These two ideas would seem to fly in the face of one another. Nonetheless, we can’t avoid the fact that some identities are politicized, no matter how we feel about that. Thus, choosing to write about young, queer women, as I often do, is an inherently political act. Similarly, choosing to omit people of color from one’s stories is also a political act. If whiteness is not the default—and it’s not—a narrative populated exclusively by white characters is sending a political message, whether we want to admit that or not. Thus, I would argue that all writing is political, be it conscious or unconscious.