It’s me, Suchandrika Chakrabarti!
I’m now on Clubhouse - find me @suchandrika
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When did you lose it on Inauguration Day?
I think most of us would give the same answer: the tears started coming for me during Amanda Gorman read her poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’:
If you click through to my Instagram post, you can read the full poem - or you can find it here. The subject line from this newsletter can be found in the poem.
Here are the last few lines:
… our people, diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
You can find out more about Amanda Gorman, America’s first national youth poet laureate, and her writing process in this interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
The rhythm, repetition of words and Amanda’s performance gave her poem an incantatory, mesmerising quality.
The performance freed us to let go of all of our complex feelings about this particular inauguration, during which, as she says, we are watching “a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother [who] can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.”
There are many layers of meaning to that sentence, but surely one of them is to read it as a gentle rebuke to the Trump regime.
Amanda Gorman’s reading of her poem took my mind back to this quote from John Yorke:
One upon a time God was the story we told to make sense of our terror in the light of existence. Storytelling has the same fundamentally religious function - it fuses the disparate, gives us shape, and in doing so instills in us quiet.
This quote is from his brilliant book on writing, Into the Woods. A few years ago, my schoolfriend Chloe Cooper (hey there!) gave me a copy of this book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Literature functions in the same way religion does. Maybe that’s why I’ve never taken to religion, because stories got to me first. Storytelling is also essential to religion - where would the Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, any religious text be without storytelling? Where would a religion be without a text at all?
The one thing that literature does ask you to believe in is, to me, more palatable than faith in a divine being I can’t experience, and who has never shown the human race much mercy. Literature asks us to have faith in human nature, to believe in what George Saunders calls “our minds [being] built on common architecture – that whatever is present in me might also be present in you” (from a wonderful article he wrote for The Guardian in 2017, which surfaced at Writer’s Hour this week).
Literature asks us to think of each other as emotional beings, made by imperfect parents and guardians, stumbling through youth to adulthood looking for a better kind of love, and all making the same realisation: that nobody really knows what they’re doing. There are no bigger adults in the room. Literature asks us to understand that and to carry on anyway. Literature asks us to empathise because we have the complex levels of consciousness and memory and emotion to do this thing that no other animal can do, which is the power to author a new chapter for ourselves. Literature is the best thing we’ve invented as a species.
I’m going to read more this year.
“This backdrop is not what is deserved for the swearing in of our first Black, South Asian, and woman Vice President. It is a moment diminished by the surrounding national context, just as the Georgia Senate win was swiftly and thoroughly upstaged by an attempted coup. It is a moment that should be complicated by Harris’s actual politics, not by the rumbling, core-shaking fear for our democracy. Nevertheless, here we are. I have never been quite so happy to cry.” - Tracy Clark-Flory writing for Jezebel: OK, Now I Cry
I really hope it helps them raise the funds they need to keep going through the pandemic. The Bill Murray changed my life. I took a stand-up course there this time last year, and the video of the end-of-term show basically started my comedy career.
A big thank you to Mic Wright for mentioning Make.Click.Do. in this edition of his daily newsletter, Conquest of the Useless. Why not go over to this morning’s and read what he has to say on the image of Media Studies, a much-maligned subject, but one that everyone who has wifi ought to study (along with Media Law, imo). I’ve really enjoyed seeing Mic’s newsletter voice develop over the past few months, and he’s now the go-to freelancer for thoughtful media critique. You can also hear him on this episode of Freelance Pod:
A wonderfully-written newsletter from freelance journalist Tufayel Ahmed on how reading fiction feeds his own creativity
A beautiful prose poem from Heather Havrilesky: Once this is done, I’m driving straight out to the desert, all alone
I walked round London’s Chinatown this week, and the quiet emptiness broke my heart a little, although it was great to see a couple of supermarkets doing well, and a few restaurants serving takeaway. I really hope the area makes it through the pandemic in a healthy state; I don’t want to think of Chinatown being on borrowed time
J’adore this lil curious foxy:
My Personal Essays Masterclass with the London Writer’s Salon is back in February! There’s on Super Early Bird Ticket left, and then prices go up. This event sold out in a couple of days last time and left a few people disappointed, so get involved! I love love love teaching this class.
There’s still time to get a free ticket to this event on Monday, where I’ll be speaking on a panel with some great names in audio, including Imriel Morgan of Content is Queen and Daniel Page of Why Did the Chicken, with Megan Hayward moderating.
I spent most of Inauguration Day writing jokes for The News Quiz on Radio 4
(I’m particularly proud of the Starmer - Navalny - Gunnersaurus joke that made it through intact, because I don’t even care for football!)
Alex is a young widow; years before that happened, we used to work together. I wanted to share her message and her work on grief with you:
Grief is weird. And there’s quite a lot of it around at the moment. I’m on a mission to help us get better at talking about what grief means to us in the 21st century (digital legacies and pandemics included).
I launched Good Grief Gift Co because I was widowed in 2018, but I’m hoping it will be of use now. I want the helpful, practical, and thoughtful gifts on sale to help you or someone you know on the journey of grief.
Gifts can't take the pain away, but they can support a griever to feel connected and supported.
If you’re a griefster I’d love to hear from you, and you can sign up to my monthly newsletter at my website.
Thank you so much for reading!
If you enjoy my work & fancy buying me a virtual coffee, I’d be delighted (and will hopefully experience a virtual caffeine rush):