Photo via the author.
In the year 2014, the word "epic" is most commonly followed by the word "fail," where it usually finds itself used as an ironic description for photographs of tattoos that contain spelling mistakes or other, similarly minor (at least in the grand scheme of things) mistakes. "Epic" can also be attributed to big-budget movies with old-timey battle scenes, novels that are really long, and maybe even a video game wherein the main character is an elf. Unless one is getting a degree in literature (or maybe just hoping to pass high school English), one rarely hears the word "epic" to describe a poem.
Enter Elliott Moglica, who describes himself as a "Poet, Novelist, Biographer, Academic, Educator, Critic, Freelance Journalist/ Interpretor/ Translator, & Human Rights Activist" (sic). Moglica has taken it on himself to revive the format with the self-published The Proton Man: Justin Trudeau. Written (mostly) in dactylic hexameter, The Proton Man is an ode to that handsome leader of the Liberal Party.
If you'll recall high school chemistry, a proton is a positively charged particle at the centre of an atom, as opposed to the neutrons (not charged) and electrons (negatively charged and orbiting the protons and neutrons), so as the Proton Man, Justin Trudeau is both at the centre of the left-right spectrum and, according to Moglica, consisting of a singularly positive charge or energy. It goes without saying that The Proton Man is kind of crazy. It comes from the hands of someone who seems to have far too much time on their hands. Judging by his elaborately detailed Facebook "About" page, he probably thinks quite highly of himself. Moglica, an Albanian immigrant (though he identifies first and foremost as a Canadian) and ESL teacher, got to know Trudeau while volunteering for his leadership campaign. He felt it was his duty, as a poet, to sing the praises of his favourite political leader.
Standing at 1,215 lines (126 pages, including end-notes and a glossary) The Proton Man is indeed an epic. Trudeau is named both "the sun" and "The Proton Man." Canadians are "beavers" and Trudeau's opponents are either "fakers" (on the right) or "beggars" (on the left). It ranges from stanzas dedicated to Trudeau's hair ("'How did it feel to touch Justin's hair?' / He never replied. The only answer was / the uncontrolled sugar-smile / that needs no further words." 991-994) to incendiary attacks on Trudeau's enemies ("He's the buddy of Mayor Cocaine," 575). Like Homer's Odyssey, Moglica's epic glorifies the exploits of a great hero ("No fear. But, forward all together, / As 'trojan soldiers' - with golden Justin, forever." 313-314), and like Dante's Divine Comedy, it uses scatological metaphors to satirize Trudeau's real-world enemies ("And, far to the left is the 'Party of Pee!' / Aim: 'Equal-wealth-division to beggars'" 363-364).
Elliott Moglica was volunteering for Adam Vaughan's by-election campaign in Trinity-Spadina this week, so we met up with him to talk about The Proton Man. Like his book, it would be easy to consider him naïve or gullible for throwing his seemingly unconditional support towards an untested political leader, but Elliott is passionate about his country, and he's engaging with the future of Canada in a way that most people don't. So if you feel the desire to make fun of Elliott Moglica, ask yourself one question first: have you ever written an epic poem?
VICE: When did you decide to write this epic poem about Justin Trudeau?
Elliott Moglica: It took me about two years, so I decided well in advance, before we thought that Justin was going to run to be the leader of the Liberal Party.
So you were a fan of him before the 2012 Liberal leadership race?
Yes, I am a fan of Justin.
Why is that?
We are in this creation to shine! We shine when we are united! But who can unite us? I have always seen in Justin great values: integrity, respect, and professionalism. Those virtues are major virtues for a great leader. Who is going to unite us? I always have seen this in Justin. Justin is totally different and he's going to make us rock, actually. I know that. Because he's totally different from all our other politicians!
What makes him different from all the other politicians?
The positive way he is approaching politics! Being positive! This is so amazing! You know, we are poisoned by negatives. Negatives here! Negatives there! Negatives are not going to bring us together.
Do you think he's going to win in 2015?
He is going to win! I know that from my heart. My friend you have to believe from your heart!
When you say negatives, are you referring to the Conservatives or the NDP?
No! No, no, no, no! Absolutely not! I am referring overall, in the global spectrum, there's so much negatives there! Attacks! Wars against each other! One politician attacking the other! This is not nice, not ethical. Especially for nice Canadians as we are. We are the nicest people on planet Earth! We need the nicest man (or woman) to lead us! I always have seen this in Justin. Such a great person! Such a great teacher! Such a great parliamentarian, and such a great motivator! He is uniting us. He's bringing hope in to our hearts, and this is important. And that's why I thought I'm not going to shut up as a poet. I have to use whatever God has given me, and through art, let's change the world together! How wonderful is our country? How great we are, no matter if we believe left or right or centre!
OK. In the poem, you use colours and metaphors like "four blue senators" who are "kicked out" and "communism's rebirth – camouflaged in orange," which bring to mind both the Conservative Party and the NDP, to represent Justin Trudeau's enemies. Is that really in keeping with the positivity you speak of?
We used to have good politics before. You know, go to parliament, it's a Conservative government or a Liberal government, you show respect when somebody's talking. Now it's not going this way anymore! Why? You know, they are standing there and screaming like kids! My friend, you have to have ethics when you are a parliamentarian. You got to make us Canadians proud there. I am attacking indirectly, with my pen. That's my war. My only war I can use, given by God, is my pen. I am not attacking any party, I am never using any names. It is used in the global stage, on a global spectrum. You guys, no matter where you are, do not go too extreme, because you are putting us in trouble. You are dividing us. I don't want division. I want this country to be united!
Why do you call him "The Proton Man"?
Well, that's a really, really good question. I could not resist to call Justin "Proton" because that's what he is! If I called him "positive," that doesn't feel poetic. To me, it is not touching my heart. To me as a poet, when you write, you have to touch somebody's heart. It has to be touching heart, and when I say "Proton," it doesn't say that it's only a "positive." No, as we know, proton is always amidst so much positive energy. That's what Justin is. I want a positive leader to lead this great country, to rock this great country once again! Let's rock on the global stage! Let's spread the protonic energy on global stage, and let's be the leaders that we used to be called always! There is no better expression than using protons versus neutrons and electrons. I'm thrilled, I can tell it from all my heart, it's just like 100% from the entire heart.
Later on in the poem, you spend six or seven stanzas writing about the effect of Trudeau's hair on potential voters. Can you tell me what's so magnetic about his hair?
You know, my major focus is not only his hair. But I spoke through that because he has been attacked very often and he is attacked because he has beautiful hair? It was given by God! You have beautiful hair, too!
Why should we attack somebody for this? People love him. People just love Justin! There's nothing wrong with loving somebody! You can control who you love, but you cannot control who loves you! That's what happened to supercool Justin. They just love his hair! I use it poetically as well, because it's not only his hair, you can see we have a great man that is going to lead this great country. You can feel his eyes, like, they are just like the sun, they are talking to you! You can feel from his mouth! The way he walks, the way he shakes his hand! It's all about the character, his positive character!
OK, so nobody would argue that Justin isn't good looking or charismatic, but some have criticized him for being light on policy and substance. Do you think that's true?
That's a good question, but that question should be addressed to Justin. However, to me as a poet, When you talk about leaders, my friend, leaders in a democratic country do not decide alone. To me, Justin is not working alone. When we talk about leaders in a democratic country, the greatest country on planet Earth, Canada, we work as a team. We work together. So how can Justin alone say "Oh yeah, this is the policy I'm going to decide for myself." No, Justin is listening from coast to coast from Canadians. That's what he's been doing since leadership. But people who attack are the people who really are afraid of somebody. They can see that person is shining. Why should they be afraid? They should be proud. They should say "Justin, thank you very much for bringing positive change to Canadian politics. Justin, we are not enemies. We are brothers and sisters all together." Supercool Justin Trudeau, the greatest leader right now, he is working on a team and that's what I love! We are going to make history in 2015 no matter what! All Canadians!
Have you met Justin?
Yeah, I have met Supercool Justin, the first time I met him was on the leadership campaign.
Did you call him "Supercool" when you met him?
The first time I didn't because I have to use the evidence, you know? But after all the campaigning, then it was natural, from my heart. So the first time I met him, I wrote a Shakespearian-style sonnet. It was impressive [when he entered the room]. I cannot forget how the room changed. You can see the people are smiling! It's the energy!
Did you tell him how you felt about his hair?
No, no, no, no, no! No focus on hair anymore!
Do you know if Justin has read the book yet? Have you sent him a copy?
I know that Justin got the copy of the book and I don't know if he's read it.
Are you going to ask him about it when you see him next?
I don't think so. Because it's a book about him. It feels that I am asking not the right question. I think I'm not. I will never ask him. This is the poet's world. Look, Justin, I'm observing you through a different lens, and I'm thrilled I did this, and I'm listening to my heart if I shall continue furthermore. Listen to your heart, your heart will never lie!