Writers and artists on the margins: we are now considering work for Issue 5! Please visit our Submit page on our main website for more details, and submit your work using Submittable. We look forward to reading your work!
Writers and artists on the margins: we are now considering work for Issue 5! Please visit our Submit page on our main website for more details, and submit your work using Submittable. We look forward to reading your work!
A review of Darren C. Demaree’s Bombing the Thinker.
by Mikayla Davis, Former Poetry Editor
I met Darren Demaree once, for a few minutes at a booth at AWP. The only thing I knew about him at the time was that he wrote poetry and my classmate had helped edit his book Two Towns Over, from Trio House Press, and couldn’t stop saying good things about his work. So, when I was asked if I’d like read his newest book of poems, Bombing the Thinker, debuting this September from Blacklash Press, I was eager for the opportunity.
Now, beyond the obvious, I didn’t know much about Auguste Rodin’s famous statue, The Thinker, except for the fact that it was in a museum somewhere. I didn’t realize there were multiple casts of the statue, also created by Rodin. I could visualize the pose, as iconic as it is. None of this prepared me for these poems.
The first poem, “A Letter to Auguste Rodin About Useless Wine,” puts you into an entirely different perspective. At first, I thought I was the statue, made of mud, so lonely in the fact that I am solitary, but the introduction of wine, “a red that could / action against / our own red,” offers us something more than a red mud or clay. It brought the imagery of blood, of fighting, of war. This imagery was solidified as we learned that “he lost his legs,” and “needed / to be softened,” once more, brought me instantly to our soldiers coming home with wounds that we cannot heal completely (9). That so many people come home from a day of hostility forever changed.
This is, of course, possibly just my own history being put into the poems. I grew up in a military household and I have seen the effects PTSD and other afflictions can have on people, both military and civilian. However, with poems titled “1970,” and “The Damaged Thinker,” it is clear that Demaree is evoking The Thinker statue placed at the Cleveland Museum, which was bombed in 1970 in what many believed to be a protest against the “ruling class,” and occurred when many were protesting the Vietnam war.
Bombing the Thinker seems to reflect that idea of protest within the poems as I was drawn into the woes of not only The Thinker, but those who observed him. There seemed to be an almost pleading tone of all the speakers, to question the purpose behind the actions that destroy. “Free From Arrest,” (55) seems to question the motives of the artists and their protests, while it is followed by a poem that speaks of the seemingly the statue as “afraid to move on, / forward, at any pace (57).”
Despite the bleak imagery and haunting tone, I think overall, Bombing the Thinker is a collection of poems about recovery and about finding the joys in the little things: sharing history with your children, telling dirty jokes, the strength of getting up the next day to face the world again. This collection makes you think, as I believe anything related to The Thinker should do, but it makes you feel just as much.
And, because of this book, I might just go visit one of the local colleges as they exhibit Rodin’s work. So I can experience this masterpiece and what it has meant throughout history even further.
Purchase Demaree’s newest collection via this link: Bombing the Thinker
A note about Issue 4 and Arkana‘s past, present, and future.
by Cassie Hayes, Managing Editor
Arkana, a journal of mysteries and marginalized voices, is now two years old.
I have been working with the journal since it was only a name, a Submittable page, and an empty WordPress site. Now we’ve just published our fourth issue, received thousands of submissions, and been fortunate enough to promote over fifty new works of literature and art from talented contributors from all walks of life. I remember our pride and awe at our first launch party, when we looked up at the journal projected before us—this thing we filled with our time, hard work, and passion, this thing that hadn’t really existed before that day in December 2016. It is a wonderful feeling, creating something beautiful and worthwhile. It’s an even more wonderful feeling to have created something beautiful and worthwhile with friends and cohorts, fellow editors and students on our staff and fellow writers toiling on their craft who took the time to send their art to us and let us make their voices part of the journal.
At the launch of our first issue, I remember understanding for the first time the power and importance of literary community. I remember being in awe at what in only a few months we had managed to create. And I remember feeling pride and excitement—amazed that I got to be a part of this larger literary conversation.
The launch of Issue 4 felt no different. I am overwhelmed by what the Arkana contributors and staff have managed to create.
For this issue, we received over 500 submissions from talented artists and writers across the globe. After combing through the slush pile, careful consideration of each submitted piece, and several tough discussions, we managed to narrow all those submissions down to the twelve new written pieces featured in Issue 4.
The work in this issue is powerful and reflective. Characters and narrators proclaim their identities, confess their secrets, and brave human mystery—touching on themes of family, sexuality, longing, faith, romance, home, hope and hopelessness. The work in this issue finds light in the dark and dangerous, beauty in the ordinary or cast aside, and clarity in chaos. The work in this issue probes the complexities of life—accomplishing the goal of all great art.
The word “journal” in Middle English meant “a book containing the appointed times of daily prayers.” It was tied to the everyday but also the sacred, the spiritual. At Arkana, we strive to be champions of the arcane—writers, editors, and artists putting together a journal of mysteries and marginalized voices, a journal that is everyday but sacred, a journal of writing and art that explores and celebrates the everyday and the sacred.
Issue 4 encapsulates this mission. Just take a look at the way this issue explores the sacred in texts such as “The Anchorite’s Tale” and “On the Oregon Coast”. Look at how it explores the everyday sacredness of home in “What I Remember from Missouri” and “The Bomb Beneath My Skin.” Feel what it means to look back, to struggle, to love in “How to Love Her,” “What you learned as a boy,” “Now—after time—I am willing to admit,” “Ohio Deathbed, 1990,” and “My Father Wore Another Man’s Pants.” And experience confession, it’s joy and it’s dangers, in “623,” “War Commentary #49, #50, and #51,” and “The Secrets of Ellwood County.”
Because the last class to have been here since the very beginning—since the naming of Arkana, crafting our mission statement, and planning the journal before it was a journal—have graduated, Issue 4 is both a capstone and a foundation. It is a statement. This is how far we have come. And this is the starting point from which we will continue to grow.
To the contributors of Arkana, thank you for trusting us with your art. To the staff of Arkana, past and present (and future), thank you for dedicating time and work to the creation and continuation of this journal and its mission. And to the readers, thank you for your appreciation of contemporary literature and for searching—along with the contributors and staff—for answers to the unanswerable questions of life and humanity by experiencing and promoting writing and art.
In other words, thank you to the community surrounding Arkana for continuing to question, wonder, explore mystery, and listen to the marginalized and those whose voices have been silenced.
Check out Issue 4, submit your art and written work to Arkana’s next issue in the fall, and we look forward to continuing to evolve and innovate as a journal.
Read Issue 4 here: arkanamag.org.
Arkana‘s interview with poet and professor Drew S. Cook, discussing neurodivergence, mental illness, and writing.
by A. É. Coleman, Audio and Art Consultant
Arkana was excited to sit down with Drew S. Cook, our former poetry editor, to discuss neurodivergence, mental health, poetry, and writing.
Drew S. Cook is many things: an expert in obsolete operating systems, a student of literature and poetry, a psychiatrically disabled person. He is other things, too, and grew up in the Ouachita Mountains, whose sights and sounds continue to inform his writing. Drew is currently a Co-Executive Editor at Trio House Press. His poems have appeared in Nimrod Journal, Pleiades, and elsewhere.
Here’s what Drew said on some of the challenges when writing through the lens of neurodiversity:
“It’s hard to write about things when your language isn’t tailored to address them. So there are lots of personal challenges in creating the work. I find sometimes, looking out, that there’s sort of a performative expectation with regard to what I would call ‘mental illness writing’. I think people by and large like inspiring stories or stories of triumph over adversity or things that are sympathetic and tragic, and there isn’t always space for the kind of complexity that real life offers us…”
Check out the video for more!
You can find poet Drew S. Cook online at https://www.facebook.com/seriousbidnz
An exquisite corpse poem from the writers who stopped by our booth at AWP 2018 in Tampa.
By Mikayla Davis, Poetry Editor
Once again Arkana dug its roots in at AWP. With our stickers, flyers, and fantastic staff, Booth 1606 really held its own in the massive book-forest that is the Book Fair.
Then, of course, was the Poet-Tree.
Debuted last year, the poet-tree asked attendees to contribute to the growth of art by adding one line or several of whatever they wished to the bare branches of our little plant. This year, the attendees definitely brought it! The first day alone saw the branches fuller than the entirely of last year’s AWP. By the end count, 2018 brought us 169 contributors to the community writing project.
As promised, I have gathered all of the leaves I could read and combined them into a single piece. Admittedly, I cheated a little bit and broke the entire thing down into ten parts. There were some definite themes this year and I think you’ll see evidence of that below. I can’t promise I have transcribed every leaf perfectly, but I think you’ll be pleased with the results of all of your hard work.
However, please enjoy the amazing contributions brought to you by the AWP 2018 attendees.
THE AWP 2018 EXPERIENCE
Part I: Arrival
let the wild rumpus start
awp tampa is swimming pools and cocktails
“the state with the prettiest name.”
these pockets full of buttons
the walls sweat
you don’t need pliers
platanos maduros, coated in brown sugar, sizzling
packing peanuts scattered helter-skelter like the lamest confetti ever
the birds + the bees just really get people going
roses are red
books are great
book fairs are better!
at awp 2-thousand-eight! (teen)
tracie morris – email@example.com
lou lou baumann
shine bright like music
clean the coffee table – these seven dollars have brought me a buffet of mcdonalds
Part II: Networking
“i have eaten…
but he smells so good
beautiful is the stranger
i wish for a kiss to remember
i need you and i claim you
let me hear you from across the desert – speak in sand, in orange and shining white –
if it’s all just the same, say my name, say my name in the morning so i’ll know when the wave breaks
love, love, love don’t live w/o love
but i am stuck feeding you thread through my hands
“and what i remember best is that the door to your room was the door to mine.”
she wanted it, too. she wanted it so badly.
she leaves my pillow all blue
why is “i love you” never enough?
te amo siempre
the road curls forward, a thirsty tongue of asphalt
Part III: Self-Discovery
i feed him as many bodies as he needs. he chokes on a man-sized fist.
how do you build a world always in motion? how do you imagine a man still inside this skin?
all distance is a place in the body
like a kaleidoscope color-squares of eyes
galaxies swirl in my thighs
i am a mosaic made of plasma and love
i delight in well-worn muscles
the brag of my heart – i am, i am
i expelled your name from my lungs
a heart is the only constant in this world
then my heart fell away
i was naked this morning and then i wasn’t.
i’d smile, but i left my teeth at home
my feet ache
elbows in noses
blow. blow. blow.
always find space for breath
art is in my d.n.a.
writing is the lifeblood of the creative…may it be ever so!!
the mind is a peach always eating itself
my brain is full of gum wrappers and going nowhere.
the rest of us held hands with our teeth. it was the only way we could smile.
even smiles turn into spells
i’m learning to speak with this new mouth
i’m learning to walk in this new body
how to put my body
in the silk crown
where the green sprints up,
somehow there can be
we let her body burn, and the funeral home said, “thank you.”
Part IV: Panels
we sweat the wealth of the mulberry tree and hide our bone from the bushes ever reaching—
yellowed with the algae that climbs the walls
everybody leaf me alone!
-leaf leave – / – love lost – / – lusted – / -loosed- / -brevity
tree / tree / tree / treats
once i was a tree but now i’m only me
i got poison sumac on my face. so there’s that.
a loss, among the clouds, leaves
eats, shoots and leaves!!
i’d tell you a simile on your likeness to a leaf, but you’re more like a slab of bark
a tree, an apoplectic poplar, or obstinate oak, or an elm lined with leaves
a leaf is a leaf is a leaf
don’t leaf me alone i cannot resist the forbidden fruit of reptilian wiles
hollow bones brittle like leaves
bend the branch until it snaps back
“i fall upon the thorns of life! i bleed.”
a leaf is a many veined thing
leafing from dark rooms / all those introvert writers / photo synthesis
the oak remembers its ancestry, falling through stars
pines sap / my face, glowing / with twilit eyes.
i will sing now of purple leaves
pelted by flowers
i’m a non-invasive woody plant. take care of me.
my roots are growing up and are disappearing into the distance.
like the juniper i am drawn to the edge
willow – how i love you. / we both come from the river
Part V: Inspiration
salt water bath in an ocean on the opposite side of the country from my birth, on my birthday, still a cleansing, far from home.
yes, it was a vaginal birth
pelicans soar over bright water,
among the twists and turns of organs and ovaries
coming along through the trials of being born & born again
fort in the womb / claw mother—branded, bruised, / born.
you said mother earth was looking out for me then burned down the forest surrounding my house.
Part VI: The Book Fair
i can’t tell if the warmth in here is heat from anxiety or brain power
snakes and birds and cats— / clouds as large as my ego— / it’s hunting season!
“napping, and hunting, and chasing some mice, the history of cats and quantum mechanics. course worn is easy and simple and fun and then you get to eat some fish when everything is done.”
the donkey’s braying jerked me from sleep
i forgot snow exists, i live with flamingos
i eat men like air
“bring me the sunset in a cup”
fried egg sun tastes twice as bad
you don’t need a pony to connect you to the unseeable or an airplane to connect you to the sky
fragile wings to wind unbind the bend resend our words
bones of silk reflecting sunlight & i’ve never felt so breezy!
make sand-angels at sunset!
if sunsets could scream, would they still bleed into the sky
they are lonely / as i am lonely / as the moon is lonely / as a lake / as a lamp post
the golden moon glitters over black crowned mountains
she leapt toward the stars and pebbled the moon
i never intended to stay here long enough to see the skyline change
i have found the breeze in the controversy of our good-bye
Part VII: After-Hours Parties
too many writers in the room – my head hurts!
the place where the worst thing i done lol!
drowning in the casual intimacy of pressing one’s knee against someone else’s under a table
please pay attention to the pineapples, alaskans, and only drink the kool-aid sometimes
there is only one god, and its name is metal.
aim high as a badger tucked beneath all winter.
the water looked so lovely when he realized it was okay
splendid is the word strange is the flood of them
ocean blue eyes in a land locked city, even with the kiss of a rifle remain pretty.
i took a breath and stepped into water
loki made me do it
a sea of free around me and yet i sink, under the depth, without any breath, seeking safe harbor with you.
ravenclaw’s my second choice
i’ve never wondered more than wandering has wondered me.
Part VIII: Outside Events
to be the house means an under sweeping
they come for kindness first.
family fears finding fake friends formed from fiends fighting faceless fellows far from home.
here i am with ya’ll again
i feel like a survivor of genocide like the brown on my skin is a ready-made story for white men to tokenize.
memories like / foreign films / awkward angles / and shading
pink is pain / scores in swollen / skin / wrists rounding into roses
still this thought after watching all the faces not me how to get there from here small town bluffing big wannabe hip(stirring) long after [the] next [trend]
there is a place for you somewhere
life is truly more beautiful than i could have hoped ❤
“isn’t it pretty to think so?”
“the line, of course, came from diogenes.”
be more bold than that—.
as writers we have a big responsibility to make a better world through words
because someone has to tell the story
commit heresy, be like antelopes, do it any way
life is a movie, but there will never be a sequel
todo lo real es inasible.
hope is a thing with feathers
a hierarchy of those she disdains
i am clothed / in darkness / yet exuberate / a light / so strong i survive
don’t let other people’s expectations limit you. those are their expectations, not yours.
your only limits are the size of your dreams and the degree of your dedication
do today what you want of tomorrow and said you’d do yesterday
unless someone like you cares a whole lot – nothings going to get better – it’s not
it worries me – trying to make the words work
it don’t come to last; it come to pass
why, when death is a thief, is it easier to imagine death as a man? a competitor who one upped me? a wrestler who pinned me to the mat, was too underchallenged to even laugh?
this is vast and mighty build on words
today i saw america – only more so.
i feel like i should be enjoying this more than i am.
i’m sicka y’all
Part IX: Packing
my the belfry bats in the dark nights saddened folds be free, my poets.
you are now creating six different time lines
so many writers books / joys!
i used a prompt: exquisite corpse but i don’t know where to take it.
this is in cursive so it’s harder to read
i am indecisive; therefore, i have no character.
my wife said she’s braindead.
drawing a blank
brilliance is in the eye of the beholder as the creator is wracked with inadequate indecisiveness
our writing like classical overtures
i came / i saw / i wrote a little poetry
Part X: Departure
anything that matters is here, in these lines.
Part of a series in which members of the Arkana staff list some of their favorite artworks.
by Cassie Hayes, Managing Editor
Here’s a list of five literary journals that I love to read (and look at, and listen to). I like journals that do innovative things with technology while also remaining very true to themselves and to who they are as a journal. Literary magazines are works of art by themselves, put together by the writers, editors, staff members, and readers with the same care and passion that goes into a sculpture or a painting—and looking at the following five journals always reminds me of that. Of course, this list is not complete—there are so many amazing, innovative literary journals out there, and these are just the five that I’ve recently been reading. I hope you check them out once you’ve read through the issues of Arkana!
I’m a fiction writer and reader—I love seeing cutting-edge fiction. I’m also from Texas. So I adore this literary journal that publishes short fiction and is based in Austin. Every time I go into a Barnes & Noble, I make a beeline for the magazines to pick up American Short Fiction, which is always well made yet not pricey, and includes not only wonderful writing but interesting illustrations and designs within their pages. I am always in awe and (I’ll admit it) a little jealous of the quality of writing included, and after reading I am always left with lots to ponder and plenty of inspiration for my own work.
The Drum is “a literary magazine for your ears.” It’s entirely audio and includes work that focuses on the musicality of language. With downloadable content, I like downloading a story, essay, interview, or poem and listening while I workout or do housework, sort of like podcasts.
This literary magazine is not only visually stunning, but it also includes thought-provoking writing that grapples with issues of faith—specifically through the lens of the Western religions Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Spiritual without being preachy, the work in this journal muses on deep and human topics that are always worth the read. I also love the interviews included in the journal, in which writers and artists talk about their craft and their work, as well as spirituality.
This literary journal did innovative things with multimedia by pairing a short story with art and music every other Monday. As of November 2017, the site stopped accepting new work for publication, but you can still comb through their archives to see all the great work they published since 2010.
On their website, Memoir Mixtapes claimes to be “the ultimate mashup of the two things we all love to talk about: ourselves and music.” Not only will you find some cool writing in this journal, but you’ll also stumble upon some great music that you might have never heard or haven’t thought about for a while.
Thanks for reading this list of some of my favorite literary journals. There are plenty of wonderful lit mags out there, and I hope you discover and rediscover some of your favorites while thinking about this list!
by the Arkana Staff
Hello friends of Arkana! We are now reading for our fourth issue, and we’re on the lookout for some new work that questions, explores mystery, and discovers and uncovers the overlooked, misunderstood, and the silent. Keep your fiction and creative nonfiction under 4,000 words total, your poetry up to three poems, and your illustrated narratives or scripts short enough to fit in on our website.
We’re specifically looking for historically underrepresented writers, especially writers of color, writers in the LBGTQ community, and writers with disabilities. Arkana‘s mission is to give a platform for marginalized voices, so if you are in one of these groups, we need to see your work! Another of our goals as a journal is to represent works whose genre or form has been historically underrepresented in literary magazines. In our second issue we included two translations, and in our third issue we included an illustrated narrative. We’d love for more translations or illustrated narratives, but we’re especially hunting a stellar short script, for the stage or screen, that we could include in our fourth issue. So if you’re working on a script or have a killer script idea, please send write up and polish your script and send it our way.
We accept work from writers of all shapes and sizes, writers with fancy MFA degrees and writers still in high school, writers from our home-base of central Arkansas to writers from around the world. Plus, we include an audio feature with our issues—so, if you’re accepted to the journal, you’ll literally get to have your voice heard.
Stay tuned with the Arkana blog to find out more about what’s happening with the journal and our staff. And if you’re interested in submitting, check out our Submit page on our website, and read some of the notes from the editors under the Arkana News heading on our blog to get a feel for what our editorial teams are thinking when they read submissions and put together an issue of the journal.
Please submit—we want to hear your voice!
A message about the fiction included in Arkana‘s new issue.
By Liz Larson, Fiction Editor
Working on Issue 3 of the Arkana this fall has been a rewarding experience. It’s been daunting as well, like when our submissions for fiction tripled for this issue’s iteration. (And believe me, there was quality as well as quantity.)
But it all just means that things are working well. We are developing our potential to better partner with underserved/underexposed writers as well as cementing the kind of journal we want to be known for in the writing community.
The staff worked together to further develop our cross platform outreach innovations (social media outlets, new genres, interviews, and audio files) to produce quality work within Issue 3 that will hopefully with its intentionality open more doors to a broader audience.
We’ve had steady growth of readership throughout the United States thanks to pieces like “Empty as Churches” by James Ulmer and “Shelter” by Brent Fisk. We are also expanding our global connections with submissions like “In the Forests of the Night” by Bhavika Sicka and the two flash fictions “The Obituary” and “The Poets Registry Office” included in “Two Conversations” by Christine Brandel.
The four fiction selections for Arkana’s Issue 3 weave together thematically in their deference to the magic of place. With our commitment to mystery, a sense of wonder, and dedication to under-represented voices as stated in our mission statement we thoroughly enjoyed each piece for its adherence to settings and tone, as well as overall polished writing. Beyond that, each piece’s commitment to imagery showed in their crisp and efficient gateways into their respective narratives.
Arkana‘s fiction readers, who screen and discuss what to include in each issue, did a fantastic job working together to choose the four pieces for Issue 3. Their dedication to showcasing the best ensemble of fiction made a huge impression on me (and made my job all the easier!).The fiction readers for this issue, C.F. Lindsey and Victoria Mays, and Cassie Hayes displayed insight and a willingness to put in long hours reading through many outstanding submissions. I hope we get just as many and then some for the next issue. (Hint, hint—send more work our way!)
Finally, I need to thank the leadership of Arkana: Dr. Jenny Case, Supervising Editor and Cassie Hayes, Managing Editor of the journal. Whenever I needed guidance, they were always there with suggestions. They made all questions from staff seem worthwhile, even my new to the role ones. They modeled engaged leadership to me and the rest of the Arkana staff.
So head on back over to the main Arkana page and dive in to the wonderful pieces we laid out for you. You won’t be disappointed with any genre you pick. But since I am partial, read the fiction first!
Fiction included in Issue 3:
“In the Forests of the Night”
“Empty as Churches”
Check out these stories and more by exploring our third issue: arkanamag.org
Third time’s the charm: a look at Arkana’s poetry submissions.
by Mikayla Davis, Poetry Editor
This year I’ve had the absolute pleasure to act as the poetry editor for Arkana’s third issue. Having worked on both of the previous issues, and being impressed with the work we’d received, I was looking forward to seeing what this submission cycle would bring. And I was not disappointed. Not only did we receive far more submissions, the quality of the poems were, at least in my opinion, higher as well. It made it difficult for the poetry staff to narrow down our top choices.
As such, there were a larger number of tiered rejections that went out this year for poems that were either stellar content-wise, and just needed that little kick to boost the language, or had beautiful diction, but just needed to give us an idea to grasp onto. We really hope that everyone who didn’t get into this issue resubmits in the future, because we loved seeing all the different writing this issue.
However, what the quality allowed us to really focus on for this issue were the poems we thought best represented Arkana’s missions: fostering a sense of shared wonder with work that asked questions, explored mystery, or worked to discover and uncover the overlooked, the misunderstood, and the silent. While this is something we always look at, and strive for, there are times where I think we struggle with it. But now, with our third issue, we’re beginning to really get our feet on the ground, and it shows in our accepted pieces
The pieces we accepted this issue seem to almost share a sense of loss, which I think is a feeling that more and more of us are able to identify with these days. The poems familiarize us with the feeling of being weighed down by inequality, and the responsibilities placed on us by outside forces. The images were some of the most striking I’ve seen, and stick with me even as I shut my eyes. Each poem is set in a different place, and gives us that sense of wonder, but there is something familiar with each one as well.
I hope that our next issue presents us with work that is equally mysterious and familiar, as beautiful in its language and the images presented as the four poems we accepted this issue were. I hope that you all will be encouraged to submit to Arkana, read the past, present and future issues, and share our posts so that we can get this fantastic work further out into the world.
Poetry included in issue 3:
“Grandma’s living room of false gods”
“My Beautiful Radium”
Check out these poems in Arkana‘s new issue here: arkanamag.org