Arkana Blog

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: L Mari Harris

Arkana Editors were excited to chat with L Mari Harris about her process and story inspiration. Her microfiction piece, “Highlights From the First Hour of Tradio at 88.5FM,” is featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.

Arkana: “Highlights” is a work of microfiction. What is your process in writing with this medium to create the most impact with so few words?

L Mari Harris: In the simplest terms, you want the most bang for your buck. When I begin a new piece, my first draft is free-flow and is usually about three times its final length. Then, with subsequent drafts, I start to whittle it down, first getting rid of unnecessary weight, be that exposition or imagery. And as I revise, I also add. As I listen to the piece in my head, new imagery arises. It’s all a weaving process as I build what I am ultimately happy with, what ultimately speaks to what I hope to show readers.

Ark: What inspired you to write this piece in this format?

LMH: There really is a morning call-in show in my rural Ozarks county where people buy, sell, and trade. Many of the calls are your average “I have a Ford F150 for sale”, but some of them include the caller’s story of why they’re calling, and they will break your heart. While everything in this micro is fiction, the host really does say, “I don’t make the rules, I just follow them, folks” every time someone calls in to sell a handgun. Long guns are legal to advertise, but short guns are not, and the host is constantly reminding callers they can’t advertise short guns for sale and he’ll interrupt them if they start to say they have a pistol or revolver for sale. I hear it at least once a day, and I just had to use it.

Ark: When writing this piece, did you have a particular community or location in mind? Do you have experiences or memories that might speak to the tight-knit community feel of the calls being received and the dialers making those calls?

LMH: We are about as rural as you can get. The largest town is 40 miles away, and it’s a whopping 22,000. If you break down on one of the roads, sit tight because a farmer will eventually drive by and fix you right up. We have a wonderful community kitchen where seniors and anyone else needing companionship and a hot meal can go free of charge every day of the week. If someone says they need help cutting firewood or patching their roof, a half dozen strangers will show up. I’m proud of how we look out for each other without asking for anything in return.

Ark:  What led to your decision to highlight, in particular, the first hour of a radio show as opposed to the third or fourth hour? What kinds of tones and messages were you hoping to capture by featuring the first hour’s calls?

LMH: The first hour of the real call-in show is always the most unpredictable and most prone to backstories from the callers. It’s supposed to be a two-hour show every weekday, but sometimes the calls dry up, and the host will just segue into a Judds song without explanation. I love the drama of never knowing what’s coming next.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about?

LMH: I’ve been getting two chapbooks of flash fiction ready for spring contests, I have about a dozen different flash and micro drafts in process, and I’m working on a longer story, also inspired by true events. Right now, I only have two pieces I’ve submitted to journals this year. Last year was so incredibly busy for me with my day job that I ran out of unpublished material to submit. It feels like I’m starting from scratch, and that’s a fun place for me to be right now like the entire world is just waiting to open up for me again.

Ark: We can’t wait to see what windows and doors open and where they might lead! Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “Highlights From the First Hour of Tradio at 88.5FM” here!

L Mari Harris’s most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in No Contact, matchbook, Milk Candy Review, CRAFT, Okay Donkey, among others. She works in the tech industry and lives in the Ozarks. Follow her on Twitter @LMariHarris and read more of her work at

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Linda Scheller

Arkana Editors were excited to chat with Editor’s Choice winner Linda Scheller and discuss her poetry, research, and process. Her piece, “The Coming of the Yamnaya,” is featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.

Arkana: Of all the historical cultures known for conquests, what inspired you to write about the brutal conquests and colonization efforts of the Yamnaya people?

Linda Scheller: I was inspired to write the poem after reading “The Skeleton Lake,” an article by Douglas Preston in the December 12, 2020 issue of The New Yorker. It described the Harvard geneticist David Reich’s genomic analysis of 270 ancient skeletons from the Iberian Peninsula. He concluded the incursion of Yamnaya nomads into Europe left a “genetic scar” because even now, “the Y chromosomes of almost all men of Western European ancestry have a high percentage of Yamnaya-derived genes, suggesting that violent conquest may have been widespread.” This finding corroborates Marija Gimbutas’s 1956 Kurgan hypothesis of continuous raids by the Yamnaya warriors who apparently killed the men they conquered and subjugated the women, creating a male-dominated warrior culture of sexual inequality and social stratification that supplanted the peaceful, goddess-worshipping society that she believed had existed previously. Gimbutas’s hypothesis had been largely discredited until this recent scientific finding.

Evidently, the coming of the Yamnaya was a terrible turning point for women in the European continent. As someone who is fascinated by history, I found this revelation profound and very moving. I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like for the women who saw their lives destroyed by this sudden, brutal conquest.

Ark: Have you written about other cultures like the Yamnaya? What significance do these historical events hold for you, four to five thousand years after their occurrence?

LS: I haven’t written about similar cultures, but that article brought to mind When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone, a book I read decades ago. I’m keenly interested in women’s history—and prehistory—and seek to understand how events, religions, traditions, politics, and cultural movements affect women’s lives.

Ark: What advice do you have for writers who seek to recall the narratives of historical events and peoples in their own works?

LS: Read as much as possible to garner knowledge and build understanding from different perspectives. For my book Fierce Light, a collection of persona poems based on my research into the lives and work of 36 historic women, I spent years reading biographies, articles, documents, and autobiographies. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about the women’s lives within the context of the times and places in which they lived.

Ark:  What other topics and themes do you most enjoy exploring in your poetry?

LS: I enjoy writing about the natural world, its effect on humans, and our effect on nature. Also, I have a new book of poetry coming out from Main Street Rag Press, Wind and Children, that contemplates childhood poverty and violence from the perspective of an elementary school teacher.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about?

LS: I’m working to secure publication for a poetry manuscript called Black Forest which examines the effects of power, especially absolute power, on women. Fairy tales are the vehicle for much of this examination, and I experimented with form and voice in many of the poems. “The Coming of the Yamnaya” is part of this manuscript. Currently, I’m reading books about Joan of Arc, and soon I’ll start writing about this brilliant, courageous young woman. In addition, I’m seeking publication for two reviews I just finished writing on the poetry books Scale Model of a Country at Dawn by John Sibley Williams and The World That the Shooter Left Us by Cyrus Cassells. Writing reviews is time-consuming but rewarding because the effort of analysis helps me better understand what makes poetry effective in terms of craft, tone, sound, and presentation.

Ark: We wish you the best of luck and be sure to keep us updated! Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “The Coming of the Yamnaya” here!

Linda Scheller is the author of two poetry books, Fierce Light from FutureCycle Press and Wind and Children, forthcoming in 2022 from Main Street Rag Press. A widely published poet, playwright, and book reviewer, she is a founding board member of Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center. Her website is

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Joe Baumann

Joe Baumann discusses his fiction featured Arkana’s 11th Issue with Arkana Editors.

Arkana: What inspiration drew you to write a piece like “Hot Lips?”

Joe Baumann: As with many things I write, I started with an idea—a kid who could breathe fire—and a title (“Hot Lips,” though I can’t recall where that came from.  Those are the two seeds I usually need to get started on a story, and at that point, it was simply a matter of engaging in exploratory writing until the arc of the story managed to emerge from what I was trying out narratively.

Ark: Is there any sort of backstory for Allen’s ability, or is his fiery breath just something he can do?

JB: Not really.  Most of the fabulist/surrealist stories I write are like this; I’m not usually interested in explication or an “origin story”—I find they take up precious space and are often not that interesting.  I tend to simply create unusual elements and slip them into the world as if they belong. 

Ark: Allen’s room is featured in several scenes in this piece, with its lilac walls. Was this an intentional choice? What made you decide to have Allen’s room painted this color specifically?

JB: One of the things I’ve been playing within several stories recently is upsetting what I sometimes think of as “dogmatic masculinity” (a version of “toxic masculinity” that is maybe not quite as toxic).  So, in this case, it’s the detail of Allen’s walls.  I think lilac isn’t a color most of us would expect from a young man, especially one who is in a fraternity and living in a fraternity house.  So that was really simply one way of upending expectations for the kind of person Allen, and those around him might be.

Ark:  In writing craft classes, there is usually a discussion about character creation through observation.  Did you base Allen or Clive’s characters off of people you know in real life?

JB: If anyone, Allen is marginally based on me, in that his uncertainties about himself parallel a number of the confusions and uncertainties I experienced as a young man in college (and the fraternity and its house are near-identical liftings of the fraternity and its house that I joined at my small liberal arts college, too).  Clive isn’t so much based on an actual person—I was really trying to craft someone who appeared to be in many ways Allen’s opposite.  When I was thinking him up, I managed to be struck by an image of this tall, languorous, dark-haired kid, almost a rock-and-roller who’s slipping through college.  He somehow arrived in my head largely fully formed.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about? (What are you working on now?)

JB: I’ve got a couple of books coming out soon—I was honored to find out my manuscript Sing With Me at the Edge of Paradise, a collection of short stories, was chosen by Texas Tech U. Press for its inaugural First Book Award, and I now also have a second collection, which reimagines the plagues of Egypt in modern settings, forthcoming, too.  In terms of things I’m at work on now, “Hot Lips” is actually part of a sequence of stories that I hope to bloom into a full-length collection of work centering on this same group of students, each of which has some bizarre or unique ability/feature/etc.

Ark: Congratulations on your award news, and forthcoming publications. Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “Hot Lips” here!

Joe Baumann’s fiction and essays have appeared in Phantom Drift, Passages North, Emerson Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Iron Horse Literary Review, Electric Literature, Electric Spec, On Spec, Barrelhouse, Zone 3, and many others.  He is the author of Ivory Children, published in 2013 by Red Bird Chapbooks.  He possesses a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.  He was a 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction.  His first short story collection, The Plagues, will be released by Cornerstone Press in 2023, and his debut novel, I Know You’re Out There Somewhere, is forthcoming from Deep Hearts YA.  He can be reached at

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Adam D. Weeks

Adam D. Weeks discusses his poetry featured Arkana’s 10th Issue with Arkana Editors.

Arkana: Both poems feature lines attributed to other artists; Emma Depanise in “Witness Marks” and Ani DiFranco in “Nuclear Music.” How does integrating and/or borrowing others’ words inform your writing process? Do these lines serve as a jumping-off point for your work, or do they find relevance and meaning as your poetry comes into clearer form?

Adam D. Weeks: The integration of or reference to the art of others, whether it be poetry, music, film, or any other art form in general has always had an incredible impact on my work. I find myself constantly inspired by the words and ideas of others and do often use them as jumping-off points to inspire my own work. If I’m hitting a wall with a poem I’m working on, I’ll often turn to the recent music, films, and books I’ve been enjoying to see if something will make me start to consider what I’m writing in a new light. I think this really began during my undergraduate career studying creative writing at Salisbury University, where I was constantly inspired by the words of the other incredible writers in my cohort such as Emma Depanise, whose line inspired “Witness Marks.” 

Ark: Tell us more about the layout and use of intentional spacing in “Nuclear Music.” How are you hoping and/or envisioning such creative design will inform the reading experience?

AW: Whitespace is one of my favorite aspects of craft to play around with. In “Nuclear Music” specifically, I wanted even the form to speak to this uncertain feeling of being rooted in the past while still trying to grow in different ways into the future, hence the disjointed lines. I wanted the overwhelming look of the piece to communicate the turmoil of feeling unsure about where to go in the future while existing in a world that is also so unsure about how to grow.  

Ark: In “Witness Marks,” themes of slow decay, sweeping change, and development, as well as reckless abandonment are touched upon. How do you see these notions intertwining in this work and your poetry in general?

AW: In the past year or so I feel I really found the center of what all my work has been circling around. “Witness Marks” really is the poem that best explains what I want my work to speak to, which is this troubled relationship younger generations have with a society that in many ways loves and wants to support them but has slowly compromised the integrity of our planet and the potential for our future. At the point in the poem where the speaker says “but//I am writing this/into history: fit in/-to me. Break into me,” it is really a call for the world to be honest with ourselves about where we are, what we’ve done to the planet we’ve been given, and what we can do from here to make this life meaningful. The reckless abandonment in the poem is the enemy—the speaker wants to look at what we’ve left behind us. 

Ark: Tell us a little bit about your process, routine, idea generation, etc.

AW: My writing process involves a lot of “research,” which I put into quotes because the research I’m talking about is more just my time spent listening to new music, watching movies, reading poetry, and observing the people and lives around me. I live by Atlas Obscura and will often spend hours reading through articles on there, filling the notes app on my phone with random paragraphs that sometimes don’t make sense by the time I’m done with them, but always give me a jumping-off point when I’m feeling stuck. Seeing the new work of my close friends also consistently drives me and keeps me in a routine of weekly writing (shout out to the incredible poet Jeremy Rock for always keeping me motivated to keep up by sharing his killer work).

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about?

AW: I recently had the opportunity to start the new publication Beaver Magazine with my two amazing friends from undergrad Ellery Beck and Haley Winans, which has been one of the best experiences in my writing and publishing career. I’m also lucky to have recently had my work featured in print at Sycamore Review and Sugar House Review as well as online at Thrush.

Read “Witness Marks” and “Nuclear Music” here!

Adam D. Weeks is an undergraduate student at Salisbury University, the social media manager for The Shore, and a poetry reader for Quarterly West. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and has poetry published or forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Poet Lore, Puerto del Sol, Sugar House Review, Sycamore Review, Thrush, and elsewhere.

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Madari Pendas

Madari Pendas discusses her creative nonfiction piece, “The First Woman I Loved Was Pain,” from Arkana’s 9th Issue, with Jennifer McCune and Arkana Editors.

Jennifer McCune: This is a very beautiful, lyrical piece. How would you say being a poet contributes to composing prose pieces?

Madari Pendas: This is a great question! Poetry forces one to think about language on an almost atomic level, so to speak. What I love about poets is that they are very attuned to the way their work sounds, and often you will catch them reading aloud their words. I want each sentence to go beyond its utilitarian function and feel like a gift. I want a reader to feel that the author has attempted to compose something beautiful for them, something that sounds lovely in their mind’s voice, something they too want to repeat aloud. Poets are so attentive to language and I think that type of careful curation is something I try to bring to my fiction and nonfiction works. Poetry is such a generous art; it gives you writing that you read for the simple pleasure of how lovely it sounds in your mouth. So when I write something, I want to give them a story, but something that is pleasurable on an additional level. For instance, my mother doesn’t speak English, but there are certain phrases or words in English that she loves and repeats because they’re fun to say, like “bouncing beach babies” and “what’s new pussycat?” from the Tom Jones song. In a certain way, poetry is like bubble gum and can stick with you and can be chewed over and over. Poetry carries a beauty beyond its literal meaning. Sometimes when I’m cooking or cleaning I’ll remember: “esta noche puedo escribir los versos mas tristes”/”tonight I can write the saddest lines,” and feels like a secret little pleasure. Poetry inspires me—if you do well, your lines can be with someone for the rest of their lives. So, I think language can go beyond being a means of communicating information and become something lovely, haunting, and borderless. 

JM: You are a painter and author. Which medium are you most comfortable creating in, that is to say, which medium do you feel gives you the most freedom of expression of your intersectionality?

MP: There’s a line in one of my favorite Derek Walcott poems, “Love Letter from Brooklyn,” and one of that piece’s haunting lines is “heaven is the place where painters go/all who bring beauty on frail shell or horn,” and it reminds that all these different mediums are constantly conversing with one another. There’s a long history of writers also working as painters (or vice-versa), like Victor Hugo, Oskar Kokoschka, Maynard Dixon, Elizabeth Bishop, Leo Tolstoy, and many more I try to use painting and sketching techniques with my writing. For instance, sometimes an artist will sketch with their non-dominant hand because doing so helps them be more loyal to their reference. With the non-dominant hand, you’re focused on stability and keeping your lines straight. Whereas when you’re working with your dominant hand (in my case my right hand) there’s a tendency to deviate from the reference and draw the way you think the subject is supposed to look versus how the subject actually looks—you’ll make more assumptions. Some artists will flip the reference upside down to achieve something similar or drop grids on the reference and work from one box to another box. I apply this to writing by asking myself “what assumptions am I making about a character or their behavior?” “what are some references from real-life that I can look at?” “Am I looking at this in detail?” Also, longhand calligraphy is art itself. When I look at someone’s journal with cursive, I can’t help but think that too is art and something aesthetically beautiful—separate from the literal meaning of the words. There’s a theme here, words being emancipated from their meanings to do different work (visually and auditorily). To your question about freedom, I think writing is more liberating and allows me to be more expressive. Paints, turpentine/mineral spirits, canvases, thickening medium, palate knives brushes, and varnish are expensive, so it’s not the most economically accessible artform. I didn’t start painting until I got my first full-time job, but I’ve kept diaries and written since fourth grade. A notebook or journal at the Dollar Store is cheap and none of what I write is openly displayed the way a finished painting hangs somewhere on your walls. So I can be more open and dangerous in a notebook. I can write unfinished stories or bad poetry or about a memory or list off the first words I learned in English. With a painting, I’m always aware that when I invite someone over, it will be seen; it’s a bit more public-facing than a journal that I can stash away. But what painting gives me is the ability to express myself without the constraints of language. My mom, uncles, grandparents, and more relatives can’t read my work in English, so painting allows me to make art that doesn’t require language fluency. I’ve also found that with painting I don’t have to justify the subject matter—like in fiction I need a plot; in a poetry chapbook I need thematic harmony—it can just be a pretty sunset or a recreation of the way light from a streetlamp reflects across wet pavement at night.  

JM: Which authors/painters inspire you the most and why?

MP: Painters: Remedios Varo, Amelia Peláez, Mario Carreño, Nikki S. Lee, Marc Chagall, Oskar Kokoschka, Mon Laferte, Henri Matisse, Vincent Van Gogh, and many more, especially the Dadaist (I dig the idea that art is the process of making art and not necessarily the final outcome). Authors: Ashley M. Jones, Jacquira Diaz, Carl Philips, Martin Espada, Christina Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, Ana Menedez, Julie Marie Wade, Richard Blanco, Martin Amiss, Gregory Orr, Tim O’Brien and so many more. 

The works of the above-mentioned artist are always so layered, textured, rich in composition and color, and do an excellent job of deconstructing our assumptions on form and structure. Their paintings and many would fall under the flexible term “Expressionist”, demonstrated the importance of painting from emotional memory versus strict obedience to reality. Perhaps for similar reasons I love the above authors’ works—they’re beautiful, challenging, political, and instruct us. It’s the type of work that moves you off the page and into your own journal.   

JM: When did you begin writing and painting?

MP: I’ve always had a diary. My abuela took me to the dollar store when I was in fourth grade and got me a pink plastic four-by-four journal with a tiny lock on the side. The pages were pink, and I believe perfumed too. I started submitting work for publication and taking the medium more seriously around 2013. The first poem I ever submitted for publication, to my local college’s journal, was a persona poem about Van Gogh’s painting “At Eternity’s Gate.” My grandfather’s brother, Cheito, was a painter and I remember as a kid seeing the stacks of canvas rolls in his poky duplex. He was always a little sad that when he emigrated to this country, he had to leave some of his favorite works. I began trying to imitate him—really, I just wanted to bring him something I had made and hear him say, “wow, good job.” I started at twenty-two, after getting a full-time job that allowed me to buy more materials. 

JM: Aside from Arkana, are there any other recent publications, projects, or opportunities you are excited about? (Please provide links if available.)

MP: Yes! My flash fiction piece, “Mispronounced Girl” was recently published in Everyday Fiction. Another one of my fiction pieces, “Your Life as Told by a Stranger” is forthcoming publication in The Flagler Review.

Read “The First Woman I Loved Was Pain” here!

Madari Pendas is a Cuban-American writer, painter, and poet living in Miami. Her works focus on the surreal aspects of the exile experience and the ways Latinidad intersects with other salient parts of her identity as a queer, working-class woman. Her work has appeared in The Acentos ReviewPank MagazineThe New TropicLambda Literary, WLRN (Miami’s NPR affiliate), and The Miami New Times, among others. She is currently a graduate student at Florida International University.


Contributor Spotlight: Sarah Sophia Yanni

Writer Sarah Sophia Yanni discusses her writing processes and influences behind her poem “and nothing changes, never,” included in our 5th issue.

Interview conducted by the Arkana Staff

A: “And nothing changes, never” includes many inconsistencies in capitalization. For instance “Cabo San Lucas” and “Mexico” are capitalized while “syria” and “american” are not. What kind of discussions were you hoping to raise with this nontraditional capitalization?

SSY: The capitalization (or lack thereof) was meant to create a sort of hierarchy of language, or more specifically, a hierarchy of place as it pertains to my own life.

The capitalizations are not meant to reflect powers as they exist in a grander socio-political context. The poem is personal, and the poem is about Mexico, my time there, the way I see the culture being commodified and minimized.

I wanted to give Mexico and its cities a way to stand apart and be noticed, to reclaim their importance, even if that’s only achieved via a small letter difference.

A: Where did you get inspiration for “and nothing changes, never”?

SSY: My mom is from Guadalajara, so I spend every summer there. I’ve seen the awful class disparity that exists in Mexico. I’ve seen the way American tourists treat the cities and beaches I consider a second home. And living in Los Angeles, I’ve seen the way people bring back artisanal goods and upsell them with no consideration for the culture that produced them. So, it was inspired by my observations.

A: What are some books, writers, or other artists and artworks that guide your writing in general?

SSY: I’m fueled by a random mix of women writers like Maggie Nelson, Jennifer Doyle, Miranda July, Sandra Cisneros, and Sylvia Plath. My most recent reads were My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh and Corazón by Yesika Salgado, both of which I loved.

A: For you, what is the significance of the final three lines, “y nada cambia, nunca” in relation to the images conjured by the poem?

SSY: The repetition of “y nada cambia nunca” is significant firstly because it is the largest chunk of Spanish language in the poem. I am interested in writing that alternates in language, and I try to weave that into most of my work.

I chose to include the line three times to emphasize the desperation and exhaustion caused by those previously conjured images, and the feeling of an inescapable cycle, repeating and layering onto itself.

A: Any recent publications you’re especially proud of?

SSY: Yes! I had a flash fiction piece in the last issue of Ghost Parachute called Nobody Is Listening and That’s Okay.  I will also have pieces in the upcoming issues of inbtwn. mag and homonym journal, which I’m thrilled about.

Read Sarah Sophia Yanni’s “and nothing changes, never” in Arkana Issue 5!

Sarah Sophia Yanni is currently an MFA Writing student at the CalArts School of Critical Studies. Her work mostly centers on the first-generation experience and the trials of speaking accidental Spanglish. She is an editor at Sublevel Magazine, and her work has appeared in BUST, Scribe, and Palaver Arts, among others. She lives in Los Angeles.
Arkana News

Issue 4 Notes from the Editors

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:

Cassie Hayes is from Waxahachie, Texas and attends the Arkansas Writers MFA Program. She works as an editorial intern at Sundress Publications. Under her pen-name, her poetry and prose has been published in From Sac, Cabinet of Heed, L’Éphémère Reveiw, and elsewhere.

Interview with Drew S. Cook

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 SCook 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

Originally from Oklahoma, A. É. Coleman writes fiction, comics, and questionable poetry.  He’s a Navy vet who owns cats, plays bagpipes, and listens to science podcasts while pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas.
Arkana News

The Poet-Tree and “The AWP 2018 Experience”

poet tree

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.




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 –
rugburn randall
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
half-eaten kiss


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
no snow
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—
diamond leaves
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
kanye 2020
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
welp…i tried


Part X: Departure

anything that matters is here, in these lines.

Mikayla Davis is a UCA MFA candidate who specializes in poetry while dabbling in fiction. After getting her undergraduate degree at Eastern Washington University, she got lost in two-year business degrees from the local community college before finding her way back to the page. She has a love for cats and magic and has been published in various print and online journals.

Favorite Five Lit Mags

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!

American Short Fiction

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

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.

Image Journal

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.

Memoir Mixtapes

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!

Cassie Hayes is from Waxahachie, Texas and attends the Arkansas Writers MFA Program. She is an editorial intern at Sundress Publications, and her fiction and poetry appear in various online and print literary journals.