Arkana Represents

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The Impact of AWP, Past and Present

by Mikayla Davis, Poetry Reader

In 2014 I attended my first AWP in Seattle, planning to meet up with one of my creative writing instructors and some classmates from community college. I didn’t know what to expect, having only ever been to anime conventions in the past. But I was just starting to think about grad school, and a writers’ convention seemed like the perfect place to explore my options. If nothing else, I knew my undergraduate institution would be in attendance. It would be nice to gather with old friends and get their take on my plans.

So I made my plans, booked my hotel, scheduled out what panels I wanted to attend. I drove five hours across my home state.

Turns out, planning for panels was a misguided decision—as I became completely enthralled by the Book Fair. There were rows upon rows of booths and tables. There were probably at least fifty tables in each row. They filled this huge hall.Graduate schools, magazine publishers, businesses. People were wandering around, buying books, talking to people behind booths. There were author signings and readings, though the latter couldn’t be heard over the buzz of conversation. I spent hours there, just wandering and looking…but I rarely actually approached the booths, and no one tried to draw me in.

Three years later, I had the opportunity to attend AWP again—this time, manning a booth representing the University of Central Arkansas’s MFA program, the C.D. Wright Women Writers’ Conference, and, of course, Arkana.

My one goal was to engage with participants who, like me in 2014, were just wandering…wanting to ask questions, but not knowing how.

But how does one motivate others to visit your booth, when your budget is limited, and you have three major organizations to try and promote?

This is where my many trips to anime conventions came in handy.

If you’ve never been to one, I can tell you that they are bright, loud, and incredibly exciting. Think about Harry Potter when he first visits Diagon Alley. You don’t know where to look because everything seems interesting. People were drawn to the booths that were there, because they managed to be bigger and brighter than the environment around them. The booths at anime conventions often have activities you can interact with. Whether it’s merchandise or games, there is always something you can put your hands on. When I attended AWP in 2014, most of the booths only promoted free merchandise. Nothing was particularly interactive.

Though AWP is a lot less visually stimulating than an anime convention, I still began to brainstorming the aesthetic of our booth. Arkana could afford to be a lot less flashy than an anime convention, and still be visually appealing.

In order to invite visitors to our booth, we included several items on our table. For vertical appeal, we had a large banner that advertised the conference. For horizontal, we also had a banner that stretched across the bottom of the table that presented us as the UCA MFA program. We had various flyers, informational papers, and even stickers on the booth tables.

We also had a “Poet-tree” made from the branches of an actual tree, that at first blended into the black curtain that served as our separator from other booths. But as visitors began writing on the green paper “leaves” we provided, and hung them on the tree, they provided eye-catching pops of color on the dark backgrounds.

The “Poet-Tree” also doubled as an activity, something we could invite passersby to contribute to. It was something no other booth had.

We had another highly visual activity to draw people in. One of the other faculty members at UCA had happened upon a bubble cup vending machine at a flea market. They later found some cups for that machine, and—luckily for us‚—she was willing to let us use it for our booth at AWP.

We filled the capsules with candy, excerpts from women writers and Arkana contributors, and stickers, and invited attendees to donate a couple of quarters to win the prize.

All of these things really encouraged others to visit our table. Throughout the event, we received comments about how we were the most interesting table they passed by.

But there was really only one thing that really made us successful. If we hadn’t acquired a “Poet-Tree,” or a vending machine, or even tables at all, we could have succeeded with just one thing…our people.

With toothy grins, we stood out in the walkways of the Book Fair, greeting anyone who walked by. We offered flyers, compliments, and conversation. We were almost impossible to ignore. If we were sitting behind the table, it was because we were on break, or needed more supplies to hand out.

We were passionately involved in the process of pulling people in, and it showed. It helped that we truly believed in the organizations we were prompting, and particularly, the mission of Arkana. Our booth was certainly one of the busiest tables, and perhaps one of the most engaging booths at AWP.

While I worked the booth, all I could think of was 2014 me stepping forward and really getting involved in the world of writing conventions and submissions. It was one of the most thrilling and exciting literary experiences of my life. I am already eagerly planning on how to improve our booth for next year.


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.
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Bringing the Poet-Tree to Life

An exquisite corpse from the writers of AWP 2017

by Mikayla Davis, Poetry Reader

On February 8-11, 2017, Arkana took a trip up to Washington D.C. to attend the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference. AWP is the biggest conference for writers in the United States, boasting attendance numbers over 12 thousand. It’s a great place for writers, publishers, and programs to share their work and network.

This was Arkana’s first year attending, since we had only just produced our first online publication, and we wanted to make sure that we would stand out from all the other fabulous publishers in the Book Fair. We were also sharing a  table with our homefront’s MFA program and the C.D. Wright’s Women Writers Conference, so it was even more important that we make a place for ourselves.

One of the ways we did this was by bringing along what we were calling the Poet-Tree.

The Arkana staff built a bare tree from actual branches and cut leaf shapes from construction paper. We then asked visitors to our booth to contribute a line of poetry (and even prose) to the branches, to bring Arkana to life, so-to-speak.

Below are the lines we were given. Each grouping is a branch from the Poet-Tree and we have tried to remain as true to format as the lines were written.

We hope you enjoy as much as we did.


 

The pecan tree in the yard — mother, in her way, burning

This

The north wind cuts sharp against my skin

The tree died,
It’s lifeblood milled for pulp
Paper plant, shipped, boxed, cut.
It is now a leaf again.

***

Not today, apocalypse!

The last slice of night before

The rocks on the shore fall into the water like rain

And we were dogwood petals

I feel naked,
But am fully clothed,
Wearing a sweater,
But my soul is exposed

I am torn
But you are watching me
Hold on

Be leaf.
Be change.
Be light to the shadow

Let’s go backwards when forwards fails.

***

If you think that my hair makes me
something that can’t be explained,
then you can go fuck yourself

I am a satellite —
A transmitter of language
Floating through the air

Only in poetry are fragments holistic

Headline News:
“Senator Warren
Fistacuffing
In the senate.”

This shit doesn’t have to be good.

Good, cause mine’s not 

“He sang his didn’t
He danced his did”

I am,
I am,
I am…

I was once so once that I am always once

“Your mother told you that if you held
the seashell to your ear, you would hear oceans,
but all you really heard was the sound of yourself.”

I licked my thumb and pressed it
into the crumbs on my plate, not wanting
to lose a single artisanal calorie.

Scrub the wooden
slab, vinegar fills your nose
until the dust dissolves you

Purple is purple
is exactly!

“You can only run on art and love for so long.”

I imagined
What I’d say
I imagined how it’d go
I imagined, I imagine,
And some how when
I was still thinking,
You did.

***

Hail hits the trailer roof
like jawbreakers tipped
from a cup

The trees are in
celebration, their vermillion
and sunset yellow leaves
Falling to the earth justLike confetti

I am unbroken and unafraid

I like to eat cherry pop-tarts in the moonlight

Let my soul sink into the sidewalk,
wrapped in concrete and footprints

…hope the harvest is worth the work
and all those ragged scars

My poetry is lacking
but this poet tree is damn fine

Roses are read

I think I will look at you and think,
“We have always been made for this”

How to Subterfuge:
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition
Or Sexy jutsu

Find Happiness or it will find you

Keep climbing,
Snail,
But slowly, slowly

***

Leaf me alone
Just kidding.
Take me with you, wholly

Leftovers don’t travel well.
Pack granola.

I, too, have a Spanish dictionary.
You’ll never find it.

There was a deep blue sky

We spell ourselves into the quiet of a long day

Today, beloved,
We have shared marble and snow
It is eternity

Hell is dying and meeting the person you could have been

He remembered turning
off his light, letting darkness slip
deep into every crevice,
and screaming until his Voice gave out.

And then as we traveled through Pakistan

How big my guts were. How red and jealous.

***

What is my line of poetry?

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.

Watch your eyes

His eyes contain earths
that tug me back
into his warm orbit.

For a “light” art form, poetry
in my tote bag weighs a lot.

A hush had fallen over
the basement as if any sound
louder than a whisper
would bring another disaster

Gale force winds such
So does this hangover.
Can  I get a bloody mary?

Break the sky and make it bleed.

***

All day I do work —
All day I drink

The promise of the American Dream:
“Keep punching down and you’ll rise to the top.”
It’s a lie. Wake up, Dreamers.

Let the light in and let it divine you

I passed the man with the pink jacket and I wonder what words
he goes home to.

And then, as I held my hand
to your ribs, you breathed out a purple, “maybe.”

The milk was cold and fresh, the cookies warm.

With their umbrella tipped upside down they stood like spirits under a lotus frond waiting for the rain to pass.

Blisters block the arteries of my heart, stretching blood until bursting.

There’s something that does not love a wall.

Honey drips from her lips, sweet sugar sticking, choking.

Is that a spork in your eye or a meatloaf of the mind?

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Loneliness is still time spend with the world.

People need to be more like trees and branch out.

***

Spending writing time above printing blood.

And only wonder comprehends anything

Sickle cells slice black signatures into my veins

this is not a sentence because it doesn’t start with a capital letter

There’s something unnerving about being the only listener in a room of speakers

He walked with confidence, but not anger

I am a westerner,
I am a west
Turner. I am
The west.

Discarded feathers drained through slush,
making a final journey down grates,
down gutters, down, down, down.

Those who say poetry is dead, have never been to the A.W.P.

Where writers conference, the world is rewritten


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.