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.

 


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 – traciemorris0001@yahoo.com
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
yeet
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.
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More Poetry from the Poet-Tree

Poet Tree

An exquisite corpse from the writers at the C. D. Wright Women Writer’s Conference 2017.

by the Arkana Staff

On November 3 and 4, Arkana was excited to have a table at the inaugural C. D. Wright Women Writer’s Conference book fair. We asked visitors to our table to write a few lines of poetry on “leaves” of green paper, which we then put on the bare branches of our “Poet-Tree”. Later, these lines of poetry were compiled by members of our staff to form an exquisite corpse poem.

Enjoy the following poem by the writers at the C. D. Wright Women Writer’s Conference!


I am nothing but a rope of smoke
Tied around the stars

Why be loved like the sun, only craved when I’m gone
Unbridled intensity–cut it off before I burn

There was wrong, and there was left

Will you? Will you listen. And if I were beautiful, would you recognize my scent? Would you memorize

She took a dress and went that way

She was the kindest form of chaos

We want for no one we hold on to everyone. To remember is our lot in life–the everyday woman

He heals all but the hidden wounds

And what is it meant to be, only beautiful in writing and austerity?

I write because I think I think because I can

I write before I die I love before I hate

Be a leader, in a world ever changing, hold up the victories, hold up the heartbeats, hold up each other

Nothing ever really dies, you know?

Crash upon the earth with the brown leaves of time

Too humid for fall

The leaves are falling, carried on great gusts of wind- like red crispy snow

The sweet stickiness of a November thunderstorm

Wipers swish over wet windows

The fog rolled over her misting

Beware the stinging ladybugs of Arkansas

The imitation of her magic, the arduous donation of the scarf, the veil, the necklace around her throat

Mimosa, Chocolate, or Kerosene?

I walked down the old lane and questioned choices made before my knees started aching. Then I thought of dragons & fairies and pirates with long hair gleaming in the sun. And I forgot, and choices were good again.

Do you hear my hum of bees
wax of words
the honeyed seas salt of my last waking thought

I could only speak for myself

The Green Ocean that you can never hold your head above. While sitting in that ocean you are always waiting for that moment that you sink. You gasp for air while your head bobs in and out. Then you’re gone.

Where water is still it will deepen.

I must learn to live my own, carve the lesson in my bones. When I stand before my own gods, I must stand there all alone.


*Photo credit: Drew S. Cook

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.

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.