Issue 2 Notes from the Editors: Poetry

A reflection on Arkana‘s first year in poetry.

by Drew S. Cook, Poetry Editor

Last month, the second issue of Arkana dropped, and we in the poetry section had a lot to be happy about. We had two new readers join us, and it was great to have more eyes and thoughts on the pieces that we selected. It was also a sentimental moment for me, since I expect that this will be my last issue as Poetry Editor. Not having any predecessors, I had no one with whom to compare my contributions. Perhaps I did well; perhaps I did not. In any case, as a team we did manage to publish some well-made, affecting work from varied identities and points of origin.

To me, this is the important work of Arkana: fully committing to diversity in a way that goes beyond mere lip-service or checkmarks in boxes. The world of poetry is like any other industry: there are people who have power and people who do not. There are matters of fashion to consider, and there are practices ascendant and descendant. There are cliques, and there are pressures to conform. As a Poetry Editor, I have felt a duty to consider these things, for even though I have, since grade school, found myself aligned with unpopular, unloved children, there is also a need to build platform, to attract readers. After all, without readers, we have not succeeded in giving voice to the voiceless. Rather, we have only dragged them from one silence to another.

I do hope that I have succeeded in finding balance between appealing to poetic orthodoxy and lifting up voices that have been excluded by that orthodoxy. In the second issue, I feel that the team established a pleasing variation between traditional and more contemporary presentation. We additionally managed to lift up varied perspectives based on geography and identity. In other words, we sought a synthesis of the real and the ideal.

The specific poems that the team chose for the second issue were all in keeping with Arkana’s mission. That is, they reflect the team’s respect for the dignity and variety of human experience. They also reflect a general lack of interest in the tyranny of the fashionable. I do not have any idea whether these poems would appeal to any particular tastemaker or school of thought, nor would I like to find out. In the end, we can only hope that you will see them as we do: as well-constructed, affecting works of art. I cannot speak for my successor, but, to me, there is nothing else that matters more.

Thank you, fellow reader, for joining us in this new adventure. Please continue to submit. Please tell your friends to submit. Please keep reading. Please tell your friends to keep reading. Most important, please tell a struggling artist how much their work means to you. We all need to know that somebody is listening, that somebody cares. Be that light in another’s life. See you when issue three hits!


Read or listen to the poems included in Arkana’s Issue 2:
“Creative Writing in Oman”
“Flea Market”
“Don’t Forget Aleppo”
The poetry contest winner: “Poem for Thalia”
“When Can You Come”


Drew S. Cook was born in Ouachita Memorial Hospital near the banks of the Ouachita River.  His hometown of Hot Springs is cradled by the Ouachita Mountains and lies east of the Ouachita National Forest. The sights and voices of that region continue to inform his writing. Drew studied literature and philosophy at Hendrix college before moving to Ohio, where he did information technology work in manufacturing plants for over a decade. Drew has since returned to Arkansas to study writing at the University of Central Arkansas. His interests include pentameter and lithium. Drew’s poems have appeared in PleiadesBear Review, and elsewhere.
Advertisements

Issue 2 Notes from the Editors: Nonfiction

A brief note on writing and Arkana‘s nonfiction process.

by Jacqulyn West, Nonfiction Editor

I’ve finally learned to answer “yes” when people ask, “are you a writer?” Since I don’t write fiction and have a tenuous relationship with poetry, it’s seemed like a stretch to say what I’ve been writing is what others consider writing. Serving as Arkana’s nonfiction editor has changed my perspective and boosted my confidence, both about calling myself a writer and about nonfiction as a laudable and important genre.

Over the course of our first two issues, we’ve read over a hundred nonfiction submissions. We’re looking for pieces that fit our mission to publish work by people whose voices are not often represented in media, or work that challenges us to look at things with a new and different perspective. Many of the works we’ve received and read are good prose, but they don’t bring the fresh take or unusual aspect that we’re looking for. But when we get a piece that shows us a slice of someone’s experience that we’ve never seen published elsewhere, or a piece that opens up an exciting thinking space – like a hidden passageway in an old familiar library – that’s when the staff starts having conversations. “Did you read that piece? Could you believe they said that?! I’ve never heard anyone describe it that way. We should publish this!”

As a genre, nonfiction is nearly everywhere, from your shopping list and refrigerator notes at home, to personal ads and obituaries in the newspaper, to more formal and familiar essays and think pieces that describe or explain a person’s perspective or experience. Since nonfiction proliferates in our everyday lives with devices in our purses and pockets and screens everywhere, we’re dedicated to our search for the “mysteries and marginalized voices” in Arkana. We want to be the place where conversations start about ideas that folks have been carrying around without articulating, or where conversations continue about passionate concerns among our contributors and readers.

If there’s just one take-away I hope our blog readers and potential contributors get here, it’s that we trust our contributors to be the experts of their experience. We read each piece that is submitted and publish excellent prose with a clear voice that elucidates people’s real lives.


Check out the two works of nonfiction included in Arkana‘s Issue 2:
“An Opening Closed to the Public: A Black Lesbian Separatist at Play”
“Pruritus”


Jacqulyn Harper West is a poet of unfinished parts who prefers writing nonfiction. Her heart is in classic country music, especially the Bakersfield sound, and her scholarship ranges from feminist explications of her hometown’s cultural heritage tourism sites to code-meshing and hip hop as texts in first-year and creative writing pedagogy.

ARKANA UPDATE

by the Arkana Staff

Good news, folks—the second issue of Arkana is on the way! On Monday we met to discuss each editorial team’s picks for work to be included in the journal, and we’re super excited about the literature that will soon reside on our website. Poems, nonfiction, fiction, and perhaps less traditional genres (you’ll have to read the issue to find out what) will be displayed online for your perusal.

You want a space to reflect where silenced voices can be heard? Well, we have the lit for you.

And to celebrate the launch of our second issue in April we’ll be having a launch party at the Lantern Theatre here in Conway, Arkansas. At the party, we the staff will come together and celebrate by reading from our published works, discussing craft and connecting themes, and explaining how the work points right back to our lovely mission statement.

We’ll also have some cool stuff heating up on our blog. Soon we’ll be featuring short series of posts by members of the staff. These posts will pop up every couple of weeks and will cover topics diverse in scope and subject matter, highlighting our various interests and voices.

The blog will also feature letters from the editors of Arkana. Want to know more about the submission process? Want to know how the pieces of each issue fit together? Want to know more about Arkana’s place in the larger literary landscape? Check out our forthcoming editor letters to learn more about what makes the behind the scenes world of Arkana tick, and how each issue and work included in each issue comes together to promote our mission to “foster a sense of shared wonder by privileging art that asks questions, explores mystery, and to discover and uncover the overlooked, the misunderstood, and the silent.”

For the rest of this month we’ll post on our blog and be busy putting together the next issue of the journal, which comes out in late April. In the meantime, check out our older blog posts or our last issue.

Exciting stuff is happening here at Arkana. We’re glad that you’re a part of it!

Everything is Now Political

The future of the literary journal in the age of Trump.

by Mark Lager, Poetry Reader

“Everything is now political. We have the responsibility to make the political personal.”

Roxane Gay challenged booksellers with this statement. She challenged booksellers to extend their scope beyond their usual predominantly suburban, predominantly white demographics. She challenged booksellers to share marginalized voices. She cited as examples bookstores in Detroit, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles that had reached out to minority communities.

She had already caused controversy in the publishing industry by withdrawing her new book How To Be Heard from Simon & Schuster as an act of dissent. Some commentators had criticized her demonstration as another posturing of political correctness. They were wrong in their assumptions. Her choice was a bold and courageous move.

Simon & Schuster’s imprint, Threshold, had originally planned on publishing the book Dangerous by the alt-right firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos. His speeches and writings have tapped into much of the same misogynistic and xenophobic fears and hatreds which fueled the ascendancy and election of Donald Trump. Protests against his college tour turned explosive in California on the campuses of UC Davis and UC Berkeley.

Despite his disgusting and divisive rhetoric, the ACLU decided to defend his First Amendment free speech rights. Censoring Milo Yiannopoulos and others like him reinforces his supporters’ suspicions of the liberal media, which will only encourage even more dangerous and outrageous alt-right agitprop. Censorship is never the answer. Counterdemonstrations are essential and important.

Simon & Schuster eventually did the right thing: they canceled the publication of Dangerous. However, the burning question still remains: how many more major booksellers will consider publishing someone like Milo Yiannopoulos in the first place? Will the publishing industry’s attention seeking (through a figure like Milo) continue?

Joy Peskin of Farrar, Straus and Giroux has detected a disturbing pattern here between the political and publishing worlds: “It’s not a coincidence that Trump went from a reality television star to president of the United States, thanks, in part, to the radicalization of the white working class. And a lot of the leg work was done by Milo and his mentor, Steve Bannon…If you think Trump’s presidency is the last gasp of the white male patriarchy, think again.”

Authors, booksellers, bookstores, and literary magazines need to step up to the plate as Roxane Gay has done. They need to address the issue of inclusiveness. This is absolutely fundamental now because of the forces of bigotry and racism previously beneath the surface but now unleashed by the presidency of Trump.  Literary journals must create communities of marginalized voices, what Roxane Gay recently nicknamed “sacred spaces” so that writing will progress, not regress, in this current charged climate.

Minorities have always faced an uphill battle in their writing being published and now this could only get worse if literary journals do not continue to disseminate these voices.

John Freeman argues that an alternative to the contemporary literary magazine is one which is international. Freeman says that “corrective narratives” are necessary right now in order to counteract the dominant capitalist and corporate narratives being used to manipulate the populace. However, Freeman also says that these narratives themselves should not be didactic on a moral or political level. They should simply present a region of human life which goes against these narratives.

Can a piece of poetry or fiction accomplish this ambition without being political? According to Roxane Gay’s more radical stance, this is no longer viable.

“The overlooked, the misunderstood, and the silent” are the voices which Arkana promises to share with the world in our mission statement. We have included voices which contemplate the complexities of life in China and London, of genocide in the Middle East, among other voices. All literary journals need to keep pushing themselves beyond their borders. It is only through this process that we will be able to combat the insular mindset which has prevented progress for such a long time and create communities which are truly inclusive.


Mark Lager is currently enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Central Arkansas. His work has been published in Chiron Review, Circumference, Columbia Journal, and Denver Quarterly.