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
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
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
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 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
“You can only run on art and love for so long.”
What I’d say
I imagined how it’d go
I imagined, I imagine,
And some how when
I was still thinking,
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
But slowly, slowly
Leaf me alone
Take me with you, wholly
Leftovers don’t travel well.
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
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
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.