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.

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.