Contributor Spotlight: Emma DePanise

Writer and educator Emma DePanise discusses poetry, craft, and the process behind her poem “When the Thermostat’s Low,” included in our 5th issue.

Interview conducted by Melinda Ruth, Poetry Editor

Melinda: “When the Thermostat’s Low,” has a soft, haunting, Simko like feeling to it. What inspired the poem? What were you trying to convey?

Emma: Growing up in an old farmhouse, winter often meant cold drafty nights shivering under layers of blankets. I wanted to intimately convey how the cold can provoke a longing not only for warmth but for the warmth of another person. I wanted to convey the absence of such a person through the presence of the old house, through details such as the windowpane and floorboards, through the poem finding that person everywhere they weren’t. I wanted to create the sense that this longing went beyond temperature or the immediate senses, that it would continue even as the poem ended.

Mel: The poem is grounded in texture and nature images, such as the skin in the sock and your ear in the sweatshirt’s hood. What is the relation of the Fibonacci Sequence, a mathematical series of numbers in which the next number is found by adding the two numbers before it, to the poem? What does this say that a natural image couldn’t?

Emma: The mathematical sequence, often appearing in nature, adds tension and a new context to the other natural or texture-based images. The image works to redefine longing, a feeling often grounded in single sensory moments, as something continuous, patterned like the sequence. Through its repetitive nature, the mention of the sequence allows for an expression of longing into the future, rather than longing only within a present moment.

Mel: You mentioned at the 2018 Nimrod conference that poet Daniel Simko is a big influence on your work. Who else influences your writing?

Emma: In addition to Daniel Simko, Jake Adam York has greatly influenced my writing through his lyric use of time and context. I also deeply admire Kimberly Grey’s emotional bravery and formal experimentation. The work of these poets, as well as the work of my mentor, John A. Nieves, continues to affect my writing and leaves me with rhythms and lines I return to over and over.

Mel: As we both hail from Salisbury University (me as an alumna and you as a current student), we’ve both started learning craft from a strong mentor in a close-knit writing community. How do you think having this mentorship and community has affected your writing?

Emma: The mentorship and writing community at Salisbury University has challenged me, supported me and allowed me to grow quickly as a writer. I am constantly learning from my peers’ strengths and have gained a sharp eye and ear through our workshops, which often pay special attention to line and sound within poetry. It means everything to me to have a mentor and group of people who inspire me and push me into new avenues of thinking.

Mel: I recently received the first call for submissions for The Shore, an online poetry journal you helped create. Could you say a little bit about this endeavor and how it came to be?

Emma: The Shore aims to publish poems that engage those harder to nail down things—those surprising and haunting liminal spaces. The two other editors, Caroline Chavatel and John A. Nieves, along with myself, saw a need for a journal devoted to this concept and were excited to create that space ourselves. Caroline, who had been interested in the three of us starting a journal together, initiated the project.

Mel: Besides your recent publication with Arkana and your work with The Shore, are there any other recent publications, honors or opportunities you are excited about?

Emma: I am thrilled to be featured in Arkana and am also quite excited to have the opportunity to read for Puerto del Sol at AWP in Portland. I am also looking forward to teaching a poetry workshop to high school students on the eastern shore of Maryland this spring.

Read “When the Thermostat’s Low” from our 5th issue!


Emma DePanise has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as Superstition Review, Plume Poetry, Potomac Review, Nimrod International Journal, Little Patuxent Review and elsewhere. She is the winner of the 2018 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. She currently studies creative writing at Salisbury University in Maryland.
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Review of Savannah Slone’s Hearing the Underwater

Review of Savannah Slone’s poetry chapbook Hearing the Underwater, available now through Finishing Line Press.

By Melinda Ruth, Poetry Editor

In Hearing the Underwater, Savannah Slone’s first chapbook, the speaker invites you to immerse yourself with her, to linger and listen to what the water tells you. In this collection, sound is synonymous with submersion, and concerned with the truth beneath the surface. Each poem is a key to unlocking the reflective power of water in the world and in the body of the speaker.

We begin with leaving.

In the opening poem, “Venal Exodus,” or the corrupt evacuation, we are splashed with sharp sounds from the first lines, “Chalkboard paint. Bruises. / The Midnight Cousin,” and “Three sizzling ticks, pulled/ loose,” sounds that amp our adrenaline with the speaker’s to ride the fast pace of growing up in a broken home where everything ends, but also begins.

In this poem we are shown the underhanded leaving of the mother’s boyfriend in the lines, “Bang./ Mom’s boyfriend stains field// crimson with self-inflicted farewell.” Here we have the first leaving of childhood and possibilities. Here, the stanza break prolongs the experience, keeping the reader poised to fall with her. Yet the poem ends by undermining this exodus, in the lines,

Are you crying because he did this to your family
or are you just mad that now you won’t ever

get to take
this
option
out?

This ending slows the reader down and sets us up for the stagnation, this wading in place the speaker must fight against.

The second poem, “Cynicism and Other Synonyms,” continues the slowing ending of the first poem, forcing us to linger with the speaker, treading in the foggy waters of depression. By manipulating line lengths, Slone speeds us up and slows us down like the drifts of ocean waves. In the lines,

and my name
with cynicism
and other synonyms
because
here I am

                              here.

We see the effect of “Venal Exodus” in which the speaker is still here because she can’t choose the other way out.

But not all of Slone’s poems focus on the farewell. In the prose poem, “Ode to the Uterus,” the speaker takes on a more political tone and addresses the issues of reproduction and sexuality, in which another kind of water pools. Here, the speaker states, “shoreline mirrors sex mirrors making me a mother mirrors making my mother’s mother a mother mirrors.” Not only do the mother and the men became a reflection of the speaker, like the smooth surface of water, but also a reflection of history: of the speaker’s family, and of the world.

In this, and many other poems, the speaker grapples with the power of life, of men, of sex, of birth, of being a woman. This power is much different from the power of death that opens the book, and acts as a point of tension between the past and the now. The fluctuations of power become central to the speaker’s perception of life.

Further in, Slone ties the theme of the mother’s boyfriend’s suicide to the modern day gun rights debate. In the poem, “Within Your White Picket Fence,” the speaker states that,

your erasure tongues don’t
decompose your rags
don’t fill the dying bullet
holes of those whose throats are running raw.

In this instance, the poem acts as Aletheia, disclosing the truth trying to be concealed in which gun violence intrudes on life, both her own and others, and is another kind of power.

The speaker asserts that in this America, there is no way out alive.

Similarly, in the poem “hollow lungs, eyes, kazoos, and fingernails,” the speaker addresses the brutality of power, asserting that this is on all of our hands. In the lines,

we bury disassembled
rag dolls, pouring the nectar of humanity
over top the neglected
handcuffs.

The nectar of humanity acts as that water that encompasses us all, through tears, through body and blood, through that shared genesis of the world in which we were all once ocean.

In this poem, the deliberate choice to refrain from capitalizing becomes a commentary on power and subjugation in which the power of the gun, of the inherent violence of police oppression is enacted through form. As lowercase has no power over uppercase, the speaker has no power over life. The poem also incorporates shorter lines that are cut off before they can finish, contributing to the narrative.

In the penultimate poem, “The Table Where We Sat and Sit,” signals the emersion, the slow rise of the speaker. In the line, “I gifted my mom an orphaned quarter…” the quarter is integral because it returns to the theme of money, of growing up poor, but it also signifies the beginnings of the patchwork needed to quilt the past with the present, bringing mother and daughter together again. In this quarter we see the mercy the speaker needs to learn to show herself, as well as the powerplay of currency.

The collection closes with “Muzzled Magic,” a prose poem that grounds the reader in the real and now, closing off the magic of water and reflection. Through the lines, “yarn scrapes against cracked palms. Playground of ghost tongues […] the other forgotten, fossilized teeth,” we can see the cyclical nature of death and life, in which the speaker must figure out how to begin the long slow process of sewing herself back up. In this sense, the poem takes on the final form of water, a tool used as divination, as the speaker is still seeking that last exit strategy, that final farewell of death, that is our ultimate, and prolonged, ending.

Hearing the Underwater is a poignant commentary on the depths in which power and pain dwell inside the heart’s ocean. Amid the unsettling conditions of growing up and living in today’s America, Savannah Slone invites the reader to drown with her, to wallow and listen to the slow siren song of life, death and regeneration in which we all must follow. Grab a copy at Finishing Line Press today!


Melinda is a Baltimore transplant who is currently a graduate student at the University of Central Arkansas, seeking her MFA in Poetry. She has pieces published in Pleiades, The Emerson Review, Red Earth Review, and more. When not writing, Melinda enjoys good coffee, expanding her artistic tastes and late nights with her dog.

Contributor Spotlight: Sarah Sophia Yanni

Writer Sarah Sophia Yanni discusses her writing processes and influences behind her poem “and nothing changes, never,” included in our 5th issue.

Interview conducted by the Arkana Staff

A: “And nothing changes, never” includes many inconsistencies in capitalization. For instance “Cabo San Lucas” and “Mexico” are capitalized while “syria” and “american” are not. What kind of discussions were you hoping to raise with this nontraditional capitalization?

SSY: The capitalization (or lack thereof) was meant to create a sort of hierarchy of language, or more specifically, a hierarchy of place as it pertains to my own life.

The capitalizations are not meant to reflect powers as they exist in a grander socio-political context. The poem is personal, and the poem is about Mexico, my time there, the way I see the culture being commodified and minimized.

I wanted to give Mexico and its cities a way to stand apart and be noticed, to reclaim their importance, even if that’s only achieved via a small letter difference.

A: Where did you get inspiration for “and nothing changes, never”?

SSY: My mom is from Guadalajara, so I spend every summer there. I’ve seen the awful class disparity that exists in Mexico. I’ve seen the way American tourists treat the cities and beaches I consider a second home. And living in Los Angeles, I’ve seen the way people bring back artisanal goods and upsell them with no consideration for the culture that produced them. So, it was inspired by my observations.

A: What are some books, writers, or other artists and artworks that guide your writing in general?

SSY: I’m fueled by a random mix of women writers like Maggie Nelson, Jennifer Doyle, Miranda July, Sandra Cisneros, and Sylvia Plath. My most recent reads were My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh and Corazón by Yesika Salgado, both of which I loved.

A: For you, what is the significance of the final three lines, “y nada cambia, nunca” in relation to the images conjured by the poem?

SSY: The repetition of “y nada cambia nunca” is significant firstly because it is the largest chunk of Spanish language in the poem. I am interested in writing that alternates in language, and I try to weave that into most of my work.

I chose to include the line three times to emphasize the desperation and exhaustion caused by those previously conjured images, and the feeling of an inescapable cycle, repeating and layering onto itself.

A: Any recent publications you’re especially proud of?

SSY: Yes! I had a flash fiction piece in the last issue of Ghost Parachute called Nobody Is Listening and That’s Okay.  I will also have pieces in the upcoming issues of inbtwn. mag and homonym journal, which I’m thrilled about.

Read Sarah Sophia Yanni’s “and nothing changes, never” in Arkana Issue 5!


Sarah Sophia Yanni is currently an MFA Writing student at the CalArts School of Critical Studies. Her work mostly centers on the first-generation experience and the trials of speaking accidental Spanglish. She is an editor at Sublevel Magazine, and her work has appeared in BUST, Scribe, and Palaver Arts, among others. She lives in Los Angeles.

Exquisite Corpse Poem

An exquisite corpse poem from lines written on Poet-Tree leaves at the 2018 C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference.

By Melinda Ruth, Poetry Reader

Poetry, the migration of blood
through veins pushing thoughts
from head to pen-held hand. It took
my sister saying “that was rape”

for me to realize because the first
thing we are taught is not to call
it that. And so we beat on—

boats against the tide—borne
back ceaselessly into the past. I am
bowed and hang heavy with late

snow. There’s a snapping along
my spine. I am soft wood and very

poplar. And we will never know
our mothers.

                               Letting go as sweet
and sad as salutations. You’re falling now,

you’re swimming. This is not
harmless. You are not
breathing. There’s a place between

bone walls of the brain and the colors
of reality where I float
in the shadows of fake

memories, so far under water light

can’t find me. The rain
gives brief relief.


Melinda is a Baltimore transplant who is currently a graduate student at the University of Central Arkansas, seeking her MFA in Poetry. She has pieces published in Pleiades, The Emerson Review, Red Earth Review, and more. When not writing, Melinda enjoys good coffee, expanding her artistic tastes and late nights with her dog.

Interview with Drew S. Cook

Arkana‘s interview with poet and professor Drew S. Cook, discussing neurodivergence, mental illness, and writing.

by A. É. Coleman, Audio and Art Consultant

Arkana was excited to sit down with Drew S. Cook, our former poetry editor, to discuss neurodivergence, mental health, poetry, and writing.

Drew SCook is many things: an expert in obsolete operating systems, a student of literature and poetry, a psychiatrically disabled person. He is other things, too, and grew up in the Ouachita Mountains, whose sights and sounds continue to inform his writing. Drew is currently a Co-Executive Editor at Trio House Press. His poems have appeared in Nimrod Journal, Pleiades, and elsewhere.

Here’s what Drew said on some of the challenges when writing through the lens of neurodiversity:

“It’s hard to write about things when your language isn’t tailored to address them. So there are lots of personal challenges in creating the work. I find sometimes, looking out, that there’s sort of a performative expectation with regard to what I would call ‘mental illness writing’. I think people by and large like inspiring stories or stories of triumph over adversity or things that are sympathetic and tragic, and there isn’t always space for the kind of complexity that real life offers us…”

Check out the video for more!

You can find poet Drew S. Cook online at https://www.facebook.com/seriousbidnz


Originally from Oklahoma, A. É. Coleman writes fiction, comics, and questionable poetry.  He’s a Navy vet who owns cats, plays bagpipes, and listens to science podcasts while pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas.

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.

Issue 3 Notes from the Editors: Poetry

Third time’s the charm: a look at Arkana’s poetry submissions.

by Mikayla Davis, Poetry Editor

This year I’ve had the absolute pleasure to act as the poetry editor for Arkana’s third issue. Having worked on both of the previous issues, and being impressed with the work we’d received, I was looking forward to seeing what this submission cycle would bring. And I was not disappointed. Not only did we receive far more submissions, the quality of the poems were, at least in my opinion, higher as well. It made it difficult for the poetry staff to narrow down our top choices.

As such, there were a larger number of tiered rejections that went out this year for poems that were either stellar content-wise, and just needed that little kick to boost the language, or had beautiful diction, but just needed to give us an idea to grasp onto. We really hope that everyone who didn’t get into this issue resubmits in the future, because we loved seeing all the different writing this issue.

However, what the quality allowed us to really focus on for this issue were the poems we thought best represented Arkana’s missions: fostering a sense of shared wonder with work that asked questions, explored mystery, or worked to discover and uncover the overlooked, the misunderstood, and the silent. While this is something we always look at, and strive for, there are times where I think we struggle with it. But now, with our third issue, we’re beginning to really get our feet on the ground, and it shows in our accepted pieces

The pieces we accepted this issue seem to almost share a sense of loss, which I think is a feeling that more and more of us are able to identify with these days. The poems familiarize us with the feeling of being weighed down by inequality, and the responsibilities placed on us by outside forces. The images were some of the most striking I’ve seen, and stick with me even as I shut my eyes. Each poem is set in a different place, and gives us that sense of wonder, but there is something familiar with each one as well.

I hope that our next issue presents us with work that is equally mysterious and familiar, as beautiful in its language and the images presented as the four poems we accepted this issue were. I hope that you all will be encouraged to submit to Arkana, read the past, present and future issues, and share our posts so that we can get this fantastic work further out into the world.

Poetry included in issue 3:
“Grandma’s living room of false gods”
“Sunflower”
“My Beautiful Radium”
“Mad Woman”

Check out these poems in Arkana‘s new issue here: arkanamag.org


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.

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

An Excerpt from Mental Illness and the Poetics of Failure

Brief musings on costumes, artists, and mental illness.

by Drew S. Cook, Poetry Reader

A surprising number of photographs of people dressing like Sylvia Plath for Halloween can be found via a Google image search. One might ask: what does a Sylvia Plath costume look like? I imagine her 1953 interview of Elizabeth Bowen for Mademoiselle. In the months leading up to the interview, she shopped voraciously, feeling a tremendous pressure to not only give a good interview, but to meet the standards of appearance that were aggressively asserted both by Mademoiselle and society at large. Despite the pressure, Plath delivered in terms of both substance and form, nailing her first interview for the magazine, to which she wore a highly fashionable dress, fitted jacket, pearls, and gloves.

If we accept The Bell Jar as autobiography, then the entire Mademoiselle-New York adventure is prelude to a significant mental health crisis. Yet, this is Sylvia Plath. Driven by self-loathing and genius to persist, to outshine, to overcome, Plath’s smile seems genuine in the photos that remain of that momentous occasion—after months of certainty that she will fail, she discovers that she is knocking it out of the park. This is the smile of a mentally ill person who has, yet again, kept herself alive in the land of the sane. Three years before her fateful encounter with Olympic-tier gaslighter Ted Hughes, Plath is a young woman who, on her own in the big city, survives. She despairs, she is outside, she is neurodivergent, but she belongs wholly to herself.

The iconic moment with Bowen is not the costume, though, that Halloween celebrants choose. To them, Sylvia Path is a woman—any woman—with a cardboard, mocked-up oven over her head. Plath is only her suicide, only her sickness. She is not even a poet anymore. Instead, she is just a joke about a chronic, sometimes fatal condition known as bipolar disorder.

Plath’s story offers a cautionary tale to mentally ill artists. No matter one’s achievements, no matter the effort, to write as a mentally ill person is to expose oneself to ridicule from bad actors, and uninvited psychoanalysis from the well-meaning. It is, in the terminology of feminist rhetorical theory, to subject oneself to “containment.” One can no longer write about a thing; rather, one is perceived as writing from a place.


Drew SCook is many things: an expert in obsolete operating systems, a student of literature and poetry, a psychiatrically disabled person. He is other things, too, and grew up in the Ouachita Mountains, whose sights and sounds continue to inform his writing. Drew is currently a Co-Executive Editor at Trio House Press. His poems have appeared in Nimrod Journal, Pleiades, and elsewhere.

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.