Editor Notes

Notes from the Editor: Issue 13 Masthead

Dear Arkana Family and Friends,

We are excited to announce the new MASTHEAD for Arkana Issue 13!

In the coming weeks, we will check in with our genre editors here on our blog to learn more about their teams. In the meantime, we are already reading your submissions, so keep sending us your best work! Just a few of our current requests include place-based nonfiction that continues to give a voice to under-represented topics or issues such as regional concerns or communities, more 10-minute plays, and flash fiction. We would also be excited to see more illustrated narratives, a photo or story album that tells an intriguing narrative. This is just a short list! There is more to come as we highlight each team.

Do you have something ready for us to read? Find out submission details on our Submit Page.

Want to see what we have published recently? Explore our current issue here or check out something from the Archive.

Want to engage with us on social media? Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

We love sharing our enthusiasm by celebrating our artists as much as possible. We nominate our writers’ work yearly for the Pushcart Prize and for other prizes, including Best of the Net. Also, for each issue, we award an Editor’s Choice Award for Fiction and Editor’s Choice Award for Poetry.

Looking forward to another great issue!

All the best,
Kathy M. Bates
Managing Editor, Arkana Literary Journal

Arkana is an online literary journal whose mission is to seek and foster a sense of shared wonder by publishing inclusive art that asks questions, explores mystery, and works to make visible the marginalized, the overlooked, and those whose voices have been silenced.

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Rosetta Marantz Cohen

Arkana Editors chatted with writer, artist, and professor, Rosetta Marantz Cohen. Her poem, “Spartan Woman” is featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.

Featured Artwork: “Self-Portrait,” by Rosetta Marantz Cohen

Arkana: “Spartan Woman” is reminiscent of an otherworldly epic that draws you into its lyrical narrative and demands your careful attention throughout. How do you, as a poet, approach a lengthier and more detailed piece like this one? Does that approach differ from how you might write more condensed work?

Rosetta Marantz Cohen: The complexity of the subject seemed to demand I write a long poem, one that spans a woman’s entire lifespan. I wrote the poem in sections; each, initially, had its own title. Once I finished, I realized the titles weren’t necessary, that the poem told a coherent and chronological story. 

I had never written such a long poem before. I consider myself a formal poet, and those forms (sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, etc.) often dictate their own lengths. I’d thought I liked the constraints of formal poetry, but I found it very freeing to write this poem without any kind of metrical constraints. …Though I suppose that staying true to the historical sources I was using substituted one form of constraint for another.

Ark: Much of “Spartan Woman” includes references to life in Sparta. How did you approach researching for this piece? Is research a primary facet of your other work as well?

RMC: Though my reading often inspires ideas for poems, I’ve never before used such extensive primary and secondary research in composing.  During the pandemic, when I was confined to the house, I became interested in reading a lot of history, and specifically about women in the past who pushed back against their constricted lives—rule-breakers and outsiders. “Spartan Woman” grew out of some fascinating reading about this very alien culture where everything in the society was focused on war, and where women were useful only in their capacity to create more male soldiers. My favorite source was Sarah Pomeroy’s Spartan Women, which describes in great detail some of the odd practices that were considered normal in Spartan society, including infanticide and the cross-dressing of young brides.  

Building a life story from historical research was so satisfying and engrossing for me that I continued the series, writing several more lengthy poems about other “outsider” women—a medieval anchoress, a woman in Salem during the witch trials, a pioneer schoolteacher. Each of these long poems have been built on primary and secondary research and the whole process allows you to become immersed in the character you are creating so that I’ve come to feel I know them as real people. 

Ark: Where did the inspiration for the piece come from?

RMC: As a professor of Education with a focus on women’s education in the developing world, I have been teaching for many years about the lives of women struggling against social constraints, poverty, prejudice. Until this year, I had never thought to turn life stories into poems. Once I started writing about this character—this woman from Sparta in 600 BCE—I saw the links between my academic work and my poem. Her difficulties were not wholly unlike the barriers women face today in some parts of the world.

Ark:  How did you go about revising “Spartan Woman?” Is the finished piece similar to the original draft, or did the piece undergo many changes?

RMC: I knew I wanted the poem to have multiple sections, each dealing with another pivotal moment in the speaker’s life. I revised a good deal. My husband is an English professor and he is my best critic. He catches every word that is “off” and he is (almost) always right. So I do revise with the input from a trusted critic. It always amazes me how “good” a line can sound when you first write it, and how “wrong” it seems the following day.

Ark: So, what are you working on now?

RMC: Right now I am finishing a book of five long poems based on the subjects I note above—the anchoress, the pioneer teacher, the witch, and also a contemporary woman who is herself an outsider from the dominant culture. What I have found is that all these voices have become linked in surprising ways. They share a kind of visionary capacity—an ability to see themselves outside the norms and restrictions of their time and place. They also share a deep sense of loneliness. They (we) have become a kind of sisterhood of misfits.

Ark: Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “Spartan Woman” here!

Rosetta Marantz Cohen is the author of two prize-winning chapbooks of poetry, Domestic Scenes (Foothills) and The Town of Insomniacs (Finishingline), and four scholarly books. She is the Myra M. Sampson Professor of Education at Smith College.

Book Review

Book Review: A Name Among Bone by Mel Ruth

Mel Ruth is a PhD student at Georgia State University, with a focus on poetry. Mel has pieces published in Pleiades, Emerson Review, New Pages, and more. They were a Slice Literary Magazine “Bridging the Gap” Finalist, and their chapbook A Name Among Bone, was a semi-finalist in the 2020 Black River Chapbook Contest, and the winner of the 2021 Cow Creek Chapbook contest. They/them or she/her/hers. Follow them on Twitter @Mel_Ruth_.

A Name Among Bone is Mel Ruth’s first poetry collection. It won the 2021 Cow Creek Chapbook Prize held by Pittsburg State University and was published by Emerald City Press in 2022.

The heavy-weighted title is followed by an acknowledgment page containing the brief two words preface “for Nan-Nan.” Both reveal the main melody of this collection: family and lineage. The relationship with one’s grandparents can be as intimate and impactful as one’s parents. They are farther in blood distance but may be closer in family history. Ruth’s poems in this collection depict the beauty and mystery of that relationship in her family.

Figurative language is Ruth’s strong suit in this collection. Metaphors are dense and they carry symbolic meanings. 

“Running Waters” is the first poem in the book. The title is a metaphor suggesting generations passing down like water in a waterfall. Ruth starts the poem with the speaker calling her father about her confusion about the family genealogy. She describes the sound of her name as “crisp like embered / leaves littering dirt.” (4-5) Then she uses a parallel structure to show contrast: “You wanted / a son, I wanted not to be // here atop this mountain.” (5-7)

The latest generation in the family, though the youngest, represents the successful extension of blood, and gets the most attention, like a mountain top the family looks to. It also shows the speaker’s awareness of her father’s expectations of her and her stress of being the focus of the family. As Ruth continues to trace up, she adds more metaphors. “The dirt / our bed and we return” is another powerful one to show people’s final fate. By the end, Ruth brings in the shooting target image, one that she repeats several times in this collection, to symbolize her trying to find the missing puzzle of her ancestry or to decipher her family’s genealogy. 

Parallel with Ruth’s imaginative figures is her economy of words. The poem “View-Master: Revisited” is a narrative poem about the speaker’s Nan-Nan. It starts with how Nan-Nan is called, then what Nan-Nan means to the speaker’s family. In an extended metaphor, which contains 4 lines or 21 words, Ruth describes Nan-Nan’s function and contribution to the family, also how Nan-Nan’s sudden death brings trauma to them.

….. …..She was the thread
….. …..that bound us like the patchwork

….. …..of a story quilt, cut too soon, creating
….. …..chaos in the fallout. (3-6)…..

The metaphor implies the warm feeling the speaker feels for Nan-Nan, and the attention the family gets from Nan-Nan. However, Nan-Nan’s funeral has some chaotic scenes: “Shattered / glass angels, broken bloody noses, a pink / marbled coffin.” This scene is disappointing. Not what Nan-Nan asked for, and not what the speaker’s Pop-Pop wanted for her. By the end, Ruth continues to paint the scene with concise language: “Stolen knick-knacks / in the lounge, bitter / coffee, fake sugar.” (10-12) 

The last three lines are a pun, suggesting both the literal and metaphorical meanings: knick-knacks, like good memories, were stolen, and the sweet words from people at the funeral are like fake sugar, not genuine. The coffee is bitter as the loved one is gone.  In 3 lines of 8 words, Ruth draws a scene that arouses a lot of imagination and association in the reader’s mind.

Later in the collection, “Outside Your Skin You Are Narrative” is a poem that reveals both Ruth’s extraordinary storytelling skills and ability to embed strong imagery in her poetry.

The opening line draws interesting pictures in the reader’s mind, hooks them to read on, and leads them to imagine the scenes: “Cleanse everything with lavender. Your / body, your home, us.” As the reader reads on, they get to know that this is not the speaker’s voice, but Pop-pop’s memory of his mother, the speaker’s Nan-Nan. Then Ruth sketches vivid, dynamic pictures with sensual five senses: 

….. …..long

….. …..hair in salt scented breezes
….. …..engulfing carnivals and oceans,

….. …..or whipping out of half open
….. …..windows in a rusted station?
….. …..wagon, rolling down highways

….. …..to Tennessee. (3-9)

The sight of “long hair,” the smell of “scented breezes,” and the contrast of hair flying in the open windows against a “rusted station wagon” together paint a vivid picture in the reader’s mind. Each word is imaginative and concrete. They reflect the difference between reality and dream. “You / believed in angels, but / your ancestors called them ghosts” (Ruth 10-12) suggests the gaps between family generations or different interpretations of life dreams. By the end, Ruth keeps painting rich and beautiful pictures in the carnival:

….. …..of Ferris Wheels and merry-
….. …..go-rounds in neon

….. …..lights, chasing Elvis, chasing
….. …..angels. Only part of
….. …..this was. (14-18)

The ending adds multiple layers of meaning to the poem. From concrete, fancy images of “Ferris Wheels and merry-go-rounds in neon lights” to slowly move to more symbolic images like “chasing Elvis” and his song in Tennessee, then to move to what the poet is doing now – her pursuit of art, poetry. This poem covers a long time and a broad space to arouse the reader’s imagination. 

The last poem in the collection “Memoir: A Poem” adds the memoir element to poetry. Its last line provides the title for this collection, and it is also a lyric poem that reflects Ruth’s strength in using images to stir the reader’s emotions. It’s another poem for Nan-Nan. 

The open line “I read you gone” composes a one-line stanza. It sets the grave tone for the poem. The large amount of white space allows the reader to digest the heavy topic. Instead of telling the reader her helpless and sad feeling, Ruth depicts it in imagery:

….. …..Like baby bunny rescued
….. ………. ………. ………. ………. …….from dog’s crushing grip

….. …..only to be collected for death. (3-4)

The image hits the reader with pain and grief. Then Ruth draws a lighter, livelier picture following this grim topic: “I // want to see galaxies on my / nails, feel civilizations on / my palms.” This shows the contrast between reality and dreams. The ending is another picture Ruth composes to embody the theme of the poem, also the theme of the book:

….. ………. ………. ………. …I need
….. ………. ………. ………. ………. ….to dance. To be 

….. …..the solid center of bright
….. ………. ………. ………. ………. ….pink target. To count

….. …..each grain of rice. To have
….. ………. ………. ………. …found a name among bone. (9-14)

Even with Nan-Nan’s passing away, Ruth understands she cannot be broken. She needs to stay calm and collected, for her ancestors, and also for her dream. She needs to put herself together to be the solid center of a target, counting the memories like counting the grains of rice. She has Nan-Nan in her blood and bone and will never forget her. The repeating shooting or target images in the first and the last poems echo, both reflecting the speaker’s goal: to hit the target right. 

A Name Among Bone reflects Mel Ruth’s free and mature use of the different poetic craft elements in her work. Her figurative language, natural talent with imagery, and storytelling ability contribute to making this collection as strong as the title suggests, meanwhile generating an everlasting effect on the reader’s mind.

Discover more about Mel and her work here!

Zhihua Wang is a poetry candidate in the Arkansas Writers’ MFA Program at the University of Central Arkansas. She worked as the Managing Editor of Arkana from 2019-2020. Her recent work is shown/forthcoming in Aji Magazine, Last Leaves, San Pedro River Review, Nurture, The Curator, Eunoia Review, Down in the Dirt, and Writers Resist. She is working on her first poetry collection: Faraway Hometown


Interview: Megan Neville

Recently, Arkana‘s managing editor Kathy M. Bates sat down with writer and educator Megan Neville to discuss her writing and poetic forms and themes at work in her latest poetry collection, The Fallow.

Transcribed by Melanie A. Wilson.

Kathy M. Bates: We are happy to share in the excitement of your first full-length poetry collection The Fallow. Teaching, writing, contests, traditional and non-traditional paths, tell us a little about your writing journey.

Megan Neville: Writing is something I have done my entire life. I know a lot of people say that, but it really is. I put together little books when I was a kid, when I could barely write words. I did a zine when I was 13, 14, 15-years-old. So, writing has been something that I have always done and it has always been intrinsically linked with teaching. When I really started to take writing seriously, in my adult life, I have to give a lot of credit to the National Writing Project at Kent State University. NWP is an organization that operates on the philosophy that K-12 teachers should be writers themselves–if we are going to teach writing, we need to write. So, I did that in 2007 and that just reinvigorated my passion for writing. That’s when I started to really see myself as a writer again. That’s where the journey to where I am now was rekindled.

KMB: At what point during the writing and organization of The Fallow did you decide on the title? Fallow is in essence remains that are left to restore over time. Tell me a little more about the title and deeper connection to thematic elements within the collection.

MN: Yeah, that’s huge. You know, it was originally going to be “Our Lady of Impermanence”, which is the title of one of the poems. But then I realized that the poet, Traci Brimhall has a book with a very similar title and I obviously didn’t want to be too similar to someone else’s book. I was looking around at other things in the book trying to figure out what was kind of a unifying theme. And the whole idea of fertility is huge in this book, and the intentional non-use of fertility. My poems touch a bit on the concept of motherhood and mothering, and it’s very much a book about the fact that I’m not a mother, I don’t have children and I don’t want to have children. And just kind of exploring maternal instinct and things like that in the context of not being or wanting to be an actual mother. 

I also think about it from an agricultural standpoint, because I am in Ohio so that is something that once I get an hour outside of the city I live in, is a big thing. You know, leaving a field fallow is purposeful, right? It’s so that things can regenerate and restore nutrients and kind of nurture the land itself, as opposed to just always spawning things from the land. So, you know, when you first hear the definition of the word fallow, it might seem like something negative like, oh, that’s sad. It’s not bearing anything, but then when you think of the purpose of it, I like to think of that as a metaphor for why I have chosen not to be a mother.

KMB: Let’s talk a bit about how form mirrors content but more potentially exposes context. Namely in “Rotational Fall,” there are 3 stanzas parted by pages as well as appearance. How are your choices informing the underlying story you hope to relay?

MN: I love this because I love to play with form. And I love any way to enhance content. So, when I play around with form, like for “Rotational Fall,” I’m basically trying to let the reader into how my brain is working, like how I’m grouping thoughts together or how different stages of the poem were created and how they play off of each other. With “Rotational Fall”, you have to physically rotate the book while you’re reading it. 

That poem was based on a story I heard on NPR about, forgive me, I forget her name, but an actual competitive equestrian rider who died after a rotational fall a few years ago. Just hearing that story sent me tumbling. I used to ride horses when I was a kid, and just thinking how someone could die in such a tragic way, doing something that I did for fun, for recreation. It really threw me for a loop. So just that whole circle and cycle and rotation and the fact that the whole rest of the book is about cycles of violence, cycles of matrilineal turnover and things like that. It felt like it would fit to make people actually turn the book around a few times when they’re reading.

KMB:  There are many other poems that use white space, dropped lines, and intentional location. Do you often see these elements in the first draft, or do they come into play upon revision and reflection?

MN: A lot of times when I write a poem, I’ll write it out exactly as it looks in my mind, with pauses, things like that, like visual caesuras and dropped lines, and things like that. It will just come out right away. But then sometimes when I’m playing around with a poem, and I’m not sure exactly how it should be, I actually just put it all together as one block of prose. And then I play around with different ways of using indentation and lineation and things like that.

There are a couple of poems in this book that were originally published differently. Like “Stand Her Ground” is one, for instance. When that originally appeared in the Longleaf Review, it looked very different than it looks now. The other one that I’m thinking of is “Searching Plan B Availability in Utah” which originally was a prose poem. So I think some of them have evolved over time as they live in my mind and they just take up more space, sometimes they need to expand, and I like using blank space in poems in general because they often feel like you need that reflective space somewhere. 

And then some of it also has to do with whether it’s a poem I imagined myself reading aloud, in front of an audience, versus if it’s a poem that I picture people reading with their eyes on a page. 

I tend to be a very extroverted introvert, at times; I love being around people, but then they exhaust me and I need time to myself. So if I’m in a phase where I’ve been very extroverted, I find that I tend to write a lot of poems that are more traditional looking because I’m going to envision myself reading them in front of an audience. But then when I’m more in my little hidey-hole, I tend to write poems with a lot of visual aspects.

KMB: As a follow-up, considering poem evolution, many writers feel like their work is never really finished. What are your thoughts about that? How do you know when you are finally ready to let go of a piece?

MN: There have been a handful that I’ve let go of, but the vast majority I see as constant works in progress. When a poem is published somewhere I feel like that’s just a checkpoint. That’s where the poem is at that time. It’s like a photograph where it’s like, that’s how this person looks at this moment in their life, but they’re not going to look like that forever. As a teacher of writing for high school, I do a lot of encouraging my kids to know that your work is never fully done. You just write drafts of it. And that’s very hard for them to internalize because they want to know exactly what something’s supposed to look like. And that’s why as a writer, I like poetry because I feel like it can evolve and I feel like all the poems that I have right now, are in a lot of ways in conversation with older poems that I’ve written. So, I feel like every poem that I write is kind of like a little branch, like an offshoot of other things that I’ve written, and little tendrils can come off of them as they constantly evolve.

KMB: What about the process of choosing the order for your poems?

MN: It’s messy and I love it. That’s honestly one of my favorite parts of putting together The Fallow. I print everything out, as I’m sure many writers do, and I spread everything out on the floor. My apartment is not big enough, and plus the cat tries to help, so sometimes I’ll go someplace else where there’s a lot of floor space or table space. And I just spread out every single poem that I’m thinking of putting in a manuscript and I go through and I put little like tags on them, like what are the themes in the poem or the images in the poem and then I start grouping them together. And then once I have groups, I start to tease them out. Then I expand because I don’t want all of the poems with the same theme to be together. I want them to be spread out. So that instead of there being like a clump of poems about one theme and then a clump of poems about another theme, I like to have everything spread out a bit, so that just when you think you’re out of one theme, as a reader, you get drawn back into it again. So there’s this sort of spiraling out or going forward and back and forward and back and forward and back. So that’s how I chose what order they went in. 

And then with the two sections, I tried a lot of different ways of doing this. I really wanted the first section to be more about origins and then the second section more about consequences.

KMB: You mention groups and themes, some of those conversations are more difficult than others. Which was the hardest poem to write?

MN: I think one of the hardest ones, I wrote in 2019 in a workshop I was in with Ada Limón. It was the one about “Searching for Plan B availability in Utah because no this is not what you think.” I was writing it in this sort of scathing and angry mood, and I realized the jealousy and suspicion invoked in that poem would cause more of that. And so, that was a poem that kind of ate itself as I wrote it. 

And I love that poem. It’s really short and really simple, but that was the hardest one to write because it involves so many things that I wanted to say that I knew I would be in trouble for saying. And as a K-12 teacher, that’s something I’ve struggled with a lot as a writer. Because for some reason, the teaching profession in the United States, I’m honestly not sure if it’s like this in the rest of the world, but teachers here are sort of infantilized. We’re expected to be non-sexual beings and we’re expected to be, you know, prim and proper all the time. I’ve been in education for 18 years but I’m a grown-ass woman, you know, so I have the same thoughts and issues and desires and experiences that any other 41-year-old woman has. 

So writing several of the poems in this book, I realized I was taking a risk by putting them out into the world. But I realized that I was taking more of a risk by keeping them inside, so I went ahead and wrote them. 

KMB: Looking back, is there anything you would have taken away or added?

MN: You know, there’s the one poem I wish I would have followed a little bit further with is “Body of Knowledge.” It goes as far as celebrating the clitoris, yet there’s so much more to sexuality than just the pleasure centers. I sometimes wish I would have expanded on that one a little bit more. Sometimes I feel like I was a little bit too safe with that one. 

One of the ways that I thought about that poem and kind of reconciled putting it in the, despite wishing I’d had gone further with it, is that the fact that it doesn’t interrogate quite as much as I would like it to interrogate. But I think that represents a vulnerability, searching for pleasure and trying to understand my own capacity for pleasure despite not being taught that such a thing exists. I think that kind of leaves open, like, hey, there’s more to learn. I like how that gets represented in the poem. 

KMB: Can you isolate a favorite poem from this collection? Why?

MN: I’m gonna have to say they’re all my babies, I love them all. But I’ll go with “Elegy with Apologies to Leon Jakobovits James,” because that one is my 2020 poem. It’s the most recently-written poem that made it into the book. 

It’s my locked-down, teaching remotely, trying to live, reflective covid-era poem. And I mean, a lot of people wrote 2020 poems. I think we all wrote some 2020 poems. This one covers everything starting with my father’s death at the end of 2019, right before the pandemic started, and goes both forward and backward in time. I was still grieving for him when the whole pandemic started, and the pandemic has been just a years-long ball of grief upon grief upon grief.  The structure of the poem is based on the concept of semantic satiation, which is when you say a word over and over again until it just doesn’t sound like that word anymore. It doesn’t have any meaning anymore. So the idea was, maybe if I talked enough about all the grief that I was experiencing, that it would go away. So, it was very cathartic for me to write and I love the way it turned out. 

KMB: With the excitement of a new release, we know the journey continues. What are you working on now?

MN: It’s really interesting because in my own writing process, I go through phases where I write and write and write and I can’t stop writing. Then I go through phases where I don’t write quite as much. Right now I have not written a poem in about five months. But I have a lot of them brewing.

I’m working on some creative nonfiction, though. Right now I’m developing an essay about the intersection between teaching, watching the TV show Euphoria, and texting like a mom–which is something my teenage students say is a thing. That essay is what I’m working on right now. I do, like I said, also have a few poems brewing. I tend to write poems in chunks. I just get a word or a phrase or concept or an image stuck in my mind and I just jot it down, and then I ignore it for months until I have many of those and I start to look at how we put them all together. So I’m in the very nascent phases of writing some poems and then working on a couple of essays, as well. 

KMB: Well, it is definitely exciting when it all comes together, and we hope to see more soon!. Thank you so much for speaking with us!

Discover more about Megan and her work here!

Megan Neville (she/her) is a writer and educator based in Cleveland, Ohio. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in West Branch, Pleiades, Poets.org, Wildness, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. She was the winner of the 2019 Wick Poetry Center Contest for Peace & Transformation and has been a finalist or semifinalist for the Write Bloody Book Contest, the Akron Poetry Prize, the Frost Place Chapbook Contest, the Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Contest, the YesYes Books 2020 Open Reading Period, and others. In 2021 received a Best of the Net nomination and two nominations for the Pushcart Prize. Megan is also an editorial assistant for Split Lip Magazine. Find her on Twitter @MegNev.

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Alyea Pierce

Arkana Editors visited with Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow & Explorer, Alyea Pierce. Her poems “28 Days” and “Return” are featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.

Arkana: What are some of the earliest poems or poets you read? What artists inspire you today?

Alyea Pierce: I have a hunger for engaging with 20th and 21st-Century Afro-Caribbean, Latinx, and African-American Literature with focus areas in poetry, female mobility, migration, performance, critical ethnography research, and racial, cultural, and sexual empowerment.  This passion was ignited via fiction authors like Toni Morrison, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angie Thomas, Sandra Cisneros, Earl Lovelace, and Derek Walcott, as well as poets like Jamaica Kincaid, Audre Lord, Edwidge Danticat, Olive Senior, Maya Angelou, Vanessa Angelica Villareal, Patricia Smith, and SO MANY MORE!  Their pieces created and continue to create this space for Black folx across the diaspora to reimagine ourselves and history. 

Ark: The layout of “28 Days” is visually stunning. What reader effect were you hoping for through the combination of language and layout?

AP: The combination of language and layout of “28 Days” is built from the main theme of this poem.  This piece is about Black History Month and the limited time allotted to celebrating Black life, so already there is a contrast.  The reader experiences distance, moments of silence, waiting/wading, breath, and pausing and is forced to engage with blackness and history.  I want the reader to take their time through this.  I love that the lines are separated and come together at the line, “I want Black women in white” because even that line is a contrast. 

Ark: In your poem, “Return,” the line, “I am stretching / and I can no longer fit within this poem” is fascinating and evocative. Can you speak to a time when you were drafting a piece and found that your ideas, themes, or voices in a piece were larger or more complex than initially envisioned?

AP: Writing is an interesting process.  As we are thinking about the words we intend to write, we are simultaneously editing them and editing them and editing them again.  I remember writing a piece on womanhood and how guilt roots in women, sits in us, and then one day we are apologizing for entering a room.  My poems often play with time and space, so I definitely struggle with what is my entry point into the scene, what voices need to be in this poem or where am I right now.  And that is when I must take a step back and ask myself, why am I writing this?  What started in me originally to put pen to paper about this topic?  O.K, now let’s start from there.

Ark:  How much would you say that your faith comes through in your writing?

AP: I view faith in several different ways through my writing. For example, 1) Religious faith; 2) Spiritual faith; 3) Personal faith in myself, others, and things.  Not only am I an emerging writer, but I am an emerging human in this world.  As I am discovering my own religious/spiritual/faith beliefs, my writing will reflect that deep, internal work of what I will stand by and what will stand by me. As of now, I am focusing on the exploration of faith on various levels. 

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, what are you working on now? Are there any other publications or projects you are excited about?

AP: Currently, I am a poet and researcher for a new National Geographic six-part podcast series, “Into the Depths”.  It follows National Geographic Explorer, Tara Roberts, as she follows Black scuba divers across the world searching for buried shipwrecks from the transatlantic slave trade when millions of enslaved Africans were trafficked to the Americas during the 15th to the 19th centuries.  Roberts sets off on the journey of a lifetime to meet the divers, marine archaeologists, descendants of those brought over on ships, and historians investigating the lost stories of the slave trade.  Our hope in doing this work is to share their accounts both to expand the historical record and to honor the estimated 1.8 million unsung souls who perished during the Middle Passage. 

Ark: Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “28 Days” and “Return” here!

Alyea Pierce is a Fulbright-National Geographic Fellow & Explorer, educator, and poet. Pierce has performed her spoken word poetry internationally from the UK to South Africa and at numerous TEDx events. Her work has been published online and in print, including The GuardianNew York Daily NewsCaribbean WriterAutism Speaks, to name a few. As an educator, her mission is to help students transform creative ideas into professional voices, empowering diverse learners to be leaders within their own communities.

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Holly Day

Arkana Editors visited with instructor and poet Holly Day. Her poems, “Testing One” and “The Pond,” are featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.

Arkana: Your pieces challenge the reader to slow down and take in the natural surroundings, animals, and sounds of the poetic environment you are creating. What are you hoping readers will experience by taking it all in and “put[ting their] ear to the ground”?

Holly Day: Exactly that—just to stop and look around, take notice of little things, take a breath. I have a fascination with the personal relativity of time, and how some activities make time slow down, while others make it go by too fast. You would be surprised how amazingly long a day feels if you spend the whole time just walking and observing and just being a part of everything. This is only a comfort if you want time to go by slowly, of course. Some people seem to want it all to be over as quickly as possible.

Ark: “Testing One” features a government testing site in the desert. What drew you to write about this sort of location?

HD: I had several family members on my mother’s side that quite possibly developed very aggressive cancers in the 1940s from observing nuclear bomb tests in New Mexico before they knew/admitted that they had miscalculated the “safe distance” from those tests. That, and growing up during Reagan’s Cold War, one always worried about bombs going off.

Ark: What kinds of works and which poets have served you well in your writing career and in what capacities?

HD: I try to read everything, but I would say I’m especially drawn to the exquisite melodrama of Victorian poets like Elizabeth Barret Browning and John Keats. I’ve never had much luck writing decent form poetry, but I like to read it.

Ark:  Do you dabble in other genres or do you mainly focus your creative efforts on poetry?

HD:  I’ve written everything from ad copy to feature writing to technical writing to fiction and poetry. The first three pay way better than the last two. Now that my house is paid off and my youngest is preparing to go to college, I’m trying to spend more time writing poetry and fiction because that is where my heart is.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about? What are you working on now?

HD:  I’m slowly but surely finishing writing the first draft of a novel, which has been a lot of fun. I’m trying to avoid looking for or thinking about new nonfiction book projects since there seems to always be one of those waiting to suck up more of my time, but other than that, just trying to spend more time writing the fun stuff. 

Ark: We wish you luck while you carve out that time to write the projects of your heart! Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “Testing One” and “The Pond” here!

Holly Day (hollylday.blogspot.com) has been an instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her writing has recently appeared in Hubbub, Grain, and Third Wednesday, and her newest books are The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), Book of Beasts (Weasel Press), Bound in Ice (Shanti Arts), and Music Composition for Dummies (Wiley).

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Linda Scheller

Arkana Editors were excited to chat with Editor’s Choice winner Linda Scheller and discuss her poetry, research, and process. Her piece, “The Coming of the Yamnaya,” is featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.

Arkana: Of all the historical cultures known for conquests, what inspired you to write about the brutal conquests and colonization efforts of the Yamnaya people?

Linda Scheller: I was inspired to write the poem after reading “The Skeleton Lake,” an article by Douglas Preston in the December 12, 2020 issue of The New Yorker. It described the Harvard geneticist David Reich’s genomic analysis of 270 ancient skeletons from the Iberian Peninsula. He concluded the incursion of Yamnaya nomads into Europe left a “genetic scar” because even now, “the Y chromosomes of almost all men of Western European ancestry have a high percentage of Yamnaya-derived genes, suggesting that violent conquest may have been widespread.” This finding corroborates Marija Gimbutas’s 1956 Kurgan hypothesis of continuous raids by the Yamnaya warriors who apparently killed the men they conquered and subjugated the women, creating a male-dominated warrior culture of sexual inequality and social stratification that supplanted the peaceful, goddess-worshipping society that she believed had existed previously. Gimbutas’s hypothesis had been largely discredited until this recent scientific finding.

Evidently, the coming of the Yamnaya was a terrible turning point for women in the European continent. As someone who is fascinated by history, I found this revelation profound and very moving. I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like for the women who saw their lives destroyed by this sudden, brutal conquest.

Ark: Have you written about other cultures like the Yamnaya? What significance do these historical events hold for you, four to five thousand years after their occurrence?

LS: I haven’t written about similar cultures, but that article brought to mind When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone, a book I read decades ago. I’m keenly interested in women’s history—and prehistory—and seek to understand how events, religions, traditions, politics, and cultural movements affect women’s lives.

Ark: What advice do you have for writers who seek to recall the narratives of historical events and peoples in their own works?

LS: Read as much as possible to garner knowledge and build understanding from different perspectives. For my book Fierce Light, a collection of persona poems based on my research into the lives and work of 36 historic women, I spent years reading biographies, articles, documents, and autobiographies. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about the women’s lives within the context of the times and places in which they lived.

Ark:  What other topics and themes do you most enjoy exploring in your poetry?

LS: I enjoy writing about the natural world, its effect on humans, and our effect on nature. Also, I have a new book of poetry coming out from Main Street Rag Press, Wind and Children, that contemplates childhood poverty and violence from the perspective of an elementary school teacher.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about?

LS: I’m working to secure publication for a poetry manuscript called Black Forest which examines the effects of power, especially absolute power, on women. Fairy tales are the vehicle for much of this examination, and I experimented with form and voice in many of the poems. “The Coming of the Yamnaya” is part of this manuscript. Currently, I’m reading books about Joan of Arc, and soon I’ll start writing about this brilliant, courageous young woman. In addition, I’m seeking publication for two reviews I just finished writing on the poetry books Scale Model of a Country at Dawn by John Sibley Williams and The World That the Shooter Left Us by Cyrus Cassells. Writing reviews is time-consuming but rewarding because the effort of analysis helps me better understand what makes poetry effective in terms of craft, tone, sound, and presentation.

Ark: We wish you the best of luck and be sure to keep us updated! Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “The Coming of the Yamnaya” here!

Linda Scheller is the author of two poetry books, Fierce Light from FutureCycle Press and Wind and Children, forthcoming in 2022 from Main Street Rag Press. A widely published poet, playwright, and book reviewer, she is a founding board member of Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center. Her website is https://www.lindascheller.com/home-1.

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Joe Baumann

Joe Baumann discusses his fiction featured Arkana’s 11th Issue with Arkana Editors.

Arkana: What inspiration drew you to write a piece like “Hot Lips?”

Joe Baumann: As with many things I write, I started with an idea—a kid who could breathe fire—and a title (“Hot Lips,” though I can’t recall where that came from.  Those are the two seeds I usually need to get started on a story, and at that point, it was simply a matter of engaging in exploratory writing until the arc of the story managed to emerge from what I was trying out narratively.

Ark: Is there any sort of backstory for Allen’s ability, or is his fiery breath just something he can do?

JB: Not really.  Most of the fabulist/surrealist stories I write are like this; I’m not usually interested in explication or an “origin story”—I find they take up precious space and are often not that interesting.  I tend to simply create unusual elements and slip them into the world as if they belong. 

Ark: Allen’s room is featured in several scenes in this piece, with its lilac walls. Was this an intentional choice? What made you decide to have Allen’s room painted this color specifically?

JB: One of the things I’ve been playing within several stories recently is upsetting what I sometimes think of as “dogmatic masculinity” (a version of “toxic masculinity” that is maybe not quite as toxic).  So, in this case, it’s the detail of Allen’s walls.  I think lilac isn’t a color most of us would expect from a young man, especially one who is in a fraternity and living in a fraternity house.  So that was really simply one way of upending expectations for the kind of person Allen, and those around him might be.

Ark:  In writing craft classes, there is usually a discussion about character creation through observation.  Did you base Allen or Clive’s characters off of people you know in real life?

JB: If anyone, Allen is marginally based on me, in that his uncertainties about himself parallel a number of the confusions and uncertainties I experienced as a young man in college (and the fraternity and its house are near-identical liftings of the fraternity and its house that I joined at my small liberal arts college, too).  Clive isn’t so much based on an actual person—I was really trying to craft someone who appeared to be in many ways Allen’s opposite.  When I was thinking him up, I managed to be struck by an image of this tall, languorous, dark-haired kid, almost a rock-and-roller who’s slipping through college.  He somehow arrived in my head largely fully formed.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about? (What are you working on now?)

JB: I’ve got a couple of books coming out soon—I was honored to find out my manuscript Sing With Me at the Edge of Paradise, a collection of short stories, was chosen by Texas Tech U. Press for its inaugural First Book Award, and I now also have a second collection, which reimagines the plagues of Egypt in modern settings, forthcoming, too.  In terms of things I’m at work on now, “Hot Lips” is actually part of a sequence of stories that I hope to bloom into a full-length collection of work centering on this same group of students, each of which has some bizarre or unique ability/feature/etc.

Ark: Congratulations on your award news, and forthcoming publications. Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “Hot Lips” here!

Joe Baumann’s fiction and essays have appeared in Phantom Drift, Passages North, Emerson Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Iron Horse Literary Review, Electric Literature, Electric Spec, On Spec, Barrelhouse, Zone 3, and many others.  He is the author of Ivory Children, published in 2013 by Red Bird Chapbooks.  He possesses a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.  He was a 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction.  His first short story collection, The Plagues, will be released by Cornerstone Press in 2023, and his debut novel, I Know You’re Out There Somewhere, is forthcoming from Deep Hearts YA.  He can be reached at joebaumann.wordpress.com.

Arkana News, Editor Notes

Arkana Issue 11 Virtual Launch Party

Join Arkana editors and friends on December 1st, 2021 at 6 pm CST!

Arkana Readers, Friends, and Family,

Please join us Wednesday, December 1st, at 6pm CST via Zoom for Arkana Issue 11’s Digital Launch Party.

Writers of Issue 11 will read their poems and stories, we will host our usual rounds of trivia, and come together to celebrate yet another Arkana Issue!

Save the Date! Find a link to our event here!

Read the latest issue of Arkana here!

Arkana News, Editor Notes

Arkana’s Best of the Net Nominations

Arkana Editors announce 2020/2021’s Best of the Net nominations!

Best of the Net is an annual online award anthology curated and hosted by Sundress Publications, honoring the best online writing. Independent publishers are invited to nominate 6 poems, 2 pieces of fiction, and 2 pieces of nonfiction published in their online journals during the previous year. Nominations for this year’s award have originally been published online between July 1st, 2020, and June 30th, 2021.

Arkana believes our authors deserve recognition for their well-crafted work. We are pleased to announce our editors’ picks for this year, and we wish our writers the best of luck in the award process.

2020/2021 Nominees:


Baby Boy” by Caitlin Woolley (Arkana Issue 9)

B.A.S.I.C.ally, I Find You Attractive” by Francis Golm (Arkana Issue 9)


The Big Fat Free Bird End of Times” by James Jacob Seawel (Arkana Issue 9)

The First Woman I Loved was Named Pain” by Madari Pendas (Arkana Issue 9)


Paint the Window Open” by Mary Paulson (Arkana Issue 9)

Trains” by Shooooz (Arkana Issue 9)

Love Letters from Lilith” by Natasha King (Arkana Issue 10)

Lament for Children” by Nansŏrhŏn, translated by Ian Haight & T’ae-yong Hŏ (Arkana Issue 10)

Witness Marks” by Adam D. Weeks (Arkana Issue 10)

The Fire I Carry” by Sandra So Hee Chi Kim (Arkana Issue 10)

Read the latest issue of Arkana here!