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.
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Contributor Spotlight: Kathya Alexander

Author Kathya Alexander discusses her writing process and inspiration behind her short story “My Daddy Dead,” included in our 5th issue.

Interview conducted by the Arkana Staff

A: What came first for you when you began writing “My Daddy Dead”— the setting of a church on Sunday morning, the situation of family tension and words unspoken, the character of the wounded child, or something else?

KA: The image of the father having a heart attack in the pulpit of the church he pastored just as he had his hands raised for the benediction came first.

A: What is your “go to” place, either physically or creatively, that assists you in beginning a project? What triggers your writing?

KA: I tell stories monthly at a Starbucks in Seattle, and all the storytellers write on a particular theme. That theme usually guides me at the beginning. In other cases, the trigger begins with something I am curious about or want to explore more fully.

A: When writing “My Daddy Dead,” did you hear this as a spoken word performance prior to its present written, textual form?

KA: I “hear” everything I write as I write it, so I guess I write all of my stories to be spoken word performances.

A: What techniques did you employ to keep the rhyme sounding natural rather than forced or sing-songy in “My Daddy Dead”?

KA: Again, I hear my stories as I write them and, even though they rhyme, what I hear is the story. I use the online rhyming dictionary quite liberally when I’m stuck on a line of the story where I can’t think of a rhyme. At the same time, quite often the rhyme dictates what comes next in the story.

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

KA: I am especially proud of being published in Arkana because I grew up in Arkansas, and this feels like coming home. I will be published in an upcoming issue of The Pitken Review, so stay tuned! “My Daddy Dead” is one of the stories in a collection of short stories entitled Angel in the Outhouse which is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Angel-Outhouse-Kathya-Alexander/

Read Kathya Alexander’s “My Daddy Dead” in Arkana Issue 5!


Kathya Alexander is a writer, actor, storyteller, and teaching artist. Her poem, “Naa Naa,” appeared in Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workplace. She has won the Jack Straw Artist Support Program Award; 4Culture’s Artists Projects Award; and the WRAP Award, Youth Arts Award, and the City Artist Award from Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture. Her play Black To My Roots: African American Tales from the Head and the Heart won the Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award in Edinburgh, Scotland for Outstanding New Production.

Contributor Spotlight: Kathryn Brown

Writer Kathryn Brown discusses her writing process and inspiration behind her creative nonfiction essay “The Rotting Man,” included in our 5th issue.

Interview conducted by the Arkana Staff

A: Your piece “The Rotting Man” deals with, like most memoir pieces, extremely personal raw emotion. How do you get enough distance from an event like the one you describe in “The Rotting Man” in order to write clearly about it?

KB: It takes time and many rewrites for me to set aside the emotional triggers of an incident like “The Rotting Man” and create a piece that is relatable to a wide audience. My first versions were filled with a lot of backstory and unnecessary detail, all to avoid writing about the actual trauma.

A: The last sentence of your essay claims, “We have become a society capable of heartbreaking indifference.” How can we, as writers and readers, combat such a huge societal problem?

KB: After this incident, it was no longer possible for me to ignore human suffering. I had been very successful in compartmentalizing the continual string of horrors that I dealt with, but something about the “Rotting Man’s” condition stunned me and broke through that carefully constructed protection.  

I was struck by the lack of care or compassion for a man who is allowed to rot on a city street.

As a writer, it’s important to me that the reader comes away with a sense that ignoring the mentally ill and their suffering is simply not acceptable. But more importantly, my hope is that the reader considers the power of even the simplest act of compassion. Perhaps, one by one, we will begin to care for each other.

A: According to your bio, you used to work as a captain with the San Francisco Police Department. Is writing a longtime interest for you, or is it something you only focused on after retirement? Do you have any tips for juggling a separate career alongside an interest in writing?

KB: I began writing early in my career. I found it difficult to write seriously until I retired, but that’s because I can be lazy. If writing is your passion, write! Early in the morning, the middle of the night, whenever you can carve out the time, make it a priority and write. I find that if I write everyday, even for 30 minutes, my writing improves significantly.

I was a police officer for 30 years. Don’t wait that long.

A: When you sit down to write an essay, where do you start— with characters, themes, setting, etc.? Do you go into an essay knowing what you want to say, or do you find its purpose through the writing process?

KB:When I sit down to write a memoir piece, I completely emerge myself in the actual incident; allowing myself to remember smells, sounds, feelings. My initial versions are often filled with too much detail and too much emotional angst. After a couple of drafts, it’s easier to see what exactly I want to say.

I try to stay true to the characters involved, closing my eyes and seeing them, hearing them, smelling them. Writing has been an extremely cathartic experience for me and as I look back on some of my earlier writings I can see myself working out unresolved issues and feelings.

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

KB: The Baltimore Review published a story called “Ambushed.” It’s a favorite of mine. http://baltimorereview.org/index.php/winter_2016/contributor/kathryn-brown

Two Hawks Quarterly published “Misty.” Another favorite

http://twohawksquarterly.com/2015/12/08/misty-kathryn-brown/

Read Kathryn Brown’s “The Rotting Man” from Arkana Issue 5!


Kathryn Brown is a retired captain with the San Francisco Police Department. She is currently working on a collection of short stories based on her experiences while working in high crime areas of the city, particularly the Tenderloin. Her intention is to take the reader beyond the surface experience of interactions between police and the public, to provide a deeper understanding of the psychological and perhaps spiritual impact of those encounters. Read her published stories at Two Hawks Quarterly and The Baltimore Review.

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.

Why do we value the literary journal?

Thoughts on why a literary journal is a worthwhile venture.

by Pamela James, Poetry and Fiction Reader

Sitting over a latté at Panera’s, a younger friend of mine said, “I thought I might make extra money writing poetry. But you can’t.”

I was surprised, not that poetry didn’t pay, but that she hadn’t already known. The near-rhyme of poverty and poetry seems fitting to me, reflecting how I think the world works, as likely as the squirrels infesting the bird feeders, and as perpetual as wind across a Kansas plain.

What I realized, again, is that Rachel is not connected to very many people with literary interests, and what she and nearly every other author needs is community. She’d love a larger supportive group—a writing group, perhaps, although so far she hasn’t found one that might accommodate her work schedule. So, I offered what I could.

“Come to dinner tomorrow,” I told Rachel. I believe in the comfort of food and fellowship for any number of ills and disillusionments. “I’ll make pie.”

I understood her disappointment. A casual glance across the internet might suggest a robust economy, one where writers, even poets, get paid. Writers and literary journals are everywhere. Unfortunately, their very superabundance puts an additional strain on the limited funds circulating in the literary publishing market, a market that historically has struggled to provide the monetary rewards the work of writing seems to merit. In 1948 in “Little Magazine, What Now?” Paul Bixler characterized literary journals as “lucky to make ends meet,” their editors and publishers receiving minimal if any payment, and their continuation normally requiring subsidies.

So why do writers and publishers do the work? It’s not that they are delusional. Megan Garr admits that when she and others started Versal, “we did not set out to make our literary magazine economically viable. We did not even consider it a possibility.” Most contributors find other, non-monetary value in literary journals.

One thing literary magazines have long offered is the future value of published work, which provides exposure and builds resumes. Still that doesn’t seem enough. It’s meat and potatoes, no pie, and might not account for the burgeoning number of online journals which can never expect the subsidies or support of institutional donors, or the ongoing stream of hopeful writers’ submissions.

What’s given up in money may be made up in opportunities for an expanded number of those writers. Michelle Betters says that “fledgling journals undoubtedly provide a much-needed home for underrepresented voices, experimental work, and young writers.” Part of the attraction of current journals is the diversifying range of participating writers, editors, and publishers.

What’s being built seems to be a larger, more inclusive community, or series of communities with more room for the quirky, narrowly focused, or obscure. Brooke Wonders, nonfiction editor at North American Review, started Grimoire, an online journal, with friends. It seems to add a third job to editorship and teaching at Northern Iowa, but she enjoys the creative collaboration, and the opportunity to write to an audience who’ll enjoy the letters to dead authors, the contributions from the resident ghost, and extravagant spells offered to foil hypocrites or repel the vicious.

So many diverse journals also means more possible connections between editors and writers, where roles continue to blur and community seems more possible. M. R. Branwen in “Why Literary Journals Don’t Pay,” not only argues that those who write, edit, or publish do it because they love it, but that many of those who work at lit mags are writers too, “burning the midnight oil writing fiction and poetry . . . having their work published in literary magazines that can’t afford to pay them for their work. This is not an “us” vs. “them—just an us on both sides of the imaginary divide.”

It’s the us, I imagine, that ultimately adds the most value to the literary journal. And it occurs to me that how the literary journal works may be a little like how the travelers in the folk tale “Stone Soup” operate. In the story, travelers visit a village, set up a cauldron, and fill it with water and a rock. Villagers, made suspicious by hard times, watch. The travelers invite the villagers to join them. Enticed, one brings carrots to add to the pot, another potatoes, another seasoning, and so on, their hoarded goods brought out to share. The evening turns festive, a celebration of community. Although none of the variants of this folk tale seem to mention it, I imagine that someone brought pie.


Pam James has a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS and a  M.A. in English from the University of Illinois.  In Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, she taught beginning writing classes and the occasional literature class as a TA. Over the past thirty years in Arkansas, she’s worked as an accountant, as a technical writer, and, more recently as a part-time teacher (reading, grammar, basic composition) at UACCM.

Diversity in Publishing: Where do I Fit In?

A call for the need of diverse voices in publishing.

By Melinda Ruth, Poetry Reader

October 11th 2018 was the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, a day designated to celebrate the coming out of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, (and numerous other) identities.

A few days before National Coming Out Day, our class discussed the diversity, or lack thereof, in the publishing industry, and how it affects the industry as a whole. As a queer identified woman, this discussion left me with a harrowing question: Where, if at all, do I fit into the literary publishing industry?

My immediate feeling, is that I don’t. There is a startling lack of coverage on LGBT (formally LGBTTQQIAAP) representation in the industry, both as editors and as writers. In fact, there is a disconcerting lack of diversity in the publishing industry in general. If you’re looking for statistics on ableism in literary publishing, you will be hard pressed to find them.

Recent years have brought about a literary awakening in gender bias. Since the VIDA count began in 2011, the literary community has been forced to confront an ugly truth: that the publishing community is still predominantly led by white, straight, men. The last few years have seen a push for greater diversity in the publishing world, and is statistically expressed through the expanded interest of the VIDA count, in which “the 2015 edition surveyed for the first time the race, ethnicity, sexual identity and ability of its female writers.”

While this is a step in the right direction, it’s still not enough. Even though greater interest has been expressed, the survey still “found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the best represented women were straight, white and able-bodied.” Basically, you still have to be white, straight and not differently abled to succeed.

Another survey, this time conducted by Lee & Low Publishers, “asked publishing houses and review journals to report the racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation of employees, as well as the percentage of their employees who have a disability.”

The results were still dim.

The survey found that overall the industry is still 79 percent white, 78 percent women, 88 straight and 82 percent not differently abled. These statistics leave me wondering, if the industry in now 78 percent women, then why are we still publishing primarily straight white male voices?

The answer is far more complex than I have the space to answer, but it boils down to this: We have been trained our entire lives to read and place value on the straight white male experience and perspective. Everything we watch, read, and hear tells us that their stories are the most valued, and therefore the ones everyone wants to hear.

This concept also negatively impacts the representation of people of color in the publishing industry.

Using the excuse of the limited market, publishers regularly stifle the voices of people of color, stating that their work is just not marketable and therefore, not publishable. According to Saray McCarry, “the industry has already decided [what] is ‘marketable’–heterosexual narratives featuring white characters.”

There is this false concern that if we prioritize diverse works, we compromise quality. So apparently, there is no place for the stories of people of color (as well as LGBT and the differently abled) in the “market.”

By devaluing minority voices, the publishing industry creates a need for minority writers to find different avenues to publish their work, pushing them towards niche publishing houses, that aren’t often esteemed in the industry, or self publishing through spaces such as Amazon. Unfortunately, while this helps get minority work out there, it hinders their chances of breaking into the “mainstream” of the publishing industry.

It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped.

The number one question now is, how do we change this? The answer is two-fold: (1) Editors must seek out minority voices, placing equal value on their works, to that of white male works. Editors must also seek out more diverse employees, actively pursuing minorities to fill open positions. (2) Readers need to read outside of their perspective, learning to value experiences not their own and thereby creating a demand for diverse works.

Arkana’s mission is to seek out marginalized voices, and incorporate diverse works into every issue we produce. So where should our readers start?

Aside from reading each issue and overwhelming submittable with minority voices, my class has come up with a short list of diverse books to introduce you to reading outside of your experience:

  1. Danez Smith, Don’t Call Us Dead. Danez is a black, gay, POZ poet who prefers the pronouns they/them and writes about the experiences of black boys. Danex also writes about their struggle with their sexuality and POZ diagnosis.
  2. Kalia Kao Yang, The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father. Born in a Thai refugee camp in 1980, Kao Kalia Yang and family immigrated to Minnesota when she was six, driven from Laos by America’s Secret War. Her book focuses on her fathers role as a Hmong song poet who is responsible for recounting the history of their people.
  3. Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Don’t Come Back (21st Century Essays). An essayist raised (mostly) in Bogota, Colombia, her work focuses on growing up amidst violence and local myths, in an exploration of identity.
  4. Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. An English novelist, he is most famous for this novel about an autistic boy who sets out to solve the murder of his neighbor’s dog.
  5. Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Apocalyptic Swing. An American, lesbian poet who explores the tension between the ideas of the small town, gender, sexuality, violence and the body in her work.
  6. Thomas Page McBee, Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man. The first Transgender man to box in Madison Square Gardens, McBee writes about his experience transitioning and the idea of “manhood” and “violence.”

As for me, I’m still searching for my place to fit.


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.

For Better, For Worse

Musings on the future of writing and publishing in the digital age.

by Ed Robson, Fiction and Poetry Reader

There’s good news and bad news for writers in the digital age, that much is certain. What I’m trying to sort out is, which is which?

Publishing is easier than ever. Getting published is harder than ever.

Everyone can write. Anyone can write.

More people are writing poetry. More people are reading poetry. Fewer people are buying poetry.

The opportunities. The competition.

The technology.

We’re doomed, it seems, to live and write in interesting times. Still, I do see some signs that to my mind look encouraging. For instance:

  1. The Internet can monetize your popularity. The digital marketplace for literature, as for other forms of art, is tough. Most people who upload their work, even if it’s really good, will never see a cent for it. But platforms are appearing now that make a point of rewarding content creators who get hits. The first few poems, blogposts, or stories you post may not make enough to buy a sandwich, but if you are persistent, and if your writing is appealing to an audience of primarily millenials, and IF TODAY’S YOUR LUCKY DAY, the next one may tweak someone’s fancy and you’ll start to build a fan base.
  2.  Micropoets. Atticus is only one of several poets whose haiku-length musings regularly reach six-figure fan bases in Instagram and other platforms. I’m not saying we should all start posting 6- to 12-word poems on our social media–it must be harder than it looks, right? But I think it’s safe to say, there are niches yet to be discovered in a world where billions of people seem to live with eyes locked on their cell phones.
  3.  Print on Demand. Everybody knows you can’t make money selling books made out of paper, right? But a few publishers have started taking advantage of the new printing technology that prints and binds single books, one at a time, never more than have been ordered and paid for. POD is still utilized more by the vanity publishing industry, but little houses are appearing now that can say “Yes!” to any book they really like. It’s still largely up to authors to do most of their own marketing, but with waste of unsold books eliminated, publisher and author both make money on every single sale.
  4.  The Opportunity for Digital Litmags. The literary world continues to need journals that select and promote good writing, but publications must adapt to digital reality. Consumers reading on their phones want easy access to searchable content that allows them to select one item at a time. Internet readers will be loyal to journals with specific niche appeal. The Arkana staff, you can be sure, is paying close attention to these trends.

Ask a writer why they write, they’ll tell you it’s just what they have to do. For better or worse, we’re married to those words upon the page, whatever form that page may take.

And that’s good news, because the world–now more than ever–needs that thing we do.


Ed Robson is a retired clinical psychologist from Winston-Salem, NC.  His poetry has recently appeared in The Hungry Chimera, Right Hand Pointing, Failed Haiku, and Perfume River Poetry Review.  His current works in progress include novels, short fiction, and creative non-fiction.  Between writing assignments he enjoys cycling and cooking.  Past pursuits he hopes he’ll someday have time to reactivate include camping, mineral collecting, gardening, woodworking, and silversmithing.  His role models are mostly teenagers, especially Emma Gonzales and Malala Yousafzai, and he secretly suspects the Hokey Pokey may in fact be what it’s all about.

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.

Favorite Five Lit Mags

Part of a series in which members of the Arkana staff list some of their favorite artworks.

by Cassie Hayes, Managing Editor

Here’s a list of five literary journals that I love to read (and look at, and listen to). I like journals that do innovative things with technology while also remaining very true to themselves and to who they are as a journal. Literary magazines are works of art by themselves, put together by the writers, editors, staff members, and readers with the same care and passion that goes into a sculpture or a painting—and looking at the following five journals always reminds me of that. Of course, this list is not complete—there are so many amazing, innovative literary journals out there, and these are just the five that I’ve recently been reading. I hope you check them out once you’ve read through the issues of Arkana!

American Short Fiction

I’m a fiction writer and reader—I love seeing cutting-edge fiction. I’m also from Texas. So I adore this literary journal that publishes short fiction and is based in Austin. Every time I go into a Barnes & Noble, I make a beeline for the magazines to pick up American Short Fiction, which is always well made yet not pricey, and includes not only wonderful writing but interesting illustrations and designs within their pages. I am always in awe and (I’ll admit it) a little jealous of the quality of writing included, and after reading I am always left with lots to ponder and plenty of inspiration for my own work.

The Drum

The Drum is “a literary magazine for your ears.” It’s entirely audio and includes work that focuses on the musicality of language. With downloadable content, I like downloading a story, essay, interview, or poem and listening while I workout or do housework, sort of like podcasts.

Image Journal

This literary magazine is not only visually stunning, but it also includes thought-provoking writing that grapples with issues of faith—specifically through the lens of the Western religions Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Spiritual without being preachy, the work in this journal muses on deep and human topics that are always worth the read. I also love the interviews included in the journal, in which writers and artists talk about their craft and their work, as well as spirituality.

Storychord

This literary journal did innovative things with multimedia by pairing a short story with art and music every other Monday. As of November 2017, the site stopped accepting new work for publication, but you can still comb through their archives to see all the great work they published since 2010.

Memoir Mixtapes

On their website, Memoir Mixtapes claimes to be “the ultimate mashup of the two things we all love to talk about: ourselves and music.” Not only will you find some cool writing in this journal, but you’ll also stumble upon some great music that you might have never heard or haven’t thought about for a while.

Thanks for reading this list of some of my favorite literary journals. There are plenty of wonderful lit mags out there, and I hope you discover and rediscover some of your favorites while thinking about this list!


Cassie Hayes is from Waxahachie, Texas and attends the Arkansas Writers MFA Program. She is an editorial intern at Sundress Publications, and her fiction and poetry appear in various online and print literary journals.

Interview with Micha Meinderts

Arkana‘s interview with Dutch author Micha Meinderts.

by A. É. Coleman, Audio and Art Consultant

It’s a day of firsts. Not only has Arkana crossed national boundaries with our interview of Dutch author and trans activist, Micha Meinderts, but it is also our first video interview. We were honored to have Micha as our guest on this maiden voyage.

Micha is the author of five books, the most recent of which being Aldus Sybren. This is an autobiographical work of fiction about the main character, Sybren, who was born a female in the Netherlands, grew up in the US where “she” transitioned to he, and is now returning to the Netherlands as an adult male to both find his way among men and his place as a stranger in his homeland.

http://www.michameinderts.nl
https://www.facebook.com/aldusSybren/
https://twitter.com/michameinderts
https://www.instagram.com/michameinderts


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.