Arkana is a new biannual online journal published by the Arkansas Writers MFA Program at the University of Central Arkansas. While the name may seem obviously connected to the place, “arcana” can also mean a secret or a mystery, or a powerful and secret remedy, some “great secret of nature that the alchemists sought to discover.” This definition, the editors explain, is what they want Arkana to be all about: “discovering powerful voices that haven’t previously been heard, but speak to human nature and the human experience. Publishing every genre possible, and with the welcoming flexibility online offers, the editors want to “be the literary journal of mysteries and marginalized voices—to champion the arcane.”
Readers of Arkana can find fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, scriptwriting (both screenplays and stage plays), illustrated narratives, book reviews, interviews and mixed-genre work. The editors are also always on the lookout for artwork to pair with literary works, and in their second issue, incorporated audio. For each text work, authors or a local actor read the work aloud, helping people who may be visually impaired and, the editors explain, “harkening back to the interest in previously silenced voices.”
Arkana’s supervising editor is Dr. Jennifer Case, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas, but all the other editors and readers are students in the Arkansas Writers MFA Program with some experience in publishing, visual art, and writing. Each new academic year will see some changes in the team, but the editors identify as students interested in learning new things about writing and the publishing world. Previous staffers included Managing Editor Rachel Hoge, whose prose has appeared in publications such as the Rumpus and the Washington Post; Poetry Editor Drew S. Cook, published poet and co-executive editor at Trio House Press; Nonfiction Editors Heather Breed Steadham, who writes regularly for Arkansas Life Magazine, and Jacqulyn West; Fiction Editor Cassie Hayes, published author who, along with Rachel and Heather, worked as an editorial intern at the Oxford American; Art Editor Kirk Jordan, a photographer for the state of Arkansas.
When asked about the motivation to start a new literary publication (and keep it going), the editors commented, “We are and have always been incredibly motivated by our mission: to seek and foster a sense of shared wonder by privileging art that asks questions, explores mystery, and works to discover and uncover the overlooked, the misunderstood, and the silent. When reading through submissions, we’re constantly reminding each other of this mission—to find the voices that haven’t been heard before, the stories that explore mystery and ask questions. We want challenging work, and we want to be challenged by the work we publish and the act itself of publishing a literary journal in this day and age. Our motivation is education for the students of the Arkansas Writers MFA Program—experience putting together a journal and experience working with technology. Our motivation is to publish thought-provoking, previously marginalized work that speaks about the human experience. And our motivation is to further legitimize the digital, fully online literary journal—to help prove that good literature and art do have a place in the 21st century and on the Internet. We value experimentation and new discoveries, both in the work we publish and in the journal itself.”
Arkana readers can expect to find thought-provoking poetry, prose, and mixed-genre work accompanied by vivid images, hearing, both through reading the work and listening to the audio, voices that have previously been silenced. Arkana has published a couple of translated poems, poems that had never been published in English before, as well as interviews from established writers (Tonya Cherie Hegamin and Oliver de la Paz). And with their blog, the editors start conversations about the publishing world, Arkana news, and various topics ranging from movies to MFA life, such as thesis defense. “The main thing readers can expect out of Arkana,” the editors stress, “is literature that finds wonder in the mystery of the human experience.”
Other contributors include J. D. Schraffenberger, Arkana’s nonfiction contest winner and editor of the North American Review; Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, coordinator at the Lesbian Herstory Archives; Marko Pogacar translated by Andrea Jurjevic, author of Small Crimes; CL Bledsoe, assistant editor for The Dead Mule.
For the future, Arkana editors say, “We want to continue challenging ourselves to publish cutting-edge, thought-provoking work that promotes marginalized voices, and we’d like to further take advantage of our online format. We keep thinking about what an online journal can and should be doing that is different from a more traditional print journal. Most of all, we want to continue building a community around Arkana.”
For writers interested in submitting, the editors explain the process: "Once a submission comes in we assign it to an editorial team focused on that genre—an editorial team is made up of an editor and a handful of readers. It’s a very democratic process. The editor and the readers of each genre read every single work in that genre and discuss which ones to publish, eventually coming to a consensus within the group.” Writers can submit up to three poems or 4,000 words of prose to Arkana by going to their Submittable page and choosing which genre best fits your work. It is free to submit, and Arkana has published “everyone from writers with doctorates to writers still in high school—anyone with interesting, polished work is welcome.” Visit their website for more information.