Stolen Island is Seeking Submissions for Our 2015 Issue!

Submissions are now OPEN until January 31st, 2015
stolen.island@umit.maine.edu

Stolen Island, the literary journal associated with the University of Maine English graduate department, is now accepting submissions for our 2015 issue. We welcome work from new, emerging, and established writers and artists from the University of Maine community and beyond. We are interested in work with bite and wit – work that takes, gives, and holds nothing back.

Now Reading: 

Fiction: Up to 2 short shorts/flash fiction submissions (no more than 1000 words each); OR 1 longer short story (no more than 15 pages, double-spaced); OR one novel excerpt (no more than 15 pages, double-spaced)
Poetry: No more than 4 poems (no more than 15 pages total; submit all poems in one document)
Artwork/Photography: Black and white only; no more than 4 pieces
Other: Reviews of recent publications; interviews with literary/artistic figures; creative nonfiction (no more than 15 pages); stage dramas and screenplays (no more than 20 pages.

Please send all submissions electronically to stolen.island@umit.maine.edu. Include a brief biography in the body of your e-mail, and attach a file including your work. Please separate work by genre, and title each file [Lastname_Genre_Title_#].

While we cannot offer payments to our artists and writers, we do distribute two contributors copies on publication.

Dos and Don’ts:

Do send your work in a .jpg, .doc, or .docx file
Do send simultaneous submissions (notify us immediately if work is accepted elsewhere)
Don’t send physical copies of your work
Don’t paste your work into the body of your email. Include a brief bio instead.
Do experiment, transgress, and challenge our notions of creative work!

Falling in Line: MFA Workshops and the Long Poem

By Tyler Cain Lacy

The long poem is a way to get back at the poetry world. In MFA programs at least, poetry has become a commodity insofar as it is a product that has a value reducible to quantities of human labor, but gets no real mention of that labor or the process of production—what we’re really interested in is the final product.

Furthermore, the typical MFA workshop generally isolates poems from any/all literary history and traditions, in addition to its maker’s labor. This, then, means we place the product of the “now” at the center of the poetry world, further disregarding labor put in both past and present that brought us here.

In MFA workshops, we so often fall in line to produce way too many (mediocre) poems and call it part of the process—that is, “practice makes perfect,” or, “we’re here to write all the time.” The problem, really, is that, in these settings, poems begin to take on an intrinsic value based on the poems surrounding it, and a common currency begins to take shape by which we place value on the works. So after hearing so often that “This title could do more work,” or, “I don’t get this white space,” what am I to do but (not only question my own intentions and practices) fall in line? I’m not saying my writing and aesthetics are above others’ critiques—not at all—but I am critiquing the common MFA workshop format. As it stands, there are very few ways we know how to determine poems’ values, or their deficits, in workshop classes: form, line-breaks, “music,” narrative, or, in the event that it’s not narrative, its “Stein-ian” factor, or “language-y” vibe (even if the poem has nothing really to do with either Stein or the Language Poets—these are default terms given in the face of the otherwise inexplicable, un-valuable poems). These tokens of critique become not only what we look for and talk about in a poem, but inevitably what we write toward, as well. And, even worse, this currency is, for the most part, exchanged only for a short timeframe for critiquing/workshopping the piece. We need new language to talk about poems.

Every MFA-er should be required to read and write long poems at least once in their program’s duration in order to question their own process of making. I think we’ve all come to believe that poems come in neatly packaged, single-page boxes that are easily identified and given value within a 10-minute timeframe of workshopping. And the long poem is wonderful (for me) in that it defies those criteria. It’s messy, containing what some may call boring dailiness—grocery lists, the weather, other kinds of listing, etc.—and/or an unstable narrative or pattern, a wide range of forms, diction, and speakers, and any other eccentricity that doesn’t fit the frame of the New Yorker half-page, safe poem.

My professor recently said to me, “I feel like my life is one long poem,” and I wonder if that’s how a poem should be—ups, downs, boring, exciting, loose, tight, etc. Maybe a reader’s loss of attention, an embrace of the wandering eye and mind in a poem can, indeed, be a good thing. Maybe bewilderment should be valued as currency.

In the long poem, we find—or at least have to spend more time searching for—a new way of critiquing poems that overlooks the minutiae of individual words, lines, even sections, which illuminates the labor of writing. And while we may still approach a long poem with certain tools, i.e. a narrative arc throughout, metaphors, form, etc., one cannot evade the labor—both in reading and writing—of a longer piece. Practicing the long poem allows us to explore the boundaries of our poetic processes—what makes up a poem, how much labor must we put into a poem to get “meaning” out of it, etc.—and a way to re-evaluate the common currency floating around the classroom, making way for the conversation we should always be having when we talk about poetry—the process of creating, rather than the product. 

The Last Night

By Christopher Tarbell

One time, while writing a short story, I made a terrible mistake.

I was writing this story about a fictional college professor, Roger Treat. Roger Treat was in his mid fifties; he was unhappy with his life and he was on his second marriage. After meeting a female student in his writing workshop, he started to have doubts about his marriage, and began having an affair with said student. The student—Amy NoLastName—was a good friend to Roger’s daughter, Zoe Ainsworth, who also attended the University. Ten pages and 3,119 words in, I wrote the line: “the snow from the last night covered everything… for as far as Roger could see, white shapes on white….”

When reading the first draft a few days later, I revisited this sentence. I immediately changed “the last night” to “the previous night” and moved on. So the sentence read: “the snow from the previous night etc…” A paragraph or so later, and I returned to “the previous night etc.” sentence and I changed it back to “the last night etc.” After the edit, the sentence was again: “the snow from the last night covered everything etc.” Suddenly, my big struggle–the depressed, pony-drunk professor Roger Treat–became a totally different character. He became an action hero–in a world where there were suddenly, magically, whatever, only days.

That’s right: one word was changed and the blanket was forever torn from the world’s head—there were no more nights. Wake up, kids. “How can this be” I heard the people asking? “Where is our rational explanation,” said the 21st century mind? When I asked my so-called “King of Days,” Roger Treat, about this very thing he told me it didn’t matter. He said what mattered more than anything was the fact that he now got to carry a shotgun and ride around on a motorcycle trying to solve the mystery of the longest day; he said, at this point he was pretty sure it was a government conspiracy (I had no idea why there were no more nights; the story and its characters were told to keep their mouths shut by the professor). He said in the new story he was happy and people liked him and that was all that mattered. Roger Treat was the most arrogant, seemingly invincible character I had ever created.

I tried to kill him in two novels. I had him fight an entire militia in The Fallen (End of Night Book 3); I gave him terminal cancer in Because of the Day (End of Night Book 7); yet he still stood upright, and so, there I was writing the tenth End of Night novel. Every morning I would sit down and ask Roger Treat when it was all going to end; when would I be free from those best selling burdens; would I have to take part in the HBO series coming out in the fall, etc. And he said the same thing every time: what happens is the answer and I kept writing.

Corn Flower Blue

By Aaron Pinnix

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Note from the Poet:

Momentum is sort of a strange idea. It’s a continuation of what’s going on, but there’s no pointing towards the beginning. Momentum as a motion without overt origination. I was thinking about this on a greyhound bus, the perfect setting for such considerations. Among my questions was the idea of momentum in one’s own autobiography, the narrations we bracket according to packing up and moving to new places, or the idea of new days marked by new sunrises, but each break is an unnecessary or perhaps artificial or arbitrary one, as anyone who has stayed up all night can attest to. The days have a fluidity, a life moves with the same continuity as those towns which pass outside the bus window. Each town has its own townline, an often invisible demarcation, but each also looks similar. Where was the original town, the original day? Not that we have to abolish Boundary but perhaps we always already exist within momentum.

        Corn Flower Blue was written and drawn on that bus (the mundaneness of a long bus ride!). I took some pictures, made some decisions, wrote this up, and then sent it off to Sarah & Rose. And though today is not July 8th, there remains a transposition back to then, a momentum which remains like a thin copper wire through the bus ride and back to other occasions, like visiting Roanoke (home of the largest manmade star!), and even to Easters at my great-grandmother’s. Where are these relations? Or alternatively, why their boundaries?

 

Aaron Pinnix

Stolen Island (Vol. 2)

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Just in time for summer reading, and after another great year of writing at the University of Maine, we are happy to announce  this year’s volume of Stolen Island has arrived and is on its way to contributors. Many thanks to those on our pages, those who came to our reception on May 10, and faculty advisors Jennifer Moxley, David Kress, and Greg Howard.

Please be in touch with us at stolen.island@umit.maine.edu if you’re interested in receiving a copy.

Contributors: Kristy Bowen, Ariel Berry, Denise Bickford, Chris Maliga, Jess Rowan, Joseph Massey, Amina Cain, Devin Johnston, Jacob Kempfert, Jeanne Marie Beaumont, James Brophy, David Bartone, Jeff Downey, Sadie Jane Fenton, Jason Canniff, Charles Blackstone, Cathy Eisenhower, Katie Lattari, Tony Trigilio, Kevin Cook, Edward Desautels, Rose W. Hart, Kate Ostler, David Trinidad, Jasmine Dreame Wagner, Kevin Killian, Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Jessica Harris, Aaron Pinnix, Maurice Burford, Sarah Cook, Andi Olsen, Davis Schneiderman, P. Inman, Julian Talamantez Brolaski, Benjamin Friedlander, Franklin Bruno, Page Hill Starzinger, Andy Graff, Jessica Holz, B.K. Fischer, Jason Mitchell, Emily Kohler, Aleksandra Swatek, Elizabeth Maliga, Meghan L. Dowling, Megan Kaminski, and interviews with Lily Hoang, Joanna Howard and Matvei Yankelevich

-Katie Fuller & Cory Robertson, Editors

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photos: k.f.

Flash Fiction/Poetry Remix

New writing in the post-Valentine’s Day haze—Rose Groves’ flash fiction piece “To The Boy In the Jacket with The Pins,” and Sarah Cook’s poetic remix of it, “Hello, the name of this segment is a joke mid-leap, or rather”

To The Boy In The Jacket With The Pins

I loved you first back when we were in high school; you were a pervasive phantom, a platonic ideal that lighted from time to time in the bodies of real boys, a kind of mobile misery that loved particular concrete staples of reality: Sharpies and Converse the primary targets. I heard once that tornadoes will open locked trunks, take out the contents, and leave them still-folded in a field a hundred yards away. This seems to be a kind of tornado in-joke, just as you seem to like the same three or four pieces of clothing on any body you inhabit: the tattered Queen shirt, the black jeans with the rip on the knee, the dual wristbands; you’re a ghost with a sense of humor. The cigarette dangling from the lower lip. The pocketknife. The half-dead bookbag covered in patches and badges.

When you light in a body, you destroy it. So far: one suicide, one brain-killing overdose, one still-ongoing arc that I leaped from when I realized (I expect a phone call any day now, honestly) and you, my love. When you go I am not sure I will have the stomach for you next time; I get so attached to the bodies, even though I know you will be back, though I know you will be the same as you always are. I recognize you behind every face, and you make it so easy, too: same battered canvas jacket with a HELLO MY NAME IS sticker peeling off the breast pocket. Hello. It’s been a while.

Hello, the name of this segment is a joke mid-leap, or rather

    frafter R.G. & A.S.

you, pins and needles, turning around more than once,
a joke that inhabits your body by folding itself
into small mouths dangling, like keys—
this one is a kind of wristband
this one locks the door right around your chest

like two people interacting through patches of concrete

music tends to be a pervasive lost home,
la la la, i’d pour my body into something
real, swimming, a legitimate boy-body mold

like two phantoms attached at the hip
like somebody, any body, peeling days off of them

the platonic asylum of your own experience:
the lock is the boy body in conversion;
the folding, a tornado i once ignored.

i am not actually sure
if i can stomach
the arc of your face
when the arc
is the shape of already waiting
and my stomach is leaping, in particular

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photo: k.f.

I Want to Read, But My Brain is SO BIG

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 Photo by Liz Maliga

Those of us in the second year of our M.A. program here at the University of Maine recently completed our Comprehensive Exam, a 48-hour take-home test resulting in four essays on questions addressing various titles from a list of more than 30 works. An alumna of our program, Sadie Jane Fenton (who blogs at Sibidy Books & Reviews), offers some post-exam words of advice for grad students/serious readers:

Now that you have that giant brain from graduate school and stains on your fingers from surviving the comprehensive books list, you can read MORE things! And I don’t just mean the captions on the funny cat pictures. Let’s be honest, you’ve read more of those in grad school than during any other point in your life, past or future. But seriously, folks, let’s think about reading for a spell. What does it mean to you now? What do you want to read? Is reading still fun?

One thing that can be hard to adjust to post-big-brain-acquisition is the tingling in your fingers that demands you hold a pen while reading. Can’t I just enjoy the damn book? I’m not writing a paper on it! There’s no test! I’ve handled this one with force, but not too much. The first step was physically removing pens from the area. No pen, no submitting to the tingles. This, however, led to folding pages down until I was folding them all, and eventually trying to devise a code for the folds to indicate what I would have marked. I all but put bite marks in books to try to continue reading academically. Then I pretty much gave up. I limit myself to a pen for the most part now, although occasionally I have to dig out the multicolored sticky tabs. It’s a habit. It’s a way of reading that an English grad student should have no shame in. It’s also not going to make reading any less enjoyable. So go through whatever stages you need to, or just skip to the part where you accept that you are, and always will be, an English major.

But what to read? The world’s libraries, the to-be-read piles that were waiting until you graduated, the books you saved since second grade because they made you love reading. Read it all. You can read whatever you want to now. Sounds awesome, right? It is. Super-mega-foxy-awesome. I reread the entire Harry Potter series. I read some trashy romances. I even read some children’s books that were still kicking around my parents’ house. I also read The Jungle and The Island of Doctor Moreau. Whatever you end up reading, it will be different. But you’re all souped up on that fancy education now, so you will still hover on certain lines and phrases. You will still keep in mind those brilliant theories to apply and notice arcs and other aspects throughout a work that would make a great discussion or paper. You have a choice here: ignore it, do the research and write a paper, or talk about it with people. Start a blog. Comment on a blog. Lecture your pet fish on the finer points of V.C. Andrews. Actively reading and thinking is a part of you, and now you have the INSTITUTION behind you proclaiming that you know a thing or two, so make it a part of the reading experience, whatever the text may be.

It’s fun. It keeps your brain chugging. And hey, it’s your thing, so make it work for you.

-Sadie Jane Fenton