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