Fresh Perspectives: The Artful Dodge Welcomes a New Assistant Editor

Greetings to the reader and the Artful Dodge blog,

My name is Cole, and I’m a sophomore at The College of Wooster; I’m just short of a year of assistant editing for the Dodge. I have always been interested in creative writing and am an avid reader. I’ve also gotten used to evaluating and editing others’ work at Wooster’s Writing Center, so when I saw a posting for a position with the Dodge last semester, I decided to apply.

When I started working for the Dodge, I was both nervous and ecstatic. My biggest concern was whether I would have anything substantial to say about the submissions we received. During the first meeting, I expected to sit back and let the more experienced people in the room speak while I mutely nodded my head in agreement. That plan was quickly derailed when Professor Bourne asked for my opinion on a poem. I didn’t really think I “got” the poem, but I reviewed it honestly anyway. My commentary, which I suspected would be brushed over, was then examined further with follow-up questions as Professor Bourne consulted the other students. For the next couple meetings, I still mostly stayed quiet, but I quickly learned that any opinion I had, whether it be that I simply liked the piece or that it wasn’t working for me, was both a valid response and contestable. Partway through the first semester, I opened up more without feeling intimidated by the possible disagreement of my peers.

During my second semester with the Dodge, I have been even more excited to get back to collaborating with other students and discussing submissions. My favorite part about this experience is seeing the process by which submissions are chosen for issues. Here, individual staff members nominate submissions for review by the group, and those are discussed and voted on during the weekly meeting. Understanding why some works are chosen over others helps me feel more confident about my own writing. This semester, I am excited about the new responsibilities that I have been offered, one of which includes making occasional posts on this blog. I can’t wait to make more in the future!

 

—Cole Ward, Assistant Editor

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Artful Reflections

As I begin another semester working for the Artful Dodge, I’ve spent some time reflecting on how much has been accomplished the past year or so. Personally, I’ve gone from being a confused and bewildered novice to a confident and only occasionally bewildered “old hat,” though I know that I still have much to learn. The locked doors I faced when I first started working for the Dodge have opened both literally and figuratively, and I can usually brave the spooky Lilly House attic without expecting a ghost around each cobwebbed corner. Most importantly, I have learned to work with others to create something as unique and diverse as this literary magazine.

Last year, we published our long-awaited issue, Artful Dodge 54/55, and I couldn’t help but notice the beauty in this achievement. I imagined the writers as they sat at their laptops and writing desks over a year ago, weaving words from the filaments of thoughts and sending them our way. Now, those same words sit between glossy covers, spun into gold after being read, reread, and reread again. Together, many minds fashioned something from nothing, turning stacks of paper into a volume full of stories and art. If I have learned anything up to this point, it is that literature is as much about collaboration as it is creation. That, in turn, is how we grow as writers, readers, and people.

 

—Holly Engel, Assistant Editor

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Daniel Bourne Reads Poetry in Translation

Artful Dodge would like to announce that this Friday, June 28, editor Daniel Bourne will be reading his own poetry in Polish translation as part of the the poetry reading series “Wiersze na piętrze” (Poetry Upstairs). This series is run by the literary magazine/publishing house Topos, and it takes place at Dworek Sierakowskich in Sopot, a resort city just to the north of Gdansk, Poland. Currently, Bourne is in Poland working on various translation projects.

Want to know more?  Click here for more information on Bourne’s poetry reading, or take a look at his website.

– Holly Engel, Assistant Editor

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A Map of Our Contributors

Artful Dodge is a bustling literary crossroads, with contributors of poetry, prose, and artwork reaching from the lakes of South Korea to the Florida panhandle, from western Australia to the farmland of central Ohio. Use this map to travel those roads yourself, covering 10,000 miles in a single click and connecting the disparate strands of imagination.  Of course, to attain the work itself, you must travel to our Submittable link to order a copy of AD 54/55 for yourself and your own corner of the globe.

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Forming Connections: Reflecting on Suzanne Rivecca’s “Homeostasis”

Like the narrator in Suzanne Rivecca’s short story “Homeostasis,” I have always been fascinated by organ donation. Reader, I hope this does not come across as crass or strange. I do not mean that I have fantasized about cutting organs out of bodies (in fact, the unit in my middle school biology class where we had to dissect dead worms and fish made me sick). When I say that I am fascinated by organ donation, I mean that I think it is incredible that we can cut parts of ourselves out and give them to other people, that someday my heart or my liver or my kidney or my lungs could be living inside someone else’s body. I am an organ donor, after all. There is a bright red heart in the corner of my driver’s license to prove it. What I find so interesting about organ donation, I think, is the connection it forms between bodies. “Homeostasis” is a story about many things, but at its core, the narrative revolves around formed and failed connections.

“Homeostasis” was published in Artful Dodge 46/47 as part of the AWP Writing Awards, a program that selects the best poetry and fiction from undergraduate and graduate writing programs. The story follows Andrew, a widowed father who struggles to connect with his teenage daughter and keep his job working in a scientific research lab, where he experiments on toads. His fascination with kidneys and organ transplants stems from his research in the lab and is also a touchstone in his complex relationship with his daughter, Samantha. Throughout the course of the story, Samantha is repeatedly getting in trouble at school, and Andrew finds himself unable to connect with and understand her. Samantha is in love with the past, repeatedly wearing her father’s old clothing, crying over pictures of her mother, and writing scathing columns in the school newspaper about her generation’s taste in music. What I found most touching and interesting about this story was the focus on the characters’ relationships with each other.

Through simple, first person prose, Rivecca drew me into Andrew’s private world of research, anguish, and love. One scene in particular that stood out to me was when Andrew discovers blood in the toilet and panics, thinking that his daughter is severely ill when she is simply menstruating. He finds the whole event quite troubling: “All that evening it disturbed me, how the shedding of so much blood was a routine thing for my daughter, and what kind of thickness did she have to grow around her, what kind of tough elephant rind and callousness, to accept with perfect casualness a bowl brimming with red blood?” Not only do I love the image and the alliteration of “a bowl brimming with red blood,” but I think this scene in particular highlights the heart of the narrative: Andrew’s desperate confusion about his daughter’s identity and his desire to understand her.

Our relationships that we have with our parents can be complicated, and “Homeostasis” captures that confusion and complexity well. The connections that we form with other people, whether they be the physical transfer of organs or the emotional bond of paternal love, are what drive our lives in new and interesting directions. “Homeostasis” was a heart-wrenching, fascinating piece that made me consider a very important fact—that the connections we form with others define our lives.

—Megan Murphy, Assistant Editor

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Let Your Ribs Dance: Reflecting on “Their Dance” by William Virgil Davis

A few summers ago, I remember thinking a great deal about the seasons. The weather that year in Ohio had been particularly fickle, with cold temperatures well into late April and cool summer months. However, I have found that no matter what the weather has been like in the past, there is something wonderfully freeing about the warmer months that are yet to come this year. In spring and summer, I feel like I can breathe again. A poem called “Their Dance” by William Virgil Davis, which appears in Artful Dodge 26/27, speaks to this idea of renewal.

In the poem, Davis describes people who are literally stripped down to the bone, their “skin peeling off like old wallpaper.” The “old wallpaper” line reminds me of rebirth, stepping out of something cold and crackling and uncomfortable into a new beginning. Davis goes further with the image, describing how the bones “lift themselves to dance.” The image of ribs dancing reminds me to celebrate life, that in spring and summer, when the cold finally ends, I’ll feel like my chest can fully expand. Even nature seems to dance more often in the warmer months: flowers blowing in the breeze, trees gaining their leaves, water sparkling in the sun. People seem to dance more often too, diving into the water, spinning to live music on city street sidewalks. The final two lines of the poem capture the restless movement of spring well: “they never want to lie down again.” Summer nights have stripped me down to that primal feeling. Sometimes, standing in an empty street, alone against the darkness, I suddenly become hyper-aware of my own breathing. My breath and my pounding heart become my sole focus. It is an invigorating, empowering feeling.

The next time you are overwhelmed, I would encourage you to focus on the “dance” that Davis is describing in this poem—focus on the rise and fall of your ribs as you breathe. Hopefully, you’ll find that you “never want to lie down again.”

 

— Megan Murphy, Assistant Editor

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The Right to Write: Reflecting on “Kit Carson and the Long Walk”

Something that I have always struggled with as a writer is what our editor-in-chief, Daniel Bourne, calls “the right to write.” As a writer, what are my responsibilities? As a white woman living in America today, do I have the right to write stories featuring people of color? Do I have the right to tell stories dealing with oppression that I have not experienced? How should I address questions of complex history and write about people who I can never interview? Are there limits to the stories I can tell? Do I have a moral obligation to not write about certain topics? A collection of work found in Artful Dodge 52/53 confronts these questions head-on.

“Kit Carson and the Long Walk” is a collection of poems by Lavonne J. Adams that explore the life of Kit Carson through his accomplishments, his failures, and his interactions with the Navajo Tribe. What struck me most about her collection was how Adams carefully handled the sensitive subject of “the right to write.” She conducted extensive research on Carson and the topics on which she was writing, fictionalizing certain characters to make points about history. Ultimately, these poems paint a complex portrait of history, displaying both the love that this man had for his children and the bloody consequences of his treatment of the Navajo people, the “decimation” of their land. History is never simple, and in her poems, Adams clearly chooses each word with care, determined to provide multiple perspectives on the complicated figure of Kit Carson. From her poems celebrating the culture of the Navajo people (“Artifact: Arrow”) to the works that condemn the violence of Carson and neighboring Native American Tribes (“(Invisible) Relics: Spirits of Stolen Children”) to “Reckoning,” the final poem in the sequence, which explores Carson’s death, Adams portrays her subject matter with raw honesty and emotion. She says in her introduction, “…since I bear no Navajo blood, a certain amount of authorial distance for these poems seemed both necessary and respectful…I’m keenly aware that the Navajo story is filtered by my vision, recast through my own artistic sensibilities. Yet we are all pulled forward by the ghosts that haunt our lives. I am a poet, not a historian.”

Adams confronts the question of her “right to write” beautifully here by acknowledging that these are not strictly her stories to tell but explaining that she wanted to come to understand them through poetry. She quotes Natasha Sajé, who wrote that “…poetry itself is an exercise in othering, in trying to understand something or someone foreign from oneself.” In these poems, Adams is trying to understand Kit Carson and the Navajo people, and she does so through the power of her poems, which are taut with emotion and compel the reader to think more deeply about the history behind her words.

I still struggle with the question of the “right to write,” but I think Lavonne Adams’ collection of work is an excellent example of how one can tell a story that they find interesting and important while still acknowledging their own position of power as an outsider and an author. Ultimately, we read and we write to better understand the world. As long as we research and write carefully, as Adams has done here, I do not think we should hesitate in sharing stories that matter to us.

 

—Megan Murphy, Assistant Editor

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