A new literary journal debuts this week from
Alaska’s first tribal college. Aglaun publishes creative and academic works, including poetry, memoir/personal essays, short fiction, art and photography, and academic writing. Here, Liz Meredith interview Aglaun founder Caitlin Walls.
Q. How did the original idea to begin a literary journal in Barrow come about? Tell us about the process of naming the journal.
Prior to moving to Barrow, I lived in
. While living there, I got hooked up with reading for Ploughshares, and worked under poetry editor John Skoyles. I really enjoyed it, and think that literary journals are an important contribution to the publishing world. Poets and short fiction writers, among others, need literary journals to showcase their work. Many of my friends in Boston, MA Boston were also in the publishing world, and some have gone on to start their own journals or join established publications. Speaking with them on the state of publishing and the merit of literary journals pushed me further into such an interest. Many great journals are affiliated with colleges and universities; academia and publishing go hand-in-hand, of course.
When I came to Barrow and started at Iḷisaġvik, I encountered a very creative student population, but no journal or publishing medium for them here in the
Arctic. I thought it would be a fun challenge to start a journal, and so in the fall of 2012 I held a contest where people could submit possible names. A list was compiled; from there, Iḷisaġvik staff and students voted on their favorite. Aglaun emerged as the leader. It means “pen” in Iñupiaq. What is unique about our journal is that it is based at the top of the world, in Barrow, Alaska, and we operate within Iḷisaġvik, which is Alaska’s first tribal college. The most interesting journals are those that offer a unique perspective and a plenitude of works that are sui generis.
Q. Who are your favorite writers?
Most of my favorite writers are poets. I love the Modernists like Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, and T.S. Eliot. Contemporary poets such as Lauren Berry, Louise Gluck, Galway Kinnell, Seamus Heaney, Sarah Manguso, and B. H. Fairchild are also ones I read over and over. I studied poetry in grad school, and the poetry that appeals to me the most is lyrical and narrative—and electric. As Dickenson said, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” I also quite like formalist poetry, but not many contemporary poets work with forms consistently.
As far as my non-poetry tastes are concerned, I favor Zadie Smith, Elizabeth Kostova, Peter Heller, and Cheryl Strayed. Towards the end of 2012, I read Joe Blair’s first book, a memoir entitled By the Iowa Sea, and it might have been my best-loved book of the year. I also have a soft spot for Gothic literature from the 18th and 19th century—The Castle of Otranto, Lady Audley’s Secret, and anything by Wilkie Collins or Ann Radcliffe. The dark winter months in Barrow lend themselves to rereading atmospheric novels.
Q. What other publications do you admire most?
Ploughshares is the great bastion. I always enjoy their publication. Interrupture, an online journal managed by a friend of mine, publishes great poetry. Crab Orchard Review, The Indiana Review, The Colorado Review, Boxcar Poetry, and AGNI are also at the top of my list.
Q. What advice would you give to writers hoping to be published in your journal? What might your ideal submission look like?
Right now Aglaun is still developing its name and niche. We are open to a myriad of different creative and academic works. Works that reflect the
Alaska experience are always welcome; for our first edition, many of the written pieces and the art celebrate the beauty of Alaska. This is all to say that I’m not sure I have an “ideal” submission; we just encourage people to submit. If the work is striking, we will probably like it.
Q. After a piece is submitted, can you describe the evaluation process before it's accepted?
I collect the submissions and send them out to the other Aglaun editors, Myrna Sarren and Mirri Glasson-Darling. Mirri is a fiction writer and undergrad alum from the
, so she is passionate about writing and comes from a well-established literary culture. Myrna grew up in Barrow and joined Aglaun to get a feel for publishing; she has a keen eye and great ideas. The three of us go over everything individually, and then meet every couple weeks to discuss and decide upon the submissions. We evaluate whether we think it will fit in the journal, and then move forward from there. For our first print edition, Myrna and Mirri have done all of the arrangement and design, so they’ve put a lot of effort into creating the aesthetics of Aglaun. I’m crossing my fingers that the print editions arrive on or before March 1st, our tentative release. The only hindrance I foresee is that mail can take longer than usual when traveling to Barrow. University of Iowa
Q. Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Check our website for our inaugural edition in March. Also check the site for updates, and for when we’ll open for submissions again. You can reach us at aglaun@Iḷisaġvik.edu or caitlin.walls@Iḷisaġvik.edu with questions. Thank you!
|Aglaun editor Caitlin Walls|