Moveable Type: The Arkansas International
February 22, 2019
An interview with Geoffrey Brock, Editor-in-Chief
Congrats on the first five issues of the Arkansas International. What was the vision and mission you and the other editors had when you started and how do you think these first issues have fulfilled it?
Thank you! Our mission is to put a broad range of US voices in conversation with voices from around the world. Our name suggests our desire to connect local and global, to look (and listen) beyond ourselves, and the Arkansas MFA program—among the only programs in the country with a translation track—fosters our internationalist outlook. As for our first few issues, they’ve exceeded my hopes, thanks to the talents and passions of our grad students, who deserve most of the credit. (Our forthcoming issue may be the best yet.) Though I’m the editor-in-chief, we operate as a sort of shaggy collective; I don’t want the magazine to be an embodiment of my tastes but rather a collaborative production that we all have a hand in shaping.
What’s the Arkansas International’s process for putting together its print issues and online features?
I got the journal off the ground in the spring of 2016 by setting it up as a workshop course. The class roster is the magazine staff, and each term we launch a new issue and finalize the contents of the subsequent issue. In our weekly class meetings, we discuss everything from content balance to upcoming magazine events to our emerging writers contest to production issues. Outside class, the genre editors meet weekly with their assistant editors, assessing all submissions and making their recommendations to me. I have the final say and we sometimes wrangle a bit, but I take the large majority of their recommendations; they do a terrific job. As for arkint.org, we want it to complement but not duplicate our print issues. Currently, the web team posts about thirty percent of each print issue to our site and supplements it with an array of ancillary content, such as Q&As with authors and translators, features on cool bookstores around the world, and (most ambitiously) an extensive review section, written and edited entirely by students.
Who are some writers or pieces that you been particularly proud to publish or feature so far?
It’s hard to choose! Sigrid Nunez is on my mind since she just won the National Book Award (we published her wonderful story “Innocent Mistakes” in our second issue), as is Meena Alexander, since she died in November (we published several gorgeous poems of hers in our first issue). We’ve also published lovely stories by Peter Orner, J. Robert Lennon, and Nao-Cola Yamazaki (trans. by Polly Barton), and we just accepted a brilliant story by Alessandro Baricco (trans. by Stiliano Milkova). I also really love the story by Maria Kochis that Adam Johnson just chose as the winner of our second annual Emerging Writers Prize; it will appear in our new issue in a few weeks. On the poetry side, my favorites so far include work by Tomas Tranströmer (trans. by Patty Crane), Ishion Hutchinson, Pamela Sue Hitchcock, Sidney Wade, Randall Mann, Rick Barot, Hanif Abdurraqib, Khaled Mattawa, Andrea Cohen, Kim Hyesoon (trans. by Don Mee Choi), Tiana Clark, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Sean Hill, Bob Hicok, Masaoka Shiki (trans. by Howard Norman & Kazumi Tanaka), Porochista Khakpour, and more. I also love the comics we publish (and the fact that we publish comics).
What are a few things you’re excited about in the world of contemporary literature?
I’m excited about the way the American conversation is being enriched both from within and without: on one hand, I see an extraordinary flowering of exciting work from traditionally underrepresented voices in this country and, on the other, a boom of translations bringing necessary international voices to our attention—all this even as our government blunders viciously in the opposite direction, toward xenophobia and intolerance.
Finally, what’s next for the Arkansas International?
We want to raise our author payments (currently $20/page). We want to add audio to our website. We want to add a poetry and/or translation prize. And we always want to spread the word—thanks for helping!