Technically, The Santa Fe Literary Review was founded on the Santa Fe Community College campus. But its roots stretch farther back and across the country to the underground magazine scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts, circa 1975. That's when poet Miriam Sagan, a recent Harvard graduate, spotted a call at the Grolier bookstore for someone to read poetry for the underground anti-war Aspect Magazine, run by Edward J Hogan out of Northeastern University. "So, there was this crossover between the underground magazine world and the literary world," Sagan says. She had already been involved with underground magazines and zines since high school, and began working with Hogan; the two went on later to found the small award-winning literary imprint Zephyr Press.
Fifteen years ago, Sagan also created SFCC's Creative Writing program, and was asked, at the time, to concurrently launch a literary magazine, a request she says could have been "a bit off-mission for most academics." But Sagan "knew that world, and I know how to run a production schedule, which is the single most important thing."
So she set up the Literary Review in the same model followed by literary and underground magazines across the country. She put together a staff and put out a call for "slush."
"Slush is a rude word," she tells SFR. "It means unsolicited. I don't think there's any way to train an editor in terms of running a literary magazine without a giant cattle call. You have no idea what the world is like. You don't know what's good and bad. You don't know that famous people write terrible things and un-famous people write great things and people with great cover letters send you terrible things etc., etc., etc. I trained them. That's what I know how to do: I know how to read slush."
Sagan, who has authored more than a dozen books and also co-founded the collaborative press Tres Chicas Books, from the start had a vision of the magazine as one that would reflect Santa Fe. "There's rings: The community college was the heart, then the extended community of Santa Fe, and then the nation and the world," she says.
The magazine also was intended to provide the program's writing students—who can earn certificate and associate degrees—experience both publishing as well as working on a literary magazine. Students can apply for an internship with the magazine as a three-credit course, which is how many of its editors begin.
It's also how its current faculty advisor, Kate McCahill, one of SFCC's English Department administrative chairs, became involved. McCahill took over running the magazine from Sagan in 2016, after she worked, at Sagan's invitation, alongside student interns.
Those students continue in the tradition of reading the slush submitted from June to November. Each submission is read by three interns who evaluate the pieces before turning them over to the editors overseeing the genres of poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Student staff members also help with the design, the magazine's reading events and anything else that falls under the editorial purview.
"It's for students who know they're writers," McCahill says, "and they know they want editorial experience; sometimes they want to give back to the community, but it's more: They're doing a job."
Sagan's original vision of a magazine where the work coalesced has codified into themed issues in the past few years. The 2019 edition is themed around "Raíces: Down to the Roots." The 2020 issue's theme is "The Spaces Between: Exploring freedom, distance, movement + time." Nov. 1 is the deadline to submit.
The magazine remains committed to representing Santa Fe. "We are very place focused," McCahill says, "so we really try to embody Santa Fe and all of its many facets and faces and voices."
But the magazine also has evolved to "promoting voices that may not be represented in the mainstream or even by most literary magazines."
Nonfiction editor Holly Beck has held her position for five years; she became involved with the magazine after taking a writing class with Sagan.
"I've been very committed to soliciting and wanting to publish voices of under-represented people," she says, often drawing on contacts she has from her current MFA program and others she knows from the literary world. "It's important for people to be exposed to different stories," she says. "I don't think you can develop your humanity as a person if you're not exposed to people who don't look like you, who don't experience things the same way, who don't see the world through eyes the way you do. I think that's what breeds empathy. I'm hoping by being able to bring some stories to the forefront that might not be heard we're able to have that impact."
That goal is shared by all the editors with whom SFR spoke. Poetry Editor Serena Rodriguez went back to school at SFCC into the nursing program when she was 34 but, after a year, realized writing was her passion. She had published before, but the piece she published in SFLR while an intern was her first work published in Santa Fe, and "it was a very big deal … to have that taken and accepted and to get this great response with that piece meant a lot and gave me more courage doing what I love."
The most recent edition is her third as poetry editor; she received an associate degree in creative writing at SFCC, and is now a senior creative writing major at the Institute of American Indian Arts and working on MFA applications.
SFLR has been collaborating more with IAIA, McCahill says, and the most recent edition includes fiction by IAIA faculty member Tommy Orange, whose novel There There was a 2019 Pulitzer finalist. SFLR Fiction Editor Austin Eichelberger, who attended IAIA's MFA program with Orange, arranged for the piece, as well as for the SFLR staff to interview Orange about writing. "He's such a nice guy," Eichelberger says. "He was so down to talk to the students."
This week, SFR worked with SFLR to present an excerpt of that interview, as well as a nonfiction story from SFCC student James Hena, "Every Day."
"I love that piece," Beck says. "I think it's very evocative showing an alternative relationship between men that is possible in terms of sympathy and care and nurturing.
SFR also is reprinting the poem "The Butterfly Doesn't Know" by Ashley Inguanta. "It struck me so hard when I read it," Rodriguez says. " It's about a relationship and it's about memories and how we box these memories in and the way it takes the turn at the end, I just love it."
The Santa Fe Literary Review is accepting submissions through Nov. 1. The theme of this year's issue is "The Spaces Between: Exploring freedom distance, movement and time." The magazine accepts creative nonfiction, dramatic writing, fiction and poetry. Complete guidelines available at www.sfcc.edu/call-for-submissions. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
On Sound and Inspiration: A Q&A with Tommy Orange
Members of the Santa Fe Literary Review staff were honored to interview Tommy by phone on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. This is an excerpt of that interview.
Austin Eichelberger, Editor: As the Fiction Editor for the magazine, I'm going to start off with the first question. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, and if not, what else was on your mind?
Tommy Orange: I definitely did not know until after college. Looking back, I was doing weird writing that I probably wouldn't have even called writing. I just remember [writing] in the margins of books and the backs of pages – maybe it was poetry, I don't know. I wouldn't have ever talked about it with anyone, and I wouldn't have identified doing it. I definitely wasn't encouraged to do anything academic, never had a single conversation about going to college with my parents, but I was good at roller hockey, which was okay in the nineties. I played for a travelling team and then I dropped out of school, did a lot of drugs, ended up a musician when I was 18, and then I went to school for sound engineering. When I graduated from that school, there were no job prospects. I learned a lot of analog reporting as we were moving into the digital age, so all of it became immediately irrelevant. [Laughter.]
So, I got a job at a used bookstore, and I fell in love with fiction while there. And then, I figured out I wanted to be a writer after being an avid reader of fiction. That was in 2004 or 2005, so I guess I've known for about thirteen years.
Austin: What an amazing story! I'm going to pass you to our first student intern now, who's going to ask the next question.
Olivia Parent, Student Intern: Hi there! My question is: Tell us about a few of your inspirations – which could have to do with writing or otherwise.
Tommy: I guess my first experience of creating art was music, and I listen to music every time I write. There's not a single time I'm writing that I'm not listening to music. Music in general is a really big inspiration to me. I play piano, and it's kind of a nonverbal form of expression that inspires me in ways that are maybe intangible. Writing-wise, [Franz] Kafka and [Jorge Luis] Borges are two inspirations, and I've been reading lots of philosophy and religious texts. When I was working at that used bookstore, [my co-workers] were the first ones to kind of turn me on to fiction, and then John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces was a really big book for me, because it was the first time I was moved by a novel. Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar did the same thing for me, as far as novels go.
And then there's a lot of international writing – I kind of avoided the American canon, and even the Native American canon, because a lot of that is reservation-based, and it just made me feel even more isolated from the Native community, reading it. I love the Native fiction now, but I didn't come around to reading it until much later in my career, and even since I've been at the Institute of American Arts (IAIA). Then there's Clarice Lispector, and the The Hour of the Star particularly is a really important book to me. There's [writer] Denis Johnson – once I did start reading American novels – and Colum McCann and Louise Erdrich, obviously. More recently, Ocean Vuong – I just got an Advance Reader Copy of his novel, and I always want my favorite poets to write novels instead of poetry, so it's like a dream come true. [Laughter.] That's what comes to mind right now. There is a lot of great fiction that came out this year that's really inspiring – and makes you want to write better.
Olivia: Right on!
Darlene Goering, Student Intern: Hi Tommy! What's the hardest thing about the writing process, for you?
Tommy: I think as somebody who more often than not is in a state of self-loathing on the page, revising, it's always kind of painful, but it's the work you have to do to make your pages better, so you sort of have to fall in love with revision, and find as many strategies as you can to bear with what that feels like as you're trying to make yourself better on the page.
Tommy Orange is a graduate of the MFA program at IAIA where he now serves as a faculty member. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and the author of the novel There There, which was a finalist for the 2019 Pultizer in fiction. Tommy was born and raised in Oakland, California.
THE BUTTERFLY DOESN’T KNOW
that we call it so. And yet, we found
that house full of records, unaware
that one day we would hold that moment
in our hands and say miracle. The miracle
does not understand its name. Don't believe
me? Go and stand outside, raise your hand,
move your arm like a tornado. Watch.
In some poems, the you is a lover, or a very
best friend, or both. Sometimes, the you
is a reader. In this case, I am talking to those
who see the tornado and say storm.
I don't know what to call you, but maybe
you will name yourself. Instead, I will
tell you the story of our hands turning
to marble, an artist stripping us of
the clothes of our era, giving us
wings, placing us together, like we've always
belonged in each other's arms. Your arm is still
up, twirling, waiting. My arm is around
your waist, hoping you will notice
my breast, not instead of the storm,
but as part of it (as a flower is part
of the ground) while I notice your body–
nothing to claim, nothing to own,
but something to receive. I remember how
you picked up one record after another,
imagined its music. You never heard of
Loretta Lynn, but I cut you some slack,
found a dusty tea cup and said,
Can we live here? In marble, you give
that arm twirl everything you've got.
And here I am, touching you, and look:
There are students taking notes
about our positioning as a busy crew
encases us in glass.
— Ashley Inguanta
Ashley Inguanta is a writer, artist, and educator. She is the author of three collections: The Way Home, For the Woman Alone and Bomb. Her work has also appeared in publications such as The Rumpus and SmokeLong Quarterly, where she served art director for five years. Her forthcoming collection The Flower is due out next year with Ampersand Books.
By James Hena
Every day, I wake up to a picture of you and a light sizzle of eggs in a pan, toast shooting into the air with a golden crisp, and the grease from the bacon popping everywhere. I place these items onto a plate alongside a coffee, light cream, two sugars and an orange juice, no pulp. I walk out of the kitchen leaving a trail of smells, through the hallway filled with plaques and awards with your name engraved: James Hena. I gently push your brown door open; a wind of heat tackles me and an electronic scream enters through my ears, like the slowing of a car with beat-up brake pads.
"Grandad," I say.
"Oh hah, good morning, Okuwah Ta," he says. My Grandad is an old wise man, with long black and white hair flowing down his shoulders, a prickly beard, thick glasses that change to shades when a ray of sunlight hits them, two light brown hearing aids sticking out of his ears, and wrinkles engraved into his face, the type of wrinkles you would see in a dusty picture of an old Native American chief looking a little pissed off. But Grandad wears a smile of pure happiness. He's dressed in a plaid collared shirt tucked neatly into his Levi jeans, strapped up with a black belt. A gold and silver watch on his wrist and the cleanest Nike shoes you will ever see, plus a white and blue Dallas Cowboys round-brim hat.
"Here Granddad, I brought you your breakfast."
"Thank you, do you want some?" he says.
"No Granddad, I have mine in the kitchen. Do you want to come eat in the living room with us?" I ask.
"Nooo, it's too cold in there, I like the heat in here!" he says with a big smile.
"Okay, I'll let you eat and watch your old Western. Call me if you need anything."
"Huh!" he says, confused.
I project my voice a little louder: "Call me if you need anything!"
"Okuwah Ta!" he says before I leave the room. "Want to go fishing?" he adds, with the biggest manipulative smile.
"Heck yea! I'll get the stuff ready."
As I leave the sauna of a room, I close the door a quarter of the way, leaving it ajar, so I can hear my Granddad call for me. I'm excited. Fishing is a big part of our family, and it is very special to go with my Granddad, the centerpiece of our family. He is the glue that sticks the pieces together. He is looked up to by all of the family, community members, leaders from around the world. He devours knowledge and shares what he has learned with his community, to make each of us stronger and more knowledgeable. He is an Army Veteran; he has traveled the world; he has met many past Presidents of the United States. He was there to witness Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. With many different attributes to this man, he is strong in every one of them.
All the gear is packed and we hit the road. First we stop at Walmart. My Granddad needs his Sunkist soda, which he calls his "orange one," and a yellow bag of peanut M&M's. The snack mission complete, we hit the road again. Everywhere my Granddad goes he has a Sunkist. Oh! And napkins, always a stack in his pocket, along with some butterscotch candies in yellow tinsel, a Swiss Army knife, and a fat wallet. In my hands it was more like a hamburger.
After a couple hours of driving and listening to Pow Wow songs, we hit the river. Two poles in the water, nice fresh air, and a quiet, yet not soundless place – it all makes a person think, why go anywhere else? There is only one other place I would rather be and that is the baseball field. However, only if my Granddad was in the stands cheering me on. He comes to every game, no matter the travel and always, always, always, gives me a high five after the games. Even if I was so mad and slammed the back car door closed, I would see his hand slowly appear from the passenger seat, not looking at me, head turned and waiting patiently for me to give him a little slap.
The rod makes a spinning sound and we start pulling fish out like nobody's business. Packed into the cooler and placed in the truck bed, we're ready for the long drive. Back home, I place the fish in the freezer and help my Granddad to bed. I help him take off his shoes and pants, then empty his pockets out onto his bedside dresser. After I'm done tucking him in, I sit on the edge of the bed and watch his Western with him until he gets tired, and when he does, I say, "Goodnight Granddad, I'm going to get ready for bed."
"Okay, goodnight," he replies.
A soft and quiet goodnight, a hug and a kiss.
James Hena is a Native American writer from Tesuque Pueblo. "Every Day" is a tribute to his grandad and Henna's first published essay. Find him on Instagram @jameshena_2
To read the entire 2019 issue and full Tommy Orange interview, go to https://www.sfcc.edu/literary-review-issue/2019/.
An accompanying gallery exhibit is on display at SFCC's Visual Arts gallery through Nov. 21.