Quad City Poet Laureate Dick Stahl’s My Cancer Chronicle bids us accompany him on an intimate journey beginning with the diagnosis of “A Red Dot” on his nose. He looks closely; he tells the truth. There is pain and gratitude, memories and love—all countless “symbolic gifts” forming “what we all aspire to—a better life.”
-Paul Olsen, Retired Professor and Track and Field Coach, Augustana College
…[Stahl’s] voice amplifies the incredible power of the spoken and written word to move people and make connections. This collection of poetry artfully takes the reader on a journey, his journey fighting cancer, one that is beautiful, relatable, and ultimately inspiring in the face of the intense challenges faced by cancer patients, their loved ones, and those who care for them.
-Brian Baxter, Executive Director, Quad City Symphony Orchestra
In this, his last collection of poems, Dick Stahl captures the ebb and flow of the human condition. Fighting his lethal cancer, he smiles at a white-checkered tablecloth that “looks healthy” or waves at the Milky Way or at a monitor Helen and he named “Charlie”. While he soberly knows the grains of sand are falling as they echo loudly in his ears, he contemplates the radioactive beads making a beeline to his liver. He looks headlong into the demon and expresses his condition with beauty, faith and grace.
-Dale G. Haake, attorney and former Poet Laureate of the Quad Cities
Cancer stories can make grim reading. But not this one. Dick Stahl’s My Cancer Chronicle forms a sprightly valediction, not an elegy. Honest without self-pity, optimistic without sentimentality, courageous without bravado, these richly-detailed poems give us “sharper eyes” to discover joy interwoven with pain. The “quick pen” Stahl had hoped for inspires us to celebrate life, love, and the power of words to heal what is beyond curing.
-Ann Boaden, author of Light and Leaven: Women Who Shaped Augustana's First Century
Dick Stahl’s death to cancer was a severe loss, but the poetic process he made from early detection, through stages of treatment, moments of grace, to final dictation, keep his spirit alive and with us. His refuge from pain in poetry is both testament and memorial; a final gift to his friends and admirers.
-Don Wooten, WVIK Radio Host and Columnist
These Interesting Times: Surviving 2020 in the Quad Cities -- Edited by Misty Urban
2020 was a disaster. Here, for the record, is what we survived.
In these moving and eloquent essays and poems, stories and artwork, writers and artists of the Quad Cities report on the disasters of 2020. We saw our careers change or disappear. Everything went online. We watched loved ones pass away and saw babies born that we couldn’t hold. We tried to school children, care for clients, and launch books. We watched public deaths, protests, and attacks. We contemplated murder hornets and eclipses. We cleaned up after a flood and then a derecho.
For some of us, isolation was a chance to breathe, take long walks, and read. For others, it was a long descent into darkness. Some of us grappled with life-threatening illness. Some of us found new peace. Yet we made it through.
With humor, precision, and ruthless clarity, the artists in this collection present a stunning mosaic of the ruptures, beauties, gifts, and costs of this utterly unprecedented year. Each piece is a glimpse into what was happening inside our personal pockets of isolation and virtual realities. Each piece is a celebration.
Join us in relishing our resilience and savoring our lessons as we reflect on what the year brought and took. Whatever else you can say about 2020, it was a very interesting time.More info →
Field Notes Recovered from the Expedition to Devil’s Peak by Laura A. Ring (Foster-Stahl Chapbook Series Selection) – Available Now!
This book is testament to what a palimpsest the imagination is, if only we would allow one layer to be scratched away until the next shines through, then the next and the next until we see we are not at all alone, especially not in the mind. Laura A. Ring excavates the imagination—brilliantly and gently, as if a fragment of thought could be harmed if mishandled—and unearths the contingencies upon which insight relies. From such a slim volume can our sense of the imagination be made new? Astonished, I think so.
—Katie Ford, author of Blood Lyrics and If You Have to Go
Such artistry, such invention in Laura Ring’s marvelous Field Notes Recovered from the Expedition to Devil’s Peak! From the striking image of “The body / stripped / to wolf-tooth” to the beautiful imperative “Drink the blue of the world,” Ring’s poems are spare and potent. This sequence of field notes based on a fictitious expedition, in which “Harriet Callas, archaeologist and alpinist, sets off in search of the fabled burial hoards of Inyaarluin,” is a ceremonious study in blurring the distinctions between synthetic and authentic. The book’s framework shifts between fabricated found fragments and footnotes, operating in the vein of literary hoaxes and found text, but layering, and commenting on those in ways that accentuate the inventiveness of language and meaning-making. Examining issues related to ecology, evidentiality, artificiality, the funereal, and the archival, all while underscoring Picasso’s famous maxim that “art is a lie that makes us realize truth,” Ring crafts a majestic meta-manuscript.
—Simone Muench, author of Orange Crush and Wolf CentosMore info →
With Choir, Aubrey Ryan has created a new myth most needed. It tells of an origin before our origin story, and it stirs the story of our end. “Then birth was unsurvivable,” she says, because as mothers know and poets may note, the end of that story is birthed at the start. In this creation myth the end of our world is told by our acts, more like “nesting bowls” than a linear narration, and all of us complicit in the choir, though some voices more than others: the anti-heroes or “kings,” those who would send their cars around the sun. By now, our end is so entwined with our discoveries, maps are literally made of earth. As in the Greek plays, Ryan enlists a chorus most convincing—hers are oracles, guardians, bees—to help in the telling. Because it is a horrifying tale, but she knows the story of the end must be the kindest tale of all.
—Beth Roberts, author of Like You and Brief Moral History in BlueMore info →
THE ATLAS 16 / Young Emerging Writers 2021 Interns and Staff
The 2021 Young Emerging Writers
LOLA NAKASHIMA BROOKE | JOE deBLOIS | NAOMI FONSEKA | KRYSSI FRANKS | TAYLER GILMORE | CHARLY HEBER-SPATES | KEIRSTYN JOHNSON | YIIJA "LINDA" LIN | JANEY LOCANDER | MISHKA MOHAMED NOUR | MIA ORRIS | WYETH PLATT | LARISSA POTHOVEN | K.A.S. | ELENA VALLEJO | EMMA WALHMANN | MORGAN WEBB
YEW Program Director/Editorial Director: Ryan Collins
Assistant Program Director/Editor-in-Chief: Sarah Elgatian
Assistant Program Director/Managing Editor: Erica Eastland
Workshop Leaders/Assistant Editors: Sam Bruner, Melissa Conway, KayLee Chie Kuehl, Ava Miller, Abigail Morrow, and Hailey Schmacht
Our most sincere thanks to our sponsors/grantors for their generous support of the 2021 Young Emerging Writers Internship Program and The Atlas 16: the Illinois Arts Council Agency, the Regional Development Authority, Modern Woodmen of America, the Quad City Community Foundation, and Rozz-Tox.
Our gratitude, respect, and love to the following: the Midwest Writing Center Board of Directors, Committees, Staff, and Volunteers; the Rock Island Public Library; the David R. Collins Writers’ Conference 2021 Faculty: Allison Joseph, Lyz Lenz, Joe Meno, Tariq Shah, Gale Marie Thompson; Timothy Curry, founder of the YEW Program; Sarah Elgatian and Erica Eastland, Assistant Program Directors; Sam Bruner, Melissa Conway, KayLee Chie Kuehl, Ava Miller, Abigail Morrow, and Hailey Schmacht, Workshop Leaders; and all the friends and family of the 2021 Young Emerging Writers for their care, dedication, and support to make this program, and this magazine, possible.
More info →
Written as a tribute to musician Bill Bell (1936-2017), How Little Billy Learned to Play follows a young, fictionalized Bill Bell as he learns to play music in the Watertown neighborhood of East Moline, IL where he grew up.
Join "Little Billy" as he learns to play Hambone from his Uncle Ferdinand, jams with other famed East Moline musicians Esther Clark and Mallie Williams, and learns where the rhythm comes from.More info →
PRAISE FOR FLOWING WATER, FALLING FLOWERS
"Flowing Water, Falling Flowers is an engrossing, beautiful debut that glides through multiple times and places. Collins brings to life not only the complex cast of characters, but an entire culture, both of which come vibrantly alive through her storytelling magic. The Han, Wang, and Fang families take us on an enlightening, unforgettable journey." –Kali White VanBaale, award-winning author of The Monsters We Make and The Good Divide
"The atmosphere for this book is masterfully set by a poem, a song, and a new-born baby’s cry. All too soon the child disappears into the night of 1891 China. In a modern-day Chicago the stage is set with Rose Ming’s breakup from a married man, the loss of her academic job, and the consoling trip back to California and her mother. Rose and her mother are drawn back to China and into a haunting mystery that spans generations." - Mary Davidsaver, author of Clouds Over Bishop Hill
"The lyrical prose of Xixuan Collins winds beautifully through the pages of Flowing Water, Falling Flowers. Choices made through love echo from century to century in this touching story rich in Chinese culture." - Tom McKay, author of West Fork, Another Life, and The Old Guard
-Felicia Schneiderhan, author of Newlyweds Afloat
If there's anything we’re all sick of hearing, it’s about how “challenging” these times are. To us, it’s just a trendy, empty phrase that encourages people to be content with an absence of change. We’ve decided that this sentiment makes an excellent muse for our work this year. We’ve taken a phrase so stagnantly neutral and converted it into a way for our voices to be heard.
This year, we held all of our meetings over Zoom—we never thought we’d be asking to be in the sweltering basement of the Rock Island library instead. But this didn’t stop us from getting as close to each other as we would have in person.
Because the meetings were virtual, we braved a lot of things we didn’t expect. This included (but was not limited to) sketchy WiFi, weird lighting, our computers shutting off our audio for seemingly no reason, the lack of the ability to share food, and getting headaches from staring too long at our screens to get a better view of someone’s cat. However, we persevered through all of these hardships. Despite being so far away from each other, we each produced a large amount of incredible, deep, insightful work.
These pieces, among other things, show how we’re trying our best to understand the crazy world we live in when it seems like the world itself is a lot farther behind than we are. During this internship, we’ve developed our own little garden of writers—cultivating each other’s creativity, feeding off of everyone’s individual personalities and experiences, and ultimately blossoming with our own unique styles. This year, returning and new interns alike have come together to deliver prose, poetry, visual art, and even music. The odd circumstances of the year haven’t stopped us from making something that we’re all truly proud of.
We would like to point out that, even though our cats collectively wrote a novel when walking across our keyboards, none of their writing made it into The ATLAS 15. This is unfortunate. Still, we hope you enjoy this edition as much as we do.
THE YOUNG EMERGING WRITERS 2020
THE ATLAS 15 / Young Emerging Writers 2020 Staff
YEW Program/Editorial Director: Ryan Collins
Assistant Program Director/Editor-in-Chief: Sarah Elgatian
Assistant Program Director/Managing Editor: Erica Eastland
Workshop Leaders/Assistant Editors:
Emily Lloyd Brown, Sam Bruner, Melissa Conway
KayLee Chie Kuehl, Abigail Morrow
Cover Image: “A Craving For Change” – Montana Hogan
Design: Skylar Alexander Moore
Our most sincere thanks to our sponsors/grantors for their generous support of the 2020 Young Emerging Writers Internship Program and The Atlas 15: Regional Development Authority; Scott County Regional Authority; Illinois
Humanities; Modern Woodmen of America; the Melvin McKay Charitable Trust; the CD Wiman Memorial; the Rausch Family Foundation I; the Moline Foundation; the Figge Art Museum; Rozz-Tox; and the Illinois Arts Council Agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
VULNERABILITY ISN’T EASY. Writing, therefore, is similarly difficult. It’s one thing to put your feelings to paper, but to transform them into a full-fledged work of art is a true challenge. This summer, we seventeen interns spent seven weeks working together and encouraging one another to complete this challenge. While many writers often have to fight this uphill battle alone, we had the opportunity to connect over our similar passions and ensure one another that we were being heard.
Throughout the past seven weeks, we’ve learned how to say what’s important to us and how to find what we needed to say. Together, we’ve all contributed to creating a safe and supportive environment, and we’ve bonded over inside jokes and emotional vulnerability. The seventeen of us have grown into people we can be proud of, evolving from unsure teenagers into confident artists. We’ve learned about writing and editing and the world and even ourselves. We now go forward into the world, pen in hand, different than when we first arrived.
Each person participating in the YEW internship came from wildly varying backgrounds, yet all of us found a home here. We are seventeen people full of different memories, mistakes, and regrets, but in The Atlas, we found a shared voice. Through writing, we cracked ourselves open like eggs and found within us the freedom to tell people what we think, feel, and believe.
This is not just a book; this is a box that holds the beauty, pain, secrets, and lives of the seventeen young adults that created it. This book is an anthology of chaos. It’s made of sleepless nights and 3 a.m. talks, of stargazing and perpetually moving forward. This book is a house in which honesty and positivity are the sword and shield we wield against the world. Our collective voice is beautiful, chaotic, and sometimes downright insane, but it’s a voice that we stand by and believe in. The Midwest Writing Center is proud to present The Atlas 14.
The Young Emerging Writers 2019
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom McKay is a historian and museum consultant who lives in his hometown of Hampton, Illinois. His debut novel, West Fork, was published by East Hall Press at Augustana College in 2014. His short novel, Another Life, was published by 918studio press in 2014. His short stories have appeared in the Wapsipinicon Almanac, Vermont Ink, Downstate Story, the Wisconsin River Valley Journal, the Book Rack Newsletter, and the Out Loud Anthology series of the Midwest Writing Center.More info →
Meditations in a Helicopter About to Explode Over a Guy Covered in Chum, Surfing Off of Shark Bay Beach
"Evil is fantastic, shimmering, totally boring. Devastation is causal, inevitable, photoshopped. Profundity is detached, a parking lot, the B-movie of your most banal, necessary daydreams. Love is all of the above. So fuck death. Send postcards to ghosts. These poems are that carnival’s electric promise: to swallow you in weird, transformative light. But that’s no frivolous escape, it’s the desperate attempt “to make / a retina out of my heart.” What to do when fire breaks out in the fun house? Eat it alive." - Nick Sturm, author of HOW TO LIGHTMore info →