Opening Letters > From The Editors


Earlier this month, we celebrated our second full year in existence and operation at Sky Island Journal.  Like any worthwhile journey, we continue to learn and discover along a path that feels familiar at times, yet continues to surprise us with new challenges to embrace and beauties to savor.  In two year’s time we have published eight issues, each one with its own unique flavor and personality, thanks to the contributions of our diverse and wildly talented writers. From the very start we were purposeful in our approach and are continually inspired by the pursuit of publishing established and emerging writers side-by-side, creating the vibrancy reflected in each issue.

For someone who often lives in the world of words, I must admit that I occasionally like to dabble with numbers as well.  Over these eight issues we have welcomed ten of thousands of readers to experience the 354 pieces (poems, flash fiction and creative nonfiction pieces) we’ve had the honor of publishing.  We have officially received submissions from all 50 states in the US, and 42 of those states are currently represented in the journal. On an international scale, we have published writers from 24 different countries, and are thrilled that nearly 20% of our pieces offer perspectives from outside of our own native country.  As humans, we have the opportunity to learn from each other, and it is humbling to serve as a conduit, connecting people across the globe with literature that wields the power to move us intellectually and emotionally.

What I cannot quantify is the feeling of gratitude that permeates our experience here at Sky Island Journal.  We relentlessly strive to get better and better at serving you.  Whether you are a contributor, reader, or both, as we close year two and move forward into the years to come, I have two simple words to offer that I hope can carry the weight of our appreciation for your engagement and support—thank you.


Jeff Sommerfeld, Founder and Co-Editor


It’s spring in the Florida Mountains of New Mexico: Sky Island Journal’s birthplace and spiritual home. The foothills are draped in poppies. Their brave, yolk-orange blooms are in constant motion—tousled this way and that—as the winds rush down from the peaks and splay out across the desert floor. Ocotillos, taller than any man, snake toward the sky—their spiny necks and blood red buds defying gravity. This landscape is the source of our positive energy, our rugged independence, and our relentless tenacity. Having grown our readership 167% in the past 12 months, it has also become our center: the heart and hearth to which we faithfully return after venturing farther and farther down our path as a publication. We are always learning, and it helps us remain mindful. It helps ensure that every step we take is made with kindness and humility. Reading and responding to every submission, then having the ability to share the work of writers from around the world with readers from around the world, is a privilege beyond the telling. Every piece, like spring itself, is a gift. We're grateful for our contributors and our readers. Whether you're new to Sky Island Journal, or you're already one of our 40,000 readers in 137 countries, we're confident that the new writing in our stunning eighth issue will find a home in your heart.

While social media certainly has a place in our lives, we've elected to leave the "scroll-through experience" and pop-up ads to other literary platforms. Our readers deserve a more mindful approach. Each piece of writing that we publish opens as a protected Word document for an authentic, focused, and immersive experience that encourages a close, intimate, distraction-free reading of the work. We want your experience with each contributor's work to be singular: just as it would be on the printed page, with crisp white paper between your collective fingertips. We understand this is a radical departure from how most literary journals present writing to their readers online, but we think it's a refreshing change for the better. It's okay to slow down. It's okay to take your time, to savor, and to simply be present in a moment; our contributors have created so many beautiful worlds for you to inhabit.

Of the 1,252 individual pieces that we received from around the world for Issue 8, we found these 42 to be the finest. Welcome to Sky Island. Welcome home.


Jason Splichal, Founder and Co-Editor


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Alison Lock > Poetry > United Kingdom

Alison Lock is a poet and author living in West Yorkshire, UK. Her latest poetry collection, Revealing the Odour of Earth (2017) is published by Calder Valley Poetry. She finds inspiration in the moorlands and the natural environment of the South Pennines, which is often reflected in her writing. Her previous poetry collections are A Slither of Air (2011) – winner of the Indigo Dreams Collection Competition 2010, and Beyond Wings (2015). 

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B.J. Buckley > Poetry > Montana, USA

B.J. Buckley is a Montana poet and writer who has worked in Arts-in-Schools/Communities programs throughout the west for over 45 years. She is currently Writer-in-Residence at Sanford Cancer Center, Sioux Falls, SD. Her most recent book of poems is Corvidae, poems of Ravens, Crows, and Magpies, with woodcut illustrations by Dawn Senior-Trask, Lummox Press 2014. B.J. lives, writes, gardens, cooks, and messes about with art from a farmhouse on three acres 30 miles west of Great Falls, Montana, with her sweetheart, a machinist/blacksmith, their two new pups, and far too many cats.

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Benjamin Green > Poetry > New Mexico, USA

Benjamin Green resides in New Mexico. He is the author of 11 books, including The Sound of Fish Dreaming (Bellowing Ark Press, 1996). Now 62 years of age, he hopes his new work articulates a mature vision of the world and does so with some integrity.

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Charlene Stegman Moskal > Creative Nonfiction > Nevada, USA

Charlene Stegman Moskal is a Teaching Artist with The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project and a Fellow of the New Jersey Writing Project. For three decades prior to moving to Las Vegas, Nevada, she taught art, speech, and theater at the secondary level in the public schools of Brownsville, Texas. She has been a visual artist, a performer, a voice for NPR’s Theme and Variations, and always a writer. She has been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and journals including The Esthetic Apostle, Multibilis, Dash, Chaleur Journal, Helen, Sky Island Journal, The Raven’s Perch, CLARK: Poetry of Clark County Nevada; Legs of Tumbleweed; Wings of Lace, an Anthology of Literature by Nevada Women, and others. Her poetry chapbook, One Bare Foot was recently released by Zeitgeist Press.

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Charles Finn > Flash Fiction > Washington, USA

Charles Finn is the editor of the literary and fine arts magazine High Desert Journal and author of Wild Delicate Seconds: 29 Wildlife Encounters (OSU Press 2012). His poetry, fiction, and nonfiction has appeared in a wide variety of magazines, newspapers, and journals. He lives in Federal Way, Washington, with his wife Joyce Mphande-Finn and their cat Lutsa.

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David Anthony Sam > Poetry > Virginia, USA

David Anthony Sam, the proud grandson of peasant immigrants from Poland and Syria, lives in Virginia with his wife and life partner, Linda. Sam’s poetry has appeared in over 80 publications and he has five collections including Final Inventory, (Prolific Press 2018). Sam’s chapbook Finite to Fail: Poems after Dickinson won the 2016 Grand Prize from GFT Press Chapbook Contest. His poem, “First and Last,” won the 2018 Rebecca Lard Award by Poetry Quarterly. Sam teaches creative writing at Germanna Community College where he retired as President in 2017. He serves on the Board of the Virginia Poetry Society.

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Diana Fu > Creative Nonfiction > New York, USA

Diana Fu is a poet, essayist, and playwright. Her work has appeared in Spark: A Creative Anthology and Yemassee. Her original play, "Tears at the Margins," premiered in 2017. She is an MFA candidate at the City College of New York and a 2018 Pushcart nominee. She has read as an editor for The Beacon, Helicon, and Promethean. Currently, she splits her mind between her new home, the Bronx, New York, and her forever home: the Bay Area, California.

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Eugene William Levich > Creative Nonfiction > Florida, USA

Eugene William Levich received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in Far Eastern Languages and Civilizations. He taught history and foreign languages for more than 35 years and published books on China and on the problems of American education.  After his retirement, he began writing short stories and poems, many of which deal with racial injustice, ethnic conflict, and his experiences as a Marine infantryman. Now residing in South Florida, he chairs a writers’ workshop for the Palm Beach County Library System.

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Gene Twaronite > Poetry > Arizona, USA

Gene Twaronite is a Tucson poet, essayist, and author of seven books, including two juvenile fantasy novels, two short story collections and the poetry book Trash Picker on Mars, winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Arizona poetry. His latest book of poems The Museum of Unwearable Shoes was published by Kelsay Books in 2018. Gene has always been fascinated by poetry’s ability to convey entire worlds of thought and feeling within a few lines of compressed expression. A native New Englander, he is now a confirmed desert rat residing in Tucson.

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Hilary King > Poetry > California, USA

Hilary King’s poems have appeared in Fourth River, Gyroscope Review, The Cortland Review, PANK, Blue Fifth Review, and other publications. She is the author of the book of poems, The Maid’s Car. Born and raised in Virginia, she moved to California after many years in the South and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Ja'net Danielo > Poetry > California, USA

Ja'net Danielo's poems have appeared in Italian Americana2River ViewThe Cortland ReviewSOFTBLOW, and elsewhere. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Cerritos College, where she teaches creative writing and composition. She lives in Long Beach, California with her husband and her dog.

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Jason Hackett > Poetry > Arizona, USA

Jason Hackett is a small business owner, father of four and sleep deprived. Jason’s poems can be found in The Journal of American Poetry, Slippery Elm Literary Journal, Scarlet Leaf Review, Cholla Needles, Crack the Spine, and forthcoming in Mental Papercuts and Blue River Review.

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Jen Stewart Fueston > Poetry > Colorado, USA

Jen Stewart Fueston lives in Longmont, Colorado with her husband and two young sons. Her work appears in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Ruminate, Mom Egg Review and The Christian Century. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and two-time finalist for the McCabe Poetry Prize. Her first chapbook, Visitations, was published in 2015 by Finishing Line Press, and her second, Latch, was published in 2019 by River Glass Books. She has taught writing at the University of Colorado, Boulder, as well as internationally in Hungary, Turkey, and Lithuania. 

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Jordan Sanderson > Poetry > Mississippi, USA

Jordan Sanderson lives near the Gulf of Mexico and teaches at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. His work has appeared in Mockingheart Review, Redactions, Better, and several other journals, and he is the author of two chapbooks, Abattoir (Slash Pine Press) and The Formulas (ELJ Publications). Jordan earned a PhD from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi.

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Julie Carreon > Poetry > Arizona, USA

Julie Carreon is a reading teacher and a poet.  She loves children, books, and the Sonoran Desert surrounding her home in Tucson, Arizona.  She is a native Arizonan and a graduate of the University of Arizona.

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Kahlan Strop > Creative Nonfiction > Wisconsin, USA

Kahlan Strop attends college in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and she is currently working on the fifth draft of a fantasy novel. Sky Island Journal is her first publication.

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Katie J. Douglas > Creative Nonfiction > Arizona, USA

Katie J. Douglas is a native of Tucson, Arizona where she lives and writes today. She is a writer, avid reader, former educator, mother of three, and an entrepreneur. Her debut novel, Forever Today, was released April of 2019.

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Keith Polette > Poetry > Texas, USA

Keith Polette has returned to writing poetry after many years.  He has been very fortunate to have had his poems accepted by and published in the following journals:  The Offbeath, Otoliths, The Esthetic Apostle, Peeking Cat Anthology, Typishly, Sonic Boom, Shot Glass Journal, Orphic Lute, Rendezvous, and The Limberlost Review. His book of haiku and senryu, The New World, was published in 2017 by Red Moon Press.  Keith currently lives and writes in El Paso, Texas.

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Lisa López Smith > Poetry > Jalisco, Mexico

Lisa López Smith lives and writes from her home in central Mexico. When not wrangling kids or goats or rescue dogs, you can probably find her riding her bike. Recent and forthcoming publications include: Coal Hill Review, Rise Up, Lacuna Magazine, The Esthetic Apostle, Rat's Ass Review, SAND Journal, and Mothers Always Write.

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Luke Lemmon > Poetry > Utah, USA

While Sky Island Journal is Luke Lemmon’s first written publication, he has been honing his craft for the past 11 years. He found his literary home in poetry and fell in love with how it distills ideas down to their sharpest, purest essence. When not hunched over his computer or mounds of homework, he enjoys plunking on the piano and hiking the Rocky Mountains. Luke is graduating with a B.S. in Biological Engineering from Utah State University this spring and currently works as a tutor and supervisor at the university's writing centers. He lives in, and can’t wait to get out of, Utah.

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Marilyn Alexandra > Poetry > France

Marilyn Alexandra is a writer and student born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Growing up in the vibrant cultural revival of her hometown, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, she discovered her love for creative writing at a young age.  She now lives in France as an undergraduate student at the Paris Institute of Political Science and maintains her devotion to art and literature as she navigates life in Europe. At the moment, her biggest internal turmoil lies between her desire to write poetry and the need to study law books. Sky Island Journal is her first publication.

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Mary Beth Hines > Poetry > Massachusetts, USA

Mary Beth Hines is a project manager, recently turned writer, after a long career in public service. She studied literature and creative writing at The College of the Holy Cross, and at present is an active participant in Boston area writing workshops.  Her work has been published, or is forthcoming, in journals such as Crab Orchard Review, SPLASH, Aurorean, The Road Not Taken, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Gyroscope Review.  When she’s not reading or writing, she’s swimming or happily playing with her new grandson – an inspiration for much of her recent writing.

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Meghan Sterling > Poetry > Maine, USA

Meghan Sterling is a writer living in Portland, Maine with her husband, daughter and cat. Her work has been featured in the Chronogram, Driftwood Press, Red Paint Hill, Eunoia Review, Balancing Act 2, and others. Her chapbook, How We Drift, was published in the Fall of 2016 by Blue Lyra Press. 

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Michael Garrigan > Poetry > Pennsylvania, USA

Michael Garrigan is a writer and teacher living along the banks of the Susquehanna River in southern Pennsylvania. He spends his time exploring the river’s many tributaries with a fly rod and hiking the riverlands with his wife, Jess, and dog, Whitman. He holds a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh and an MA in English & Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. His essays and poetry have appeared in publications such as Gray’s Sporting Journal, The Drake Magazine, Barren Magazine, Foliate Oak, San Pedro River Review, Piedmont Journal of Poetry and Fiction, and various magazines and anthologies. He enjoys watching water move over rocks.


Michael Lauchlan > Poetry > Michigan, USA

Michael Lauchlan has contributed to many publications, including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Sugar House Review, Louisville Review, and Poet Lore and Poetry Ireland. His most recent collection is Trumbull Ave., from WSU Press (2015).

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Michael Pikna > Flash Fiction > Colorado, USA

Michael Pikna is a psychotherapist in Aurora, Colorado. The son of European high-wire walkers, he manages to keep himself grounded most of the time. His short stories have appeared in Bryant Literary Review, Puckerbrush Review, Rathalla Review, Water~Stone Review, Still Point Arts Quarterly, The MacGuffin, and others.

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Naazneen Diwan > Poetry > Ohio, USA

Naazneen Diwan is a queer, Muslim poet and social justice educator. She is the current Lead Instructor for Baldwin House Urban Writing Residency hosted by Twelve Literary Arts in Cleveland, Ohio. She is an alumni of Art Omi Writing Residency and the founder of Kalaashakti healing arts and meditation workshops with Muslim women. Her poems have been published in several publications, including Kohl, Project As[I]Am, SAMAR, and MOONROOT, and have been performed in venues such as Tuesday Night Cafe, The Japanese American National Museum in LA, Khmer Arts Academy, Other Books, and The Last Bookstore. She has forthcoming pieces in Sky Island Journal and The Yale Review. Her poetry manuscript, 99 Names, was also a University of Wisconsin Press Poetry Prize Semi-Finalist.  She will be presenting on a panel entitled, “Teaching Embodied Poetry to Diverse Communities,” at this year’s AWP.

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Naima Rashid > Poetry > Saudi Arabia

Naima Rashid is an author, poet, and literary translator. Her forthcoming works include her own poetry and fiction, as well as a series of literary translations from Urdu, Punjabi, and French into English (after 2020). She has a background in linguistics, education, and writing, and has taught French language and literature at the French Consulate of Jeddah, the Alliance Française de Lahore, and Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore.  Her writings on visual arts and other subjects have appeared in Newsline magazine and other publications. Her first book, Defiance of the Rose, a translation from Urdu into English of selected verse by renowned Urdu poet, Perveen Shakir, was published by the Oxford University Press, in March 2019.

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Najeeba Arif / Ateeb Gul > Poetry > Pakistan

Dr. Najeeba Arif (Urdu composition) is Professor of Urdu at the International Islamic University, Islamabad. She is also a poet and a translator. Her first book of poetry—Ma'ani Se Ziyada (Karachi: Scheherzade, 2016)—won the Karachi Literature Festival Urdu Prize. She is currently working on Urdu travelogues of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Ateeb Gul (English translation) is Teaching Fellow and Senior Editor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). A graduate of LUMS and of the Boston University's Editorial Institute, his literary work has featured in Literary ImaginationInk in Thirds, and Sky Island Journal. Ateeb Gul is Najeeba Arif's nephew.

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Phebe Jewell > Flash Fiction > Washington, USA

Phebe Jewell's work appears or is forthcoming in Every Day FictionAmethyst ReviewMoonPark Review, and Bindweed Magazine. Twice her poems have been chosen for Seattle's Poetry on the Buses. In addition to teaching at Seattle Central College, Phebe volunteer teaches for Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, a nonprofit providing college courses to women in prison.

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Rebecca Jung > Creative Nonfiction > Pennsylvania, USA

Rebecca Jung is a writer and poet whose work has been published in The Impetus, MiPo, Postcards Poems and Prose, Purple Clover, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Evening Street Review, and Memoir.  Her poetry has also appeared in two books: “Along These Rivers: Poetry and Photography from Pittsburgh,” and “Burningword Ninety-Nine, A Selected Anthology of Poetry, 2001-2011.” She also has a chapbook entitled, “Home Leave.” She earned a B.A. in art history at Kent State University, and later attended the University of Pittsburgh where she received her B.A. in English writing.

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Reg Darling > Creative Nonfiction > Vermont, USA

Reg Darling lives in southwestern Vermont. He paints a small watercolor every day and hasn’t missed a day in more than six years. His essays have been published in Awakened Voices, Heartwood Literary Magazine, The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, River Teeth Journal, Rivet Journal, Timberline Review, Whitefish Review, and others.

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Robbie Gamble > Poetry > Massachusetts, USA

Robbie Gamble’s poems have appeared in Scoundrel Time, Solstice, RHINO, Rise Up Review, and Poet Lore. He was the winner of the 2017 Carve Poetry prize and has been nominated for Best of the Net. He works as a nurse practitioner caring for homeless people in Boston.

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Sally Toner > Poetry > Virginia, USA

Sally Toner is a High School English teacher who has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for over 20 years.  Her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in Gargoyle Magazine, The Delmarva Review, Watershed Review, and other publications.  She lives in Reston, Virginia with her husband and two daughters.  Her first chapbook, Anansi and Friends, a mixed genre work focusing on diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from breast cancer, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in the summer of 2019. 


Sharon Scholl > Poetry > Florida, USA

Sharon Scholl is a retired college professor of humanities and Third World Studies.  She convenes a long running poetry critique group and is poetry resource for the Florida Heritage Bookfest.  Her chapbooks, Sumer's Child, and Eat Space are in circulation.  Individual poems are current in Third Wednesday and Lunch Ticket.


Steven Croft > Poetry > Georgia, USA

Steven Croft is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Coastal Scenes (2002) and Moment and Time (2015), both published by The Saltmarsh Press. He has published poems recently in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Volume 7 (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2018) and Politics/Letters Live. He is an Army combat veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and now works for The Marshes of Glynn Libraries in Brunswick, Georgia.

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Suzanne Rogier Marshall > Poetry > New Hampshire, USA

Suzanne Rogier Marshall taught English to middle school students for nearly forty years, publishing several professional articles and a book on teaching poetry. Her poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in The EcoTheo Review, SPANK the CARP, Cider Press Review, Heartwood Literary Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and other journals and anthologies. She is the author of Blood Knot, a chapbook published by Porkbelly Press in 2015. Suzanne has retired with her husband to the mountains of New Hampshire, where she finds inspiration for her writing.

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Zoë Dagneault > Poetry > British Columbia, Canada

Zoë Dagneault is a citizen-poet residing on the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Skxwú7mesh and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Zoë is currently working on her first collection of poems. She is also curating an anthology on how we inhabit our bodies and how the political body lives through us. She lives and writes at the base of a large mountain.