New Artemis celebrates women in the art

As poetry and essay submissions began to arrive for this year’s issue of Artemis Journal, editor-in-chief Jeri Rogers discovered that the chosen theme, “Women Hold Up Half the Sky,” had struck a chord.

“We had such an overwhelming response,” she said. “It obviously hit the target and spoke to a lot of people.”

The result, the 25th issue of Artemis, will premiere May 4 at the Taubman Museum of Art with a reading by this year’s featured writer Sharyn McCrumb, author of many New York Times best-selling novels. The abundance of riches from contributors resulted in a much thicker issue than usual.

“It’s about twice as big as we normally publish,” Rogers said. Though Artemis focuses on the arts community in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the journal accepted work for Artemis XXV from contributors who live well beyond Southwest Virginia, including a poet from Italy. “We’re just amazed at the amount of submissions and wonderful writers,” Rogers said.

The 200-page issue was funded in part by a $2,500 grant from the Roanoke Arts Commission and features poetry from former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and other poets with regional ties such as Nikki Giovanni, Jeanne Larsen, Judy Light Ayyildiz, Marly Youmans, Adrian Blevins, and many more. The issue also includes art by Betty Branch, Lucy Hazlegrove, Donna Polseno, Gina Louthian-Stanley, Michele Sons and other Southwest Virginia artists.

With cover art by Roanoke artist Tricia Scott, Artemis XXV is bookended by two works of fiction. McCrumb, who lives in Roanoke County, contributed an excerpt from her 2003 Civil War novel “Ghost Riders,” about a woman who plans to follow her husband by dressing as a man and joining the Confederate army.

The excerpt, which opens the issue, shares the narrator’s thoughts as she prepares to follow through on this rash and daring plan. She reflects on the death of her baby and how it didn’t seem to move her husband as deeply as it affected her. “So I just shut up my sorrow, and I thought, ‘There ain’t no percentage in being a woman.’”

The final short story, “Equality Day” by Blacksburg author Mindy Quigley, is a cautionary tale of science fiction, imagining a future in which “equality” has been achieved by eliminating all physiological differences in people. The story is the winner of the $100 Artemis Journal/Light Bringer Award, a competition for sci-fi stories with feminist themes that the journal co-sponsored with the Light Bringer Project (a California nonprofit) and the Hollywood chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Though she has published a series of mystery novels, Quigley hadn’t tried her hand at science fiction before. “Although it’s a small, personal story, the underlying themes are perhaps my reaction to the current political climate and my response to those who believe America should be a white, Christian country.”

Artemis intends to donate 10 percent of the proceeds from sales of this issue to the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley in Radford.

Artemis has been around for 40 years, but this issue doesn’t commemorate an anniversary, as the Roanoke Valley-based literary journal had been dormant for more than a decade when Rogers and her crew of volunteers revived it in 2013.

Artemis began in 1977 as a publication of the long-defunct Women’s Resource and Service Center, a project of Roanoke nonprofit Total Action Against Poverty, now Total Action for Progress. Rogers, a photographer originally from Texas, was the center’s first director. In the beginning, Artemis only published work by women.

Rogers, 71, who lives in Floyd, said her love of books and the printed word drives her to keep Artemis going. “I feel as though this is my life’s mission. I get so much joy out of putting this project together,” she said. “It’s my way of giving back to the universe … I see the benefits of creating community through art and the written word, and how it brings people together.”

Artemis Literary Editor, Maurice Ferguson honored with mural in downtown Roanoke

Editor, Jeri Rogers and Maurice Ferguson. Literary Editor interview with Book City

★ On the hunt for new voices with Artemis’ Jeri Rogers and Maurice Ferguson

Jeri Rogers interview with Chris Cooper

Jane Goette, Associate Editor, essay in Roanoke Times