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Op-eds, interviews, articles, and more

keeping our share: why the elgin marbles need to stay where they are

By Dr Mario Trabucco della Torretta

The marbles in the British Museum, photo from Arthur Dunn

        After more than 200 years of incessant debate on the collection of sculptures assembled by the 7th Earl of Elgin on the Acropolis of Athens, you can almost say that arguments in favour of sending them back to Greece have assumed a formulaic nature. They must invariably contain copious references to Lord Byron, appeal to the good nature of the reader to hear the plight of an “oppressed” nation, generously spread unqualified terms like “looting” and “stealing”, duly mention the “cleaning scandal”, and attack the “slippery slope” argument by arguing that the Parthenon is a unique case. But above all, whatever the circumstances, they must vigorously deny any credibility to the so-called “firman”.        These are the mandatory ingredients. There are also optional ones: a parallel between the Turks and the Nazis, a depiction of Lord Elgin as a greedy social climber (favoured more by opportunity than by his own wits), commentary on his divorce and contingent financial difficulties, allegations of bribery, and so many more. Try that yourself: ask any large language model to produce an essay on the Elgin Marbles along those lines, and you will be greeted by a text that is virtually indistinguishable from the countless journalistic articles on the same subject you can easily find on the web.        Mr Wexler’s piece in this magazine mixes the mandatory and optional ingredients in his particular recipe, avoiding the more openly polemical bits, and seasoning the whole with a modicum of spicy decolonisation sauce. Alas, for all his evident skill, he cannot escape the original sin affecting all of those ingredients: they are entirely false.        Let’s start with the firman. Though we do not possess the original Turkish document, we know virtually everything about it: who drafted it (Rev.d Hunt), who wrote it (Bartolomeo Pisani), who translated it into Italian (Antonio Danè), what it said (thanks to the translation), who brought it to Athens (the imperial commissary Rashid Aga), who received it (the Voivode and the Chief Judge of Athens) and who acted upon it (the Acropolis commander). Not bad for a “ghost document”, eh? But there is more: John Galt affirms to have seen the Turkish original, and Byron, Dodwell, Mary Nisbet and Hobhouse all mention it as the authority for the removal of the antiquities from the Acropolis. Historians such as William StClair and Edhem Eldem accept the authenticity of the so-called firman as a real historical document, reinforced by references to it in both British and Ottoman official documents from the archives. Also legal scholars like Alexander Herman do not dispute the legal efficacy of the instrument, saying that “on the balance of evidence” any court of law would be bound to find in favour of the UK. In the face of the historical evidence, Elgin’s story holds up pretty well. And why wouldn’t it? Imagine the opposite scenario: a bunch of foreigners waltz into a military base and start taking down building materials, reworking huge marble blocks, shipping everything away for months and with hundreds of hired labourers, and the soldiers there do… nothing? Ludicrous.        The reality is that neither the existence nor “the veracity of the firman” is really in doubt, and any attempt to impeach its legal validity ends up in failure. Bribes? There is literally zero historical evidence to support this. Permission granted by an occupying power? Even more ridiculous. The right of conquest was a prominent feature of international law until well into the 20th century. Occupation is also codified in law as a concept, requiring that its nature be temporary and that the occupied people not switch allegiance in the meantime. Can anyone really maintain (and document) that the people of Athens in 1801 were still loyal -after 343 years- to the Florentine dukes of Athens, the rightful sovereigns of the crusader state created there in 1204 and overrun by the Ottoman conquest in 1458?        Considering the evidence with honesty and impartiality, only one interpretation is possible: the Ottoman government, the legitimate and internationally recognised sovereign authority over Athens, had willingly decided to alienate some bits of public property and give them to the British ambassador as a gift. To sum it up, they did what was in their own right to do. I know that staring at this fact makes us baulk in horror. Yet, we must not make the mistake of thinking that people in Athens two centuries ago had the same kind of regard and sensibility about the cultural heritage we have today. As historians, we have a duty to get to know our subjects, their ideas, and their morals and try to explain with those elements why people from the past made this or that historical choice. The acquisition of the Elgin Collection makes no difference; as a historical fact, it has a context and it may be successfully explained without the use of concepts and norms that were not current in that particular time and place.        The Ottoman documents found by Eldem mention that “there is no harm in ceding” the Marbles to Elgin and that “there is no harm in granting permission for the transport and passage of the said stones”, the main reason being that “stones of this kind, decorated with figures, are not held in consideration among Muslims, but are appreciated by the Frankish states”. From their point of view, they were closing the deal of a lifetime: giving away something that had relatively low value in their eyes while getting political goodwill from a powerful ally in exchange. It wasn’t much different for the Greek-speaking population of Athens. The Archbishop had been very generous with Elgin and his family, gifting them antiquities found in or around various ecclesiastical properties. Ancient monuments did not receive much love from the Orthodox hierarchies, who considered them to be relics of a pagan past that was best ignored by good, God-fearing Christians. Emblematic of this attitude is the case of the temple of Artemis Agrotera on the Ilissos river: the little building, a smaller version of the temple of Athena Nike, was initially converted into a country chapel and seen in this state by Stuart and Revett in 1765. Only three years later, the building had been dismantled with the blessing of the Archbishop so that the building materials could be split, partly used to build a new church and partly passed to the Voivode to reinforce the fortification wall around the city. The leading men of the city, the demogerontes, were all very supportive of Elgin’s mission as it brought a wave of prosperity to the city in the form of wages for the hundreds of labourers needed to move, cut, and transport the heavy marbles slabs.        This attitude should not surprise us too much. In 1801, nobody in Athens shared the appreciation and reverence shown by the Western travellers for the antiquities of the city. The authors of the Greek Enlightenment lament, still in the first decade of the 19th century, how “our people do not have any idea not even of their ancestors” (Sakellarios), noting that “the publication of [Greek] writers is totally new to us” (Korais). This does not mean that there were no protests when Elgin’s men removed the statues and friezes from the citadel: we know there were some from both Greeks and Turks. Yet these protests were not motivated by a genuine antiquarian preoccupation to safeguard a shared heritage seen as the physical embodiment of a common cultural identity (which was instead Elgin’s main preoccupation, in the face of impending dilapidation), but rather by the fear of losing elements impregnated with magical connotations and whose departure could have endangered the welfare and wellbeing of the community. Many travellers recount stories of popular attachment to statues and inscriptions seen as foci of thaumaturgic power, channels of chthonian energies, or guarantors of soil fertility so long as they remained in their place. Some of the stories even support their removal, narrating of ancient spirits chained within the sculptures that could only be set free once away from the lands dominated by the Turks.        For many years, these stories have been brushed off as inventions made by locals to impress gullible Western travellers or even constructs engineered by those same travellers to justify the extraction of antiquities in the name of colonialistic superiority and Eurocentric “scientific” knowledge. The reality is that dismissing these stories is the true colonialistic act, and, as argued by Yannis Hamilakis, it is only by recognising these “indigenous archaeologies” as legitimate modes of knowledge that we truly start to “decolonise Greek archaeology”. Read in this light, the Ottoman gesture of granting Elgin his wish to take away “any pieces of stone with inscriptions and figures” must appear not only legitimate but also fully justifiable and consistent with the culture within which it originates. No imperial strongarming, just a free and mutually beneficial exchange between consenting parties acting as equals. To talk of imperialistic coercion, colonialistic exploitation, and peoples with no voice just to make sense of an act that we cannot possibly contemplate from our point of view here and now would be a failure to recognise that -in the words of L. P. Hartley- “the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there”, and we should just respect that.        Sure, let’s even accept what happened in the past -I hear you say- but “there is a thing called progress”, to quote a prominent Greek repatriationist. Should we be stuck in a situation whose fundamentals we no longer share just because it may be argued that it made sense two hundred years ago? I shall suggest three reasons why we should.        When it comes to museums, I see two main reasons why we go to great lengths to collect, preserve and display all this “old stuff”, and the choice of reason is dependent on the nature of the object. There are items coming from distant places, in time or space, which we keep to remind ourselves that other ways are possible, to educate our intellects on the idea of diversity. These are usually objects that cannot be reconciled with our own Western cultural identity, like a war drum or a moai. On the other side of the spectrum, there are objects that tell us, one way or another, who we have been, how we used to do things and think about the world. We keep these items to tell us about ourselves. From this second perspective, the Elgin Marbles truly belong in a British museum, as they illustrate aspects of our own culture that are still present today after two and a half millennia of cultural evolution: the beauty of the human form, democratic ideals, the preservation of order from the attack of chaos and entropy. These were the same reasons that prompted Elgin to bankrupt himself in an effort to save what he rightly considered as important relics of our past on the point of being obliterated. Even this effort is a story in its own right, the story of our love and reverence for our ancient past, the Grand Tour, antiquarianism and the birth of scientific archaeology. These are stories of British people (and of all Westerners in general) that you can rightly explore in the British Museum. The Elgin Marbles are not out of place in those rooms; there is a historical and cultural reason why they are there and not still in Athens or converted into dust at the foot of the Acropolis. And since their acquisition, they have been reigniting our cultural discourse time and again, renewing the arts in Britain and beyond (just as Lord Elgin had intended) in a story of Classical reception and reuse that we are still in the process of fully untangling.        Even if you were to struggle in hearing these remarks, even if you -against all evidence to the contrary- still considered the acquisition of the Marbles a robbery and a historical wrong to be righted, I would tell you there is a place for them in our museums. Museums are not just there to enlighten us about what we like about ourselves. They sometimes show us our darkest side and prompt us to confront it, to enter into a dialogue with a difficult past so we can learn a valuable lesson. In our museums, we learn about all the hundreds of different ways we kill each other, we learn about slavery, torture, and humiliation. The items that exemplify those stories are not there as a celebration but as a memento. It would be dishonest of us just to present an edulcorated and idealised version of our history, sanitised and stripped of all the items that make us blush. Contested heritage, when legitimately and legally acquired (as in the case of the Elgin Marbles), is much more valuable as an educational tool in our museums than it would ever be as a celebration in the country of origin.        This last point is even more important when returned heritage is sought as a prop for a narrative that is more ideologic than historical. Museums, because of their role in displaying identity, have deep political connotations and are prime targets for distortions and instrumentalisations. Since the very birth of the modern Greek state, Greek antiquities have been the embodiment of an idea: that the new Greek people are the inheritors of the cultural legacy of the ancient Greeks, passed to them in an unbroken cultural (and genetic) line through the centuries, and justifying their possession of the land that was their forefathers. The new Greeks immediately started to assert control over this legacy of highly symbolic objects, enacting legislation and creating museums, universities and bureaucracies around them. The trouble is that -as Stathis Gourgouris affirms- “the Hellenic civilisation as we know it was in effect the invention of the ‘science of antiquity’, of Classics”. And not just any idea of Classics, but one born and nurtured in that German-speaking world that would express the first kings and elite of the new nation-state. In this framework, the return of the Elgin Marbles would only be a tribute to the desired image of the modern Greeks, one of the missing pieces in the Bavarian propaganda project started by Leo von Klenze when he razed to the ground all the post-Classical history on the Acropolis. It would be the finishing touch to a colonial project the insurgents voluntarily embraced in order to obtain their independence, one which still weaponises the past in order to justify the present.        The Elgin Marbles are where they are legitimately and with reason. Not only have we no cause to remove them from London, but to be authentically anti-colonial and genuinely Philhellenic, we should reject any idea of ever returning them to Athens.Reading suggestions:- Edhem Eldem, “From Blissful Indifference to Anguished Concern: Ottoman Perceptions of Antiquities, 1799–1869”, in Z. Bahrani/Z. Çelik/E. Eldem (edd.), Scramble for the Past. A Story of Archeology in the Ottoman Empire, 1753–1914, Istanbul 2011, pp. 281–329
- Alexander Herman, The Parthenon Marbles dispute, London 2023
- Yannis Hamilakis, “Decolonizing Greek archaeology: indigenous archaeologies, modernist archaeology and the post-colonial critique” in D. Damaskos and D. Plantzos (eds), A Singular Antiquity, Athens 2008, pp. 273-84.
- Stathis Gourgouris, Dream Nation: Enlightenment, colonisation, and the institution of modern Greece, Stanford 2021.
- Elizabeth Marlowe, "From Exceptionalism to Solidarity: the Rhetoric of the Case for the Parthenon Sculptures' Return," Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal 41 (2023), 125-50.

whose marbles? britain, greece, and the parthenon

By Dominic Wexler
Twitter: @djwexler

The Parthenon Marbles, photo from the BBC

By natural law it is just that no one should be enriched by another's loss or injury.1
- Sextus Pomponius, Roman Jurist.2
        Here at Aôthen, through our Artifacts Project, we are committed to raising awareness about cultural artifacts whose ownership is contested. So, the campaign to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece falls well within our ambit. Indeed, it compels us to join the Greek cause and lobby for reunification. Greece’s long crusade for restitution began right after its independence in 1832, and yet to this day the British Museum and its abettors insist on keeping the Marbles in London. Greece has been denied the natural right to its cultural heritage in a tragedy spurred by a diplomat and maintained by a museum.        Between 1801 and 1812 the workmen of Thomas Bruce 7th Earl of Elgin—otherwise known as Lord Elgin—hacked away at Athena’s temple. Elgin sought social aggrandisement, and the fragments he had carved off of the Parthenon served as an avenue to finance his climb up the English class system. So, he bundled what he had taken from the Parthenon onto ships, ferried it over to England, and sold it to the British Parliament. Sections of the frieze, metopes, and pedimental figures–the Marbles–were then transferred to the British Museum for safekeeping.        The museum’s official position in the ownership dispute can be found under their webpage for the ‘Parthenon Sculptures’: Lord Elgin, after being granted a “permit”, “removed about half of the remaining sculptures from the ruins of the Parthenon”3. The Marbles were acquired, bought, and are held lawfully.        Only an Italian copy of the supposed permit (or ‘firman’) authorising Elgin’s ‘removals’ has been found. When translated into English, the document clearly limited Elgin’s workers to taking moulds and measurements of the Parthenon, along with a general right to collect rubble and stones littered around it. This contradicts the British Museum’s narrative that pieces of the Parthenon were allowed to be “removed” (a euphemism for ‘sawn-off’). Moreover, the veracity of the firman is in doubt. At the time of Elgin’s despoilment, Greece was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. This meant the Parthenon fell squarely under the jurisdiction of the Sultan, whose formal decrees were adumbrated in the firmans. Yet the firman assenting to Elgin’s expedition does not adhere to official protocols, this indicates the Sultan never gave his approval. The decree is not dated in Arabic, its formal preamble is missing, and the Sultan’s emblem and monogram are entirely absent. The evidence establishes that Elgin’s permit was illegitimate. The firman did not sanction Elgin’s project, and it certainly did not authorise his vandalism.        Still, despite there being no valid legal claim to the Marbles, the British Museum clings to the idea that they ought to remain in London. Four key arguments are associated with this position: the “encyclopaedic museum”, the “slippery slope”, the “matter of law”, and the “Elginisation” objections. Each appeals to the colonial impulse, and each has been repudiated by academics4, lawyers5, and writers6.        Curators like James Cuno7 appeal to the “encyclopaedic museum” for justification. Apparently, keeping the Marbles in the British Museum makes them more accessible to the public. By presenting the metopes, frieze, and pedimental figures alongside cultural pieces from Africa, Italy, and Asia, visitors can appreciate the Marbles in a global (hence encyclopaedic) context. Encyclopaedists contend that this arrangement facilitates Greek culture far better than a united Parthenon ever could. But the Marbles, by definition, cannot be authentically appreciated until they are reunified with the Parthenon from which they were wrenched. They exist in a Greek context only, not in the global context Cuno and his supporters thrust upon us. Filling museums with broken segments of architecture does not advance culture, it dilutes it. The British Museum must substitute the Marbles with plaster casts like those Elgin was originally commissioned to make.        Others fear that reunification will trigger a slippery slope: if the British Museum returns the Marbles, where do they draw the line? Must every demand for restitution be satisfied? These questions would carry little weight unless those expressing this concern were aware that entire collections had been dubiously acquired. The confession is implicit in the question. If there is sufficient reason to return a stolen artifact it ought to be returned. As for the Marbles, reunification does not engender a dangerous precedent because the Parthenon has no analogue: Greece endures (unlike, say, Carthage), the Marbles are not a complete work (they are pieces), and the Acropolis Museum in Athens has a dedicated space for them once they are repatriated. Accordingly, fears of an ineluctable declension are unfounded.        In late 20238, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the Conservative Party dodged the issue. He assessed the Parthenon dispute as being ‘a matter of law’. According to Sunak, whether or not the Marbles are repatriated is a decision for the museum trustees, not for the government. But a majority of the trustees (15 of the 25) are appointed by the Prime Minister. Consequently, all Sunak needs to do is pack the board with trustees eager to return the Marbles to Greece. Although it is true the British Museum lacks authority to cede museum property carte blanche, the government can amend the 1963 British Museum Act. By repealing Section 3(4) of the Act, the trustees appointed by Sunak would become authorised to de-accession the Elgin Collection. In fact, this would not be the first time the government used legislation to circumvent de-accession restrictions: the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act of 2009 established the right of British Museum trustees to return artwork stolen from Jewish owners by the Gestapo during World War II. So Sunak should appoint new trustees and amend the law. Simple.        However, do we need to consider the British Museum’s 200 year conservation of the Marbles? As custodians, has London generated a greater right to the Marbles than Greece? This is the ‘Elginisation’ argument, and of all the arguments against reunification, it is the most repugnant. Its logic would exempt a burglar (and his or her beneficiaries) from returning stolen property provided they were responsible. It would mean that so long as a requisite standard of care is maintained over a sufficient duration of time, theft transmogrifies into ownership. This perversion of property rights is, prima facie, wrong. You cannot excuse plunder because the looter happens to be a better steward. Ergo, Elgin cannot be exculpated with appeals to the British Museum’s record, and even if you could, the British Museum has never been a responsible custodian–it has neither protected nor conserved Elgin’s spoils9. In the 20th century, the Marbles were ‘whitened’ with scouring agents and copper rods in what came to be known as the ‘Duveen cleaning scandal’. During the whitening, original surfaces were cut away, hammered at, and scraped off. The harm was deemed so egregious that an internal inquiry found the damage was “obvious and cannot be exaggerated”10. The notion that the British Museum at any point in time generated an entitlement to the Marbles is baseless on both moral and factual grounds.        Evidently, the British Museum has profited from illegal taking. Museums fatuously described as ‘encyclopaedic’ are conglomerations of mass larceny rebranded as temples of edification; that was not their design, it is merely post hoc rationalisation. The Marbles and the Parthenon have no equivalent–historically, culturally, or architecturally–meaning reunification will not bring about a slippery slope. Legislative fatalism is another red herring. Amending British Museum policy is as achievable as the UK government is willing. And finally–and most obviously–stealing is wrong, no matter how conscientious you might be.        Not one of the aforementioned arguments are compelling enough to override Greece’s enduring right to its culture. A fortiori, Greece’s claim to its cultural heritage is legitimate and incontestable. There is no case for keeping the Marbles in London and every reason to return them to Greece. Here at Aôthen, we enjoin the UK government to give back what was never theirs.— Mortal! — — 't was thus she spake — — that blush of shame
Proclaims thee Briton, once a noble name;
First of the mighty, foremost of the free,
Now honour'd less by all, and least by me:
Chief of thy foes shall Pallas still be found.
Seek'st thou the cause of loathing? — look around.
Lo! here, despite of war and wasting fire,
I saw successive tyrannies expire;
'Scaped from the ravage of the Turk and Goth,
Thy country sends a spoiler worse than both.
- The Curse of Minerva, Lord Byron on the Parthenon and British depredations.11

1 Jure naturae aequum est neminem cum alterius detrimentum et injuria fieri locupletiorem.2 Jack G. Handler and James Arthur Ballentine, Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, 1994, http://ci.nii.ac.jp/ncid/BA22885743.3 “The Parthenon Sculptures,” The British Museum, n.d., https://www.britishmuseum.org/about-us/british-museum-story/contested-objects-collection/parthenon-sculptures.4 Professor Vassilis Demetriades, “Was The Removal Illegal?,” n.d., http://www.parthenon.newmentor.net/illegal.htm; “Profs. Zeynep Aygen & Orhan Sakin | Ottoman Archives for the Acropolis,” The Acropolis Museum, February 19, 2019, https://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en/multimedia/profs-zeynep-aygen-orhan-sakin-ottoman-archives-acropolis.5 Geoffrey Robertson, Who Owns History? (Random House Australia, 2020).6 Christopher Hitchens, Robert Browning, and Graham Binns, The Elgin Marbles: Should They be Returned to Greece? (Verso, 1997); Christopher Hitchens, Imperial Spoils: The Curious Case of the Elgin Marbles (Hill & Wang, 1988).7 OxfordUnion, “We Should NOT Repatriate Artefacts | Dr James Cuno | 4 of 6,” January 10, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmY6tkTBaks.8 Aletha Adu, “Sunak Says Retaining Parthenon Marbles Is Matter of Law as He Denies ‘Hissy Fit,’” The Guardian, December 1, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2023/dec/01/sunak-parthenon-marbles-matter-of-law-denies-hissy-fit.9 William St Clair, “The Elgin Marbles: Questions of Stewardship and Accountability,” International Journal of Cultural Property 8, no. 2 (January 1, 1999): 391–521,
10 Neils, Jenifer. “Cleaning and Controversy: The Parthenon Sculptures 1811-1939. By Ian Jenkins.” American Journal of Archaeology 107, no. 3 (July 1, 2003): 507–9. https://doi.org/10.1086/ajs40025412.11Lord Byron, The Curse of Minerva, 4th ed. (Galignani, 1820).

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Aôthen Magazine (named after the Doric Greek term for the earliest dawn) is a magazine that is dedicated to all kinds of classics-inspired content; artworks, poetry, essays, reviews, photography, and more as a celebration of both archaeology and history.Aôthen aims to create an enviroment for others to cultivate their interest in classics, as well as to make classics accessible and enjoyable to all.

about the editor-in-chief

Aôthen Magazine is run by Samantha Ng, a UCL Classical Archaeology and Classical Civilization student. Her experience as a WOC student struggling to engage in classics fuelled her desire to start Aôthen in hopes of creating an environment where classical studies are accessible to those without formal classics education. Samantha has been published twice in Ethos Magazine (HK). She has worked as an editor at Coexist Lit and Incognito Press and is currently an outreach intern for the Saving Ancient Studies Alliance. Apart from writing, she enjoys graphic design, listening to music, and walking through parks.

about the team

Kaitlin Smith favors classical mythology and literature, namely specializing in romantic tragedies. She studied creative writing at university and currently works in a bookstore. Her poetry has been featured in Allegory Ridge, Hecate Magazine, and more. She was previously the managing editor of Wrongdoing Magazine and is currently a fiction reader for Reservoir Road. Aside from classics, she also adores writing, photography, and the violin. Connect with her on Twitter and on Instagram @kaitlin_writes.

Dominic Wexler studied history, ancient history, and philosophy for his bachelor’s degree and is currently undertaking a graduate degree in law. He is also an aspiring essayist whose work has been published in the L’Esprit Literary Review and hopes to be published again. His interests are broad, from literature to politics. Despite a busy schedule, reading and writing about the classics has remained a fixture in Dominic’s life. You can find him on Twitter @djwexler.

Abby Masucol (she/her) hails from the Chicago suburbs. She recently graduated college and is pursuing publishing, amongst various interests and passion projects in digital media. Abby also writes poems and short fiction in her free time. When she's not writing, she works as a part-time (glorified) librarian, collects prints, and reads fantasy series. Find her on Twitter & Instagram @abbytama_.

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Please only send pieces related to ancient Egypt, Greece, and RomeAll contributors will receive a 10 USD honorarium (Paypal only), and a high-resolution PDF of the magazine. All work will be published in print and on this website.Not wanting to wait out the usual 3 week response time? We now offer 48 hour expedited responses via our Ko-fi for 3USD. Get a pass here. (Regular submissions will always be free!)Previous contributors should kindly wait one reading period before submitting again in order to increase the diversity of pieces published.Submissions should be sent through the form at the bottom of the page. Emailed submissions will go unread.

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An interview by Aôthen discussing what we look for in submissions


issue one


Steph Harris
Brian Sheffield
Prosper Ifeanyi
Irina Novikova
Helen Jenks
Amanda Williams
Ginger Hanchey
Jonathan Rentler
Enna Horn
Megan Hamilton
Ame McLachan
Clem Flowers
Kaitlin Smith
Michelle Rochniak
Josephine Weaver
Courtney Felle

issue two


K.B. Rich
Tom Farr
Andy Vandoren
Livia Meneghin
Niamh Mcnally
Noll Griffin
Natalie Vestin
Megan Jones
Abi Deniz
Hana Kim
Hilary Tam
Paulin Lim
Louise Mather
Khushi Jain
Irteqa Khan

issue three


Michelle Janowiecki
April Yu
s. g. mallett
Tamiko Dooley
Muhammed Olowonjoyin
Italo Ferrante
J.W. Wood
Rebecca Ferrier
Justin Cruzana
rebecca herrera alegria
Anthony O'Donovan
Nupur Shah
Alev Adil
L.M. Cole
Poppy Waterman
K.T. Clark

issue four


Bob King
Ella Bachrach
Ellen Zhang
Lauren Michelle Finkle
Mary Kuna
Elizabeth Sharpe
Inez Santiago
Paxton Grey
Rin Yang
Stephanie Holden
Amy Oates

issue five


Adesiyan Oluwapelumi
Lux Alexander
Elaine Server
Ciaran O'Rourke
Kathryn McGrane
nat raum
Laura Nuckols
Emily O Liu
Edith Friedman
Emily Mather
TJ Bradshaw
Lilirose Luo
Bex Hainsworth
Serena Piccoli

issue six


Sophia Lang
Sadee Bee
Thomas Farr
Emily Hay
Emma Neale
Paul Hostovsky
C. C. Rayne
Sam Crain
Pritikana Karmakar
D.A. Nicholls
Sultana Raza

issue 1 - spring '22

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issue 2 - summer '22

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issue 3 - autumn '22

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issue 4 - spring '23

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issue 5 - summer '23

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issue 6 - winter '23/24

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interview with melanie faith

beating writer's block, getting published, and more

Samantha Ng, EIC
Melanie Faith, MFA, Author

Thank you for joining me for an interview today, Melanie! I see that one of your books is titled From Promising to Published, so my first question for you is: What advice do you have for people who are looking to get their work published?

No matter what setbacks arise, keep at it. By this I mean: work on multiple projects and set a recurrent goal with a date attached (such as submitting monthly on the first or last day of the month).
Also, know that getting an acceptance letter is rarely a “one and done” process. Most of the published writers I know submit their work numerous times (ten, twenty, forty, fifty or more) times until it finds the perfect-fit agents, editors, or publishers that publish their work. Many, many writers give up after submitting work just two or three times. If you believe in the work, keep submitting it. Perseverance goes a long way towards publication, as does writing and sending works to editors on a regular basis. The more you write consistently, the more you submit consistently, and the more you believe in your work consistently while learning craft through reading books and taking classes or workshopping or getting suggestions from a beta reader, the better chances you have at publication. You can do it!

That’s some good advice! But when you have to write consistently, how do you work around creative/writer’s block?

Great question! I work on multiple projects at once. I alternate between poetry and prose as well as one-off/individual pieces and book-length work. Whenever I’m at a standstill or whenever a draft needs some breathing room before a new draft, I create individual pieces on unrelated subjects or in a different genre to give the muse room. So far in 2022, I’ve been working on two poetry books with very different historical settings, a third draft of my contemporary novel, the first few essays that might become a nonfiction book sometime in the future, and numerous individual micro flash fictions with food themes.
An advantage of working on different projects is that, when I return to a resting project after a few days or weeks, I can see the draft with fresh eyes, noting what is actually in the draft compared to what I thought I’d put in there. I have to say also that teaching and taking creative writing classes as well as having writing friends and beta readers who encourage and champion projects are ways that I’ve worked around creative/writer’s block and which I’d recommend to other writers as well.

What inspires you to write books for writers?

When I first started out as an unpublished author, there weren’t a lot of resources online or offline about how to become a creative writer or how to reach a target audience after publishing. I love sharing what I’ve learned about developing my writing, editing, publishing, and marketing skills with other creative writers who may not yet know of all of the exciting possibilities for their writing and publishing careers. As a longtime teacher, I’ve learned so much about the struggles and joys that writers in all stages of the writing life experience and then persevere to make their dreams come true. My favorite days are when I receive emails from readers, students, editing clients, and friends who have gone on to get acceptance letters for their work. Also, writing books to spark creativity and writing fulfillment has always been a dream of mine. Writing about the writing process enhances and inspires my own creative path. Each craft book I write reminds me both of what I’ve learned in my writing practice and also makes me curious about what I want to explore and/or learn next. All of these ingredients go into the recipe for making my craft books for writers. Text

What brought you to explore the relationship between photography and writing?

I’ve always loved cameras and photography. Not only does photography document life but also it has amazing storytelling possibilities. I’ve been taking photos since I got a robin’s egg blue Kodak 110 camera from my parents for Christmas in high school.
After grad school (MFA in Creative Writing, Concentration in Poetry), I started to learn digital camera techniques and placed several of my photographs with literary magazines. When I created an online photography class a few years ago that specifically focuses on photographic imagery from a writer’s POV and how the two artistic disciplines can enhance each other, I searched for a class text that explored both arts in reference to each other. I found many wonderful books about photography and many other stellar books about writing, but there weren’t any books about photography from a writer’s very unique set of skills and talents like I wanted to combine them. I saw an opportunity to write my own book about the topic and to fill a gap in the market. I had a lot of fun compiling the book, dreaming up prompts, personal essays, and tips to make practicing both arts an even more meaningful, inspired process.

Your work definitely seems to encompass a lot of depth! What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

I aim for my readers to reconnect with the joy of writing and/or creating art as they read my books. I want to remind them of why it’s hopeful, challenging, and fulfilling to be a writer. I hope that my books give writers new suggestions that fire them up to continue to fill pages with prose and/or poetry. I fill my books with practical tips that writers can apply to real-world drafting, editing, and submitting goals, so I also aspire for the books to cheer on readers and encourage them that, despite the rejections slips that we all get (I’ve gotten over 900 over them over the years!), there is endless possibility and quite often great camaraderie in the writing life. Also, I want my books to communicate that readers have the talent and the knowledge they need to keep writing and to meet their writing and publishing goals.


aôthen artifact project

The Aôthen Artifact Project is a drive to raise awareness about artefacts with disputed ownership, especially those that have been placed in museum collections as a consequence of colonialism. The project has two aims; to raise money for various BIPOC archaeological funds and to encourage critical thought about museum ethics. Helping this project is very simple and comes at a benefit to you. Aôthen will be selling bags, prints, pins, clothes, and more with the below designs on Redbubble. By purchasing a product, you are funding donations for charity and signalling support for the cause.The specific charities are the Society of Black Archaeologists, the Native American Relief Fund, and the Ancient India & Iran Trust. 100% of profits will be split equally between the charities.Protect heritage, think critically, and decolonize archaeology.

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interview with ari lohr

Exploring their debut full-length collection, "Gravity", being queer, and the experience of writing

Samantha Ng (EIC)
Ari Lohr

Do you think that writing Gravity changed the way you view your experiences and queer existence? In what way?Gravity is, as you’d expect, at its core a way for me to cope with and explain the trauma which I experienced as a queer adolescent. If anything, writing this book simply reinforced many of the notions I’ve had about the queer community; namely, that our contemporary access to other queer individuals — particularly on apps such as grindr — has in many ways merely compounded the trauma that queers of past generations struggled with. Growing up in a progressive area, my queerness took on a cosmopolitan, yet undeniably melodramatic quality, with the oppression levied against previous generations becoming increasingly subtle, and increasingly integrated with the very social institutions which the queer community originally created to shelter itself from a violent and oppressive civilization. All of this is to say that the permeation of queerness into more mainstream cultures, and the broadening inclusivity and inter-connection within queer circles, has found its benefits to be coupled with a profound cost: many queer adolescents, particularly young gay men such as myself, feel extremely isolated, a sensation which appears to be different from yet remarkably similar to the overwhelming sense of danger that previous queer generations faced. From the ages of 16 through 18, I met, hooked up with, pined after, and was abandoned by a dozen young gay men, many of whom were experiencing a similar sense of isolation as myself, and yet nonetheless opted to go on grindr in a desperate, self-effacing bid to feel less alone — even as queerness, and its many dimensions, became more and more represented in popular culture.

Many poems in your collection have quite abstract structures, is there a reason for this, or something you hope the reader takes away from the abstraction?
I feel as if a lot of my writing takes place via association. In Gravity, I spend a lot of time trying to make sense of scattered memories and emotions, and hence a lot of the poems can feel quite jarring to read. The structure of the book itself reflects this as well, as one poem might be about an anti-queer hate crime and another might be about something comparatively mundane, such as my teeth. In hindsight, Gravity feels like a conglomeration of all the angst and anxiety I felt as a teen, boxed in yet bursting at the seams, a quiet paroxysm. For readers, I imagine that the vivid-ness of Gravity can be quite uncomfortable, if not for the experiences of which I write, then simply because the mere act of reading a book this raw is an incredibly voyeuristic act. If anything, I think I want the structure and form of the poems to reflect all this, as if the reader were peering directly into my thoughts, poetic and rich or whatever but also very rough around the edges, almost lacking.

Which poem (or line) was the most emotional for you to write? Why?
I don’t know. I honestly don’t really feel emotions as I write. Despite the language of this collection, I’m so detached from these experiences now that I can only remember them with the benefit of hindsight (or simply when I’m not focused on producing ‘book-quality’ work). “Getting High in Your Car” is one of the most recent poems I’ve written, and it almost wasn’t included in the book because of this. Although it takes place near the beginning of the book, it was originally written in reference to my current relationship, which I am so grateful to say is both healthy and fulfilling, at last, at last. So I guess I would say that this poem was the most emotional for me to write — because it’s one of the only poems in this collection that truly comes from a place of hope and healing (despite the narrative it takes on in this collection). As for a particular line? “This / is death / before death.” from the aforementioned poem, simply for the sake of the spiritual quality which it takes on. The line is a spin on the phrase ‘Die before you die’, which has become a beacon for how I want to live my ‘life’.

Which poem (or line) is your favorite? Why?
I hate this question! Thank you! As if I did not have enough reasons to be pretentious, I must jerk myself off further by directly referencing my favorite line and / or poem in my own book. In all seriousness, “Gravity”, the poem from which this book derives its name, is probably my favorite piece in this collection. Although many of this book’s poems (particularly “Essay On Leaving”) touch on similar subjects with much more sophisticated language, “Gravity” was the first poem that I wrote for this collection that truly stuck; it was the inspiration, and catalyst, behind 100 more pages of work, and for that I’m infinitely thankful. (It’s also lovely to perform on stage, which my friends in the slam poetry community are quite well aware of).

As someone who has just published a collection of poems that focuses partially on the queer experience, what advice can you give to other younger queer writers?
I spent a considerable amount of time limiting myself regarding the narratives and experiences that I felt I was ‘allowed’ to draw from for my art. I felt guilty writing about events such as pulse, or the suicide of a romantic partner, or other narratives with which I lack the tangible, direct experience that those who do not understand poetic license believe are ‘necessary’ to have in order to make art about these subject matters. But writing Gravity, as well as simply growing older, have both taught me that experiences and emotions overlap; rather than boxing particular experiences and emotions into ‘categories’ of availability, the emotions an individual experiences from, say, a particularly traumatic breakup, often parallel and even correspond with the profound sense of grief that another experiences from the death of their partner. As someone with borderline personality disorder, romantic abandonment feels like death — death of another, death of identity, death of self — and so I write about death as a way of expressing the true gravity (no pun intended) of what this feels like in my own subjective mind. Similarly, anti-queer hate crimes reverberate throughout the entire community, including to those among us who thankfully do not maintain any specific memories of anti-queer oppression levied against themselves. I would suggest that young queer writers — and, in a sense, all writers — experiment with the subjects and narratives that they write about, and try to limit the guilt that they might feel for doing so. You’d be surprised with what you can learn, both about others and about yourself, in writing about that which you don’t directly ‘understand’.

Is there anything you would've liked to know before starting this collection?
That I would visit my childhood home for Christmas 2022, long after having submitted my final manuscript for this book, and feel nothing except that I had left it, and I would leave it again.

*(any pronouns, get creative with it) *
is a queer poet and English Education major at Boston University. Xe is a Brave New Voices semifinalist, Slamlandia finalist, Portland Poetry Slam champion, and a 2021 Best of the Net nominee. Focusing on the mystical intersections between power, sexuality, and identity, Ari’s poetry appears in the Northern Otter Press, Opia Lit, and more. They are the author of EJAY., a confessional love letter / poetry chapbook, and Gravity, their debut full-length with Gutslut Press. They are also the managing editor of the Bitter Fruit Review and the editor-in-chief of the Jupiter Review. Xe believes truth is malleable, professionalism is violence, and arrogance is sexy. Ari can be found at arilohr.com, or @arilohr on twitter and instagram.