aer•ie (âr’ē) noun
1. The nest of a bird, such
as an eagle, built on a cliff
or other high place.
2. A collection of literature
and visual art, published
by student editors
of Big Sky High School.
3. A home for young writers
and artists of Big Sky High School.
Dear Supporters of the Creative Arts,
Aerie Big Sky is a student staffed and edited literary magazine. We accept original poetry, prose, photography and illustrations from Big Sky High School students exclusively.
The program began in 1980, as an after school club. The first editions featured every submitted piece, stapled between two sheets of cardstock. Since then, Aerie Big Sky has transformed from the club that it once was to a class whose students spend several hours looking through submissions, designing the magazine using InDesign, and editing the final product before it is finally shipped off to our friends at Alpha Graphics in Missoula to be published. It has received high honors from the National Council of Teachers of English’s Program to Recognize Excellence in Student Literary Magazines for ten years.
If you are currently a student at Big Sky High School and are interested in being published in our school’s literary magazine please submit your poetry, prose, and photography to our email: email@example.com.
If you have any artwork you are interested in submitting to Aerie Big Sky please bring finished pieces down to room 44 where we will photograph or scan them and return them to you!
With flames still shooting from the top of Lolo peak and our windshields covered in ash each morning as we headed into September, I wish I could say I didn’t anticipate the tension and challenges a year like this could bring, and I’m not talking about fire season. I wish I could tell you the story of this powerful and rewarding school year and leave out the safety plan and the afternoon we edited our ten-minute plays in silence on the floor behind my desk during a “soft lockdown.” Sometimes when we are busy revising these brave and unflinching poems I stay up much too late thinking. Read this magazine in its entirety and you’ll understand: I’m finishing my fifth year teaching and I’m still not sure the best way to encourage vulnerable teenagers to push back against what feels wrong, to speak their truths, to stick with their convictions regardless of what is easy or popular. I mean, how many adults have this figured out? But I’ve watched teenagers in my classroom disagree without yelling over each other or posting passive aggressive personal attacks on the internet. It’s easy to point at teens when society starts to fray but much harder to question the selection of role models our culture currently provides. This is why I spend so much time in the library finding new authors for them to study and this is why I lose sleep some nights wondering if empathy can be taught.
One sleepless night, I watched a documentary—stop motion photography of the ocean set to quiet music. I watched the sun rise and set as clouds rolled over the water and birds lifted in unison from high cliffs. Isn’t it soothing to remember how the world keeps turning even in the most unsteady circumstances? That’s why, if it were possible, I would show you our school year from start to finish in a sped-up time lapse documentary film—because we packed so much into it you might miss something important if you blinked. Students bloom in the same slow magic way flowers open or clouds move.
You’d know this if you caught the split second fragments of Courtney helping North work on the first chapter of his novel. In this imaginary stop motion movie of our school year, you wouldn’t be able to count how many creative writing students spent the month of November typing in silent concentration to reach word count goals of up to 50,000 in one month in effort to write entire novels. Hopefully you would only see them dancing in the hallway for a split second (which would not be long enough to ask why) which would save us from having to explain “baltering club.”
In the stop-motion version of months of growth you’d see thick black smoke finally clear and then winter appear as a thin skiff of frost above the treeline around the time you attended our winter reading and noticed Gracie and Kateri selling merchandise like Emmarie’s homemade patches and Hunter’s wooden coasters and Sierra’s hand drawn cards. You probably heard Luna sing “Hallelujah” in the dim lights while we delayed our starting time due to blizzard and black ice and by the time Lane read his nonfiction story, “Stains” you understood. There are so many ways to bring a room to silence.
You might miss the way Bre’s hands shook when she read at the citywide slam because her voice carried confidence and grace but if you paid close attention you’d see bravery is a muscle in Aerie, because Aliyah emceed her first slam and Jeorganne conquered a tough subject in front of a big crowd and no one tried to quit.
Maybe in the sped up version of our months together you wouldn’t catch the time Jaden read us his original play with animated voices and everyone laughed until they cried. You could miss the way Sean’s voice wrapped around the classroom and pulled us all closer together when he read the draft of his slam poem in Blackfeet, but I bet you’d see us standing together as a class dressed in matching black at the all-school assembly when we added our voices to the poems Sean and Savannah wrote to demonstrate solidarity. We stood behind Mariah and Gabby, who also performed original work in front of the entire student body.
Don’t blink. Here’s Jo’s sweet smile and Makenna’s budding confidence and Kayla’s courage. Here’s Jocelyn’s laughter sending everyone into hysterics and here’s Olivia hidden under a suffocating hug after she read the poem that inspired too many octopus metaphors. Here’s Meaghan’s handwriting guiding drafts of poems written by her classmates and here’s Uriah’s head bent in silent concentration over a fifth draft. Here’s EmilyAnne sneaking in with springtime trying to go unnoticed, but the whole class knew she was golden. Poems are good for that.
By the time springtime arrived in a swell of floodwater snowmelt flowing over the banks of the Clark Fork and filling backyards we all started feeling completely jammed and out of paper, as our printer explains best. In some places the rising water pulled entire mobile homes into the current, so we started filling sandbags.
We are all still learning to navigate what it means to stay curious and open-hearted in an environment marked by the potential to destroy the things we love.
Thank you for supporting this endeavor. Arts education is of vital importance because at its core it encourages students to construct truth based on multiple perspectives— the kind of truth rooted in context and open to inquiry. This kind of exploration allows students to build connections and find courage and that is why Aerie Big Sky will always be a vital organ at this school. No matter what changes around us, the world will always need artists and writers.