Top 9 of 2022

There’s a Top Nine app that’s supposed to recap your Top Nine Instagram posts at the end of a year. Try and try again, it seems to gather not my top viewed posts, but the most recent nine photos. Maybe I’ve downloaded the wrong app, or perhaps I’ve misunderstood its intent. At any rate, I thought I’d recap my Top Nine writing moments of the year. And not use an app to do so, follow head and heart, instead. These are listed in no particular order.

  1. It’s nearing the end of 2022 and I’m on Winter Break. I’ve spent the morning reading the newest SheilaNaGig Winter 22, Vol. 7.2 and am overjoyed to have a couple of poems included in this issue. I’m humbled to have my work included among the work and pages of such poets as George Franklin, John Palen, Marc Swan, Jeff Burt, Laura Ann Reed, SE Waters, Dick Westheimer, and more. Thank you to editors Hayley Mitchell Haugen and Barbara Sabol for leaving the lights on and offering writers such an amazing space to publish. I am quite sure the candle burned at both ends to send this out to the world on Christmas Eve and the reading is just the gift it was intended to be. If you like poetry with stars, this is the perfect issue to read. Dick Westheimer’s chapbook, A Sword in Both Hands: Poems Responding to Russia’s War on Ukraine is soon to be published by SheilaNaGig Editions, so of course I’ve pre-ordered a copy. Note that both editors have newly published collections this fall, Mitchell Haugen’s The Blue Wife Poems (Kelsay Books, 2022) and Sabol’s Connections (Bird Dog Publishing, 2022 and in collaboration with Larry Smith).
  1. Blue Canoe Writers continues to be my weekly go-to for writing inspiration and share. This Southeast Alaskan writing group has been together for nearly 10 years now and has met and morphed in various settings from one house to another. Since Covid, we continue to meet via Zoom with members calling in from both Sitka and Wrangell, Alaska. I’m so very thankful for this group of friends.
  2. My stint as 2022 Tidal Echoes Featured Writer/Poet was an amazing experience! I was thrilled to present and read for this literary journal’s April launch. Emily Wall and student editors Emily Bowman and Shaelene Moler compiled quite an array of both writing and artwork. Tidal Echoes offers such a slice of Southeast Alaska pie with all the berries, warmed up, a la mode. I’m longtime grateful for this journal and its spring launch. Its annual arrival in my mailbox hints of summer days ahead and more writings to gather.
  3. Because it is winter break, I’m enjoying a new stack of poets and their books. To the immediate right of my living room thinking chair is a steaming mug of Cinnamon Plum tea and the following December reads: Musical Tables (Billy Collins), Obituary of Light: The Sangan River Meditations, Origami Dove, Expultatory Lilies (Susan Musgrave), Wind, Trees (John Freeman), Calling from the Scaffold (Gary Gildner), Sharks in the Rivers (Ada Limón), The Oysters I Bring to Banquets (Gary Geddes), Midwinter Day, Milkweed Smithereens (Bernadette Mayer), along with the outlier prose, Our Missing Hearts by Celeste NG. I am ever thankful to those who post their reading recommendations on the socials as I pay close attention – thank you, Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Vivian Faith Prescott, and Dave Bonta.
  4. While on the topic of Dave Bonta, I’m incredibly thankful not only for his weekly Poetry Digest which has introduced me to the thoughts of poets near and far, but my days typically begin with a subscription email that offers a reflection of his for the day, usually rooted in an observation of the natural world. And with the time difference between where he writes and Alaska, I usually read this in the dark hours of my morning, as I scramble to ready for work, or take the more leisurely weekend approach to the day. Both digest and reflection remind me to align more closely to daily writing, something I used to do. Something I was good at doing. Something I’m moving closer to again.
  5. Enough songs cannot be sung to honor the thriving spirit of the Independent Bookstore. I capitalize this to represent all indie bookstores and their efforts to keep the doors open in days of e-books and mass Amazon ordering. Sitka is quite lucky to have Old Harbor Books. This fall, I ordered with Parnassus Books in Ketchikan. I’d hoped they could deliver on some titles published by Canadian poets and was delighted that they could. Do check them out on their Facebook page.
  6. The year isn’t quite over, but I thank the following journals for offering my work a home among their pages: Trailer Park Quarterly, The Bluebird Word, Tidal Echoes, Young Ravens Literary Review, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Plum Tree Tavern, Cervena Barva Press, Gnashing Teeth Publishing, Musing Publications Magazine, Red Alder Review, Wingless Dreamer, and White Stag Publishing. Over the moon!
  7. It was quite special to have my poem, “Prayer for the Wilderness” publish in the anthology, Worth More Standing (Caitlin Press, 2022). Edited by Christine Lowther, this anthology is a collection of work that pays homage to trees, to standing forests. I was thrilled to publish among pages with poets Emily Wall, Elizabeth Bradfield, and Susan Musgrave.
  8. In Writing Down the Bones, poet Natalie Goldberg shares that the best writing journals dwell in the form of the inexpensive notebook. Grocery stores are notorious for supplying these in July and August as summer transforms into not quite another season, but another school year. I’m so guilty of purchasing the blank book beauties, those sneakily stocked as impulse items in the bookstores I frequent. Leather-bound, gold-edged, soft-papered Queens awaiting their Reign of Words. Only these Queens tend to stack up on my bookshelf and gather dust, much too pretty for my chicken scratch handwriting. Until October. In October, I stumbled upon and reunited with the old Composition Books of long ago, only these sport glitter covers! I was immediately smitten! Goldberg was right about these $2 specials. They don’t care about my handwriting. And I love the feel of yesterday’s ink pressing itself into the next day’s blank page. Win-win!

So this is my Top Nine of 2022. May the New Year provide us all the spark and kindle of new writing and creative thought. Happy 2023!

Plum Tree Tavern Autumn Moon Festival 2022

Plum Tree Tavern’s Innkeeper Russell Streur emailed not long ago to share publication news of Autumn Moon Festival 2022. As stated in his notice:

81 writers and artists are represented in the edition.  Many thanks to each for the contributions.

The issue is built around several sections or chapters.  An individual’s work may be posted in one or more sections of the issue.  The editor naturally hopes that everyone reads the complete issue.  But to quickly locate in which section(s) your work is placed, click on your name in the Contributors category in the right hand column of the issue.  The sections in which your work appears will generate on the left hand side of the page.  

In addition to the individual contributions, links within the issue will lead to anthologies of Japanese poetry in the public domain, woodblock prints,  and other material related to the issue.  The Welcome statement of the edition describes the contents and organization in detail.

Some minor editing was performed to make the presentation of haiku consistent. Generally, to accord with standard practices and with limited exceptions: titles were eliminated, lines were left justified, capitalization of the first letter of lines were replaced in lower case with the exception of proper nouns, ending periods were eliminated.

I’ve always enjoyed the economy of haiku, that gathering of energy to be present in the very short moment. In fact, in this very moment, the late November sun is beginning its descent into the Pacific Ocean, a fine view from an unorganized desk. Plum Tree Tavern is always a joy to read and I’m thrilled to have work appear in this issue.

Magic Lost & Found: Young Ravens Literary Review

I’m delving deep into the collection of summer emails this week, maybe in an effort to get organized, maybe still pining for more carefree days. I came upon the notification that Young Ravens Literary Review had published not only a poem about my dad, “Not Harry Houdini,” but a photo I’d taken out at Starrigavin of a raven. I’m thrilled that both have a home in these pages. Editors Sara Page and Elizabeth Pinborough assemble a fine collection of work, so do check it out. They are currently gathering work through December 13th that explores and celebrates womanhood.

Young Ravens Literary Review, Magic Lost & Found

Gary Glauber’s Collection of Poems, Inside Outrage

In the last breath of September, it was my pleasure to attend and celebrate Gary Glauber’s new collection of poems, Inside Outrage (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2022).  He read beautifully via Zoom.  His selected poems touched upon an array of topics:  Love, Mr. Rogers, teaching, poetry, civil justice at Starbucks.  It was the perfect antidote to the drumming of the atmospheric river and wind pummeling the windows outside, allowing me to disappear inside, into words for an hour that passed too quickly this afternoon.

With a shelved and bespectacled Homer Simpson over one shoulder and a guitar over the other, Glauber began his reading with his poem, “Blocked,” one he explains celebrates a lifetime of poetry.  The poet reminds readers, “Let us celebrate the infinity / of our limited mortality…” It is also one that considers time and the travel of, the “…inestimable unknowable” that is “much like a poem.”

A teacher, just one of his many career hats, some of his poems explore education, from setting to art.  “Learning to Read” and “Have You Graded the Essays, Yet?” are both essential explorations of educational experience from knowing both sides of the desk.  The latter, especially, is relatable, right down to the red pen and the questions even my own high school students ask, “Why don’t we read / anything with a happy ending?” and “Do we need an introduction / and a conclusion?”  Here, too, the speaker contemplates student immunity to the very changes his red pen marks, the indication of editing ahead, and proceeds to muse that for students, “Writing / is a lost art, along with reading.”  We can all hope not.

There are so many reminders in his poetry of what is to be human and the lessons we’re all bound to learn one way or another. Glauber’s collection is one to savor, and add to the keeper shelf for future returns.

Cover art by Loree Harrel, Digging a Hole in Tomorrowland

Not Much Love for August

Poet Sonia Greenfield shared on her Facebook page an essay written by Haley Mlotek, “Against August” (The Paris Review) and I think it’s pretty damn wonderful. Yes, August is well-planted within summer months, but it doesn’t carry the late-spring anticipation of May, the giddy affection of June, or the full-blown buzz and hum of July. In fact, my reply to Sonia’s thread consisted of this: August is to muck around in the mire of all least favorite things: summer’s end, teacher in-service, and rain, rain, and rain, at least here. I am especially keen on her borrow of a few lines by poet Marge Piercy to make her point about August. In her poem “Blue Tuesday in August,” Piercy writes,

The world smelled like a mattress you find
on the street and leave there,
or like a humid house reciting yesterday’s
dinner menu and the day before’s.

Perfect!

But what I do appreciate about August is that it’s close enough to my own rambling off island, to road tripping, exploring, savoring, enjoying … other. And I’ll leave it at that.

I was never into listening to traveler Rick Steves prior to Covid years (local public radio KCAW 104.7 Saturday 2:00 slot), but the silly show caught my ear at times, so much so that nights I couldn’t sleep I’d Google the Hebrides and plan out a future adventure there when the world was open again.

Today’s show is no exception. In Program 579a: Kerouac’s Firewatch; Erosion; USA National Parks, Steves speaks to author Dan Richards about his book, Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth. They speak at length about Jack Kerouac’s two-month stint as a fire lookout in Washington’s North Cascades. He also interviews Terry Tempest Williams, and speaks to another guest about park visits.

Anyway, today’s return has me thinking about all those nights I couldn’t sleep. And I count myself lucky to be throwing another book in the Amazon cart and *not* booking tickets to the Hebrides. Not this day, anyway. One is clearly a cheaper option than the other. But I am clearly thinking already about the wait and anticipation for yet another summer and where its roads might take me. Plenty of time to figure out, and maybe that’s the greatest gift of August.

Vancouver, BC
Heading east to Haines Junction, YT



The Great Scattering:  Reading John Palen’s Riding With the Diaspora

My favorite line in John Palen’s new chapbook is unpacked in the final poem, “Riding With the Diaspora,” which is the shared title of his book.  He writes, “At 6:00 on a winter evening / we’re all diaspora, all a little homesick.”  Even in the thick of summer, in the wander-about in full sun and high temperatures, this line takes me straight into the heart of winter, into that collective confusion from where is it we actually hail.  Never an easy answer, really, as Palen’s poems sing.  The entire collection is one of crossings; of time, of family. I half-wondered in the start of my reading if his collection would read similarly to that of a memoir.  Perhaps there are elements of that included, but Palen’s collection exceeds this.  His poems consider the displacement of the Indigenous, the Migrant, the Enslaved, the Refugee.  They venture along the borders of the aged, the destitute, the ailing in poems that are poignant in both their pain and beauty.  This vibrant collection challenges readers to consider their own “Where We’re From.”  Chances are the reflection will not yield an easy answer, but the reading will be savored.

Tidal Echoes 2022

Featured Artist Jill Kaasteen Meserve’s work featured on the cover.

For those unfamiliar with Tidal Echoes, it is the literary journal of the University of Alaska Southeast. Professor and poet Emily Wall oversees its publication each year through Jr./Sr.-level editors coming up through the ranks of their own creative writing pursuits. It’s such a delight to publish in this journal because each is so unique and different from the last. I think I’ve published in about a dozen issues over the years. Each year feels a bit like this happy reunion of page of writers and artists of the region, many with whom I’m familiar, or simply know through friendship and writing. Many I’ve encountered through my volunteer editing work at Alaska Women Speak. Some have been my own creative writing students at Sitka High School trying on their own publishing wings.

Last fall I was asked by the editorial staff of Tidal Echoes if I would like to serve as their 2022 Featured Writer. What an honor! And certainly an opportunity I could not refuse. I worked most directly with Shaelene Grace for shoring up an interview in the fall, submitting poems in the winter, and prepping for my presentation the night of the April 1 launch.

I have to admit that I love all the written aspects of writing poetry, of publishing work, but I still fret at the idea of organized readings, even after all the opportunities I’ve had to do so. The idea of talking for 15 minutes still makes me balk initially until I resettle into the reality than time flies when I’m reading, really reading, my poetry. And usually, before I know it, I’ve cleared 15 and am headed into 20. The thing of it is though is overcoming that block, “Oh, I can’t do that,” and instead jump in. When it comes down to it, I’ve never had a negative experience in a reading, in fact it becomes one of those moments in which I’m truly present. There’s great beauty in that, but also in the look-around the room and seeing who is there to hear you read because they want to be there, be it friends, writing group, fellow writers, college roommate, parents, teachers past and recent, even someone you’re sweet on. There’s a sweetness to it all that can’t be replicated under other circumstances.

So I organized my presentation into Haiku Deck. It is titled “And then you follow that spark,” but if you put together each of the slide headers, you end up with a bit of a rough poem in even that:

And then you follow that spark
break out the technology
allow your poems space
be surprised by where you can revise
say yes to all the readings

tidal echoes 2022 Alaska writers

I closed with reading “Songbird, I Offer You Refuge,” “When Even the Astrologer Says You’re Fucked,” “Troubadour,” “Like a Sniff of Pepper,” and “Heart as a Burning State.”

I have nothing but gratitude and admiration of Emily’s hand in all of this. Thank you to editors Emily Bowman and Shaelene Grace. And thanks also to reporter Michael Lockett for his interview and story in the Juneau Empire News: “Loss and Birds: UAS Releases Annual Literary Journal.”

As Above So Below: The Importance of Words

I’ve not paid full attention to the importance of words since the turn of the year, at least in blogging terms. In early February, I received notice from Editor Bethany Rivers that she had selected two of my older poems, “Death by Staff Meeting” and “Strong Voice” for publication in Issue 8. Thrilled to see these oldies build their nest among other related writings. And while my feelings about staff meetings really haven’t change much, I can say that strong voice is a bit like a tide experiencing everything in its path.