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.

You Gotta Get This One!

Alaska poet Keriann Gilson launched her brand, spankin-new collection of poetry today, places I never want to see again (Gnashing Teeth Publishing, 2022). It’s this beautiful road-rambling follow of a relationship’s ebbs and flows. I appreciate Keriann’s experimentation with haibun, especially its form and how it meanders down the page. She also explained today that the enjambment is a clue into the relationship. When lines flow and haiku are more elegant, the relationship is at its zenith. In contrast, the existence of short, choppy, stilted lines suggests there are problems afoot. It is a fine read, one that should land on a lot of bookshelves for a future reading once it’s been savored. Cheers to Keriann, and not only for this fine read, but also earning her MFA. Exciting news all around!

Cover design by Kaia Gleason

New Year’s Eve: Closing the Book of 2021

It’s the break of day, New Year’s Eve. I’m writing from the warm, night-morning-darkness of my living room, the only light is that of decorative twinkle and the snow glow outside. My holiday boon is scattered on the nearby table, gifts that are already page-tabbed and folded open. I’ve finished Amy Butcher’s Mother Trucker, and working through Robert Hass’s Time and Materials by day and by night, Ken Gould’s mystery, Death’s Grip, along with Kerstin Ekman’s Scandia Noir read, Under the Snow. As is the case with readers, these are 4 named titles. Waiting in the background sit short stacks of 24 additional titles, patiently awaiting their own cracks in spine. There is a new blank book awaiting rough writings in chicken scratch scrawl, bright beaded earrings, magnetic haiku and coffee poetry sets, and real coffee from a friend to accompany all of these wild ways to spend winter time.

Blue Canoe Writers has focused recent weekly meetings on the writings of Robert Bly, Adrienne Rich, Ada Limón, and now Robert Hass. I’m reminded once again of the reason behind the partnership of reading and writing and again consider the richness of my own writing when I’m actively reading. I’m thankful for this group of writer friends that meets via Zoom Tuesday night and has done so consistently since the onslaught of the pandemic, and long before then, but more in person and in homes, and even once on the tugboat Adak, and in parks. We are largely split between the communities of Sitka and Wrangell, so it makes sense that we turn to technology to keep our gatherings close.

I did not mail out near the number of submissions in 2021 that I have in previous years, a practice I need to return to in 2022 along with early morning daily writing, but the year gifted me with such a plethora of experiences and friendships and for these, I am incredibly grateful: Trips to Washington state for storytelling over gin and cards, forays into Portland for leisurely visits to Powell’s Books, and a month-long writing residency at Storyknife in Homer.

My writerly dreams are many. They are rooted in fantastical and real. They swing from wanting to park under folk singer James McMurtry’s hat for writing instruction to apprenticing with the poet Dave Bonta on Haiku and visual poetry, to once again meeting in face-to-face gatherings with Alaska writers, with all poets of all places, to talk writing. I want to settle on a title for my current work in progress, apply for far-flung summer writing residencies, and fill my burgeoning stack of blank books with words/werdz. It is the time of year that I return to Neil Gaiman’s wish, “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” I don’t know what 2022 will bring, but I can only hope for continued sweetness, creativity, and good surprise. And if you’re reading this, I extend that same wish to you. Best.

Poetry, noir, and coffee; winter’s perfect blend.

Alaska Women Speak

The fall issue of AWS landed in my mailbox today! At 25° my mailbox is usually always frozen shut, so it isn’t a grand unveil without a lighter and some lock de-icer. As a poetry editor I love seeing how work morphs from draft form in Submittable to layout to printed paper copy. The cover photo is titled Open Sky by Becky Strub. Mandy Ramsey’s art is scattered throughout the pages and writings celebrating the celestial. I do enjoy volunteering for AWS for all the good writing reasons and for supporting northern women writers throughout Alaska. If you have an interest in volunteering, drop me a line. We are in need of an organized person to keep our email sorted and our mailing list updated. And you, too, would get to work with an amazing group of volunteers who also life up this sweet, sweet journal. #alaskawomenspeak

Alaska Women Speak

Spinning Into September

It was an incredible summer. Between Storyknife and a return to Road System, Alaska to an impromptu trip down to see good friends in the Columbia River region of Washington, my Hydro Flask is full!

I returned home to find a couple poems published in two different anthologies printed by the Australian press, Pure Slush. While this isn’t the first time I’ve published with Pure Slush, my response to doing so is consistently positive. Editor Matt Potter is a delight to correspond with as he’s not only quick to respond to writers, he’s thorough. This is one of the few publications that I’m required to sign a contract for and even its turnaround is timely and efficient.

So I thank Matt and Pure Slush for publishing “One Hundred Bucks for Public Radio” in the Friendship issue, and “The Goods” in the 25 Miles from Here collection. I’m also happy for my writing friend Larry Wright who also published his poem “Lost Boys” and “On Rattlesnakes” in these same anthologies.

As for summer, it is all too quickly coming to a close. I am trying, really trying, to settle into the groove of another school year and winter ahead. But my dreams are taking up greater space. They are bright in color and I’m more restless than ever to chase them.

Storyknife Writers Retreat, July 2021

Two years ago I applied for Storyknife and I’m a little emotional tonight that I’ll be driving out early in the morning.  I have so much gratitude for this experience, and also for new friends. Maura Brenin, Storyknife’s Chef, is a poet with food.  Lunch, dinner – each day was something brand new to me and all of it healthy, nourishing, sustaining, and lovely! I’m seriously going to have to up my game from grocery store bag salad and frozen chicken. 

And Erin Coughlin Hollowell who is a poet and Executive Director which means she is not only a woman of words, but oversees all the paperwork and budgetary issues, sets the wasp traps, weeds the flowerbeds, and consults Fish & Game when dork boy moose has wild eyes, flattened ears, and runs wild circles through the yard.  She has an electric drill in one hand, pen in the other, and I’m happy to call her friend, as well.

I was lucky to stay in the Peggy cabin, named for writer Peggy Shumaker.  Peggy’s space is one of creativity and good sleep.  It seemed only fitting to read a few poems tonight from her book, Cairn

And thank you to Writer Dana Stabenow – at work up the hill writing her 55th novel. I enjoyed the evening she joined us for supper. 

The walls are naked again and I’ve just bundled up 66 poems, friends!  They are poems dabbling in stars, lust, shelter, and birds.  They are of wild places and states of being. Some new, many edited and revised. I’ll take them home and hang them in an empty room for the winter.  Sucker holes will light them up with sun, and through an open window, an invite – Come hither, wind.  Do your work. Eventually, I’ll find a path through this writing.

Finally, my writing friends, if you have an inkling of interest in Storyknife, you can do one of two things. First, support this residency through donation. Second, APPLY. The application period for 2022 residencies opens August 1. Apply, dream, create.

Blue Heron Review: Nurturing Hope

When Editor Cristina Norcross reopened Blue Heron Review for a special bonus issue to share writing of hope generated through an arduous pandemic, I jumped at the opportunity to share and was happy to learn that my poem, “In the Cauldron,” was included. I first published with Blue Heron Review in 2017, and was later Blue Heron Review’s Featured Author in February 2019. I’ve always appreciated this journal for its publication of thoughtful writing and art, and the re-open for a bonus issue is indeed a bonus!

Christina says it best in her letter:

Dear Reader,

It is such a great pleasure to share this issue with you!  My goal in opening up Blue Heron Review again for a special bonus issue was to provide writers and readers a chance to surround themselves with the energy of hope and promise after this long pandemic year.  You will find exquisite, fine art photography and beautiful poetry to nurture the soul.  These poems reflect the different experiences people felt moved to share.  Through recognizing your own stories of struggle, resilience, and human connection, I hope that the many tomorrows of 2021 seem a bit brighter. 

With kind thoughts,

Cristina M. R. Norcross, Founding Editor
Blue Heron Review

Perfect for Sunday morning reading, enjoy this issue. It was compiled with good energy and intention.

(Cover art credit: Kathleen Gunton)

Mason Street, Newark Library Literary Journal

I feel such a kinship with library systems, especially those in small towns. Often a hub, they have the ability to bring together, and in many cases, create community. When Bruce and I traveled Canada for many summers, our first stop was often the local library. It wasn’t just to borrow Wi-Fi to contact home, but also check out local happenings, what types of resources were offered, what folks were reading in their neck of the woods. In fact, I collected a good 7-10 library cards from small town libraries across Canada, from British Columbia to Newfoundland. I may never return to these destinations, but I like to think that my card-carrying membership added to their collective reader base, somehow.

Last fall, I sent some poetry to Mason Street, the Newark Library Literary Journal. The Newark Library is located in Newark, New York, and of course my curiosity about such an offering through a library system got the best of me and I had to learn more about this particular library. Like so many libraries I’ve had the joy of experiencing, the Newark Library is really no different. Community within community.

Mason Street’s Editor and Founder, Celeste Schantz selected my poem “Troubadour” for the winter issue and “Faithful” for the spring. Both poems are in good company, and I was especially delighted, no, fangirl delighted, to see that poet Marge Piercy headlines the spring issue with “My Library Memories.” Swoon! If you haven’t read her work, you should. The first collection of hers that I savored is titled The Moon Is Always Female, a must-read. This is her 7th collection of writing. Organized into two sections, the first is categorized as “amusingly elegiac to the erotic, the classical to the funny (Amazon).” The second section is lunar in nature. It consists of a series of 15 poems for “a calendar based on lunar rather than solar divisions” (Amazon).

I’m really thankful that both “Troubadour” and “Faithful” found a home in the pages of a literary journal of a thriving library far away from home. Should you get the chance, read both issues. Visit the archives. But most importantly, keep writing and sharing our work with the world.

Humble Pie

I am incredibly happy to have a poem appear in the pages of Humble Pie’s Volume XVII. The poem is titled “Greens & Lanterns,” composed in the fall when most days felt like I was grabbing at straws to make technology and school days work. It was quite a scramble and poetry offered a sweet escape.

And when finally spring rolled around, it was a warm celebration of writers and artists who celebrated the launch of this issue via Zoom on a May evening. Thank you to Caroline Goodwin, poet extraordinaire, who oversees the work that goes into such a quality journal.