Curating the House of Nostalgia

I am overjoyed and humbled with the publication of Curating the House of Nostalgia (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2020).  This is my second full-length collection of poetry and third book.

Published by Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2020

It has been a labor of love to walk this one into the world. There are poems gathered here that were composed years ago in sweeter times – and others written through days more heartbreaking and challenging.  Initially, I envisioned this collection to be one of grief and bereavement.  What else could it be after the sudden death of a husband?  In fact, when I first organized the manuscript under that tarp, it was titled Clutter & Scree – the things left behind, the rubble that proves difficult in which to establish firm footing.  The poems then were largely too fresh, too close, too raw, and at a time I simply needed the motion and process of writing as one might need a trekking pole on a hike.

The manuscript as such did not initially get picked up.  So, I pulled it apart, blue-taped the poems on the walls of an empty room at home, and spent a winter subtracting, adding, writing, revising, and organizing what would become Curating the House of Nostalgia.  I aimed for better balance between between the two titles.  The collection shifted from straight sorrow to envelop the beauty that ultimately embraces and occasionally overshadows heartache in one way or another, often in small ways.  With each day comes night.  What else could this manuscript be from a northern woman poet who refuses to claim the word widow?  This shift was especially important as my now 14-year-old daughter and I continue to move forward in ways that are hopefully both spirited and healthy.

From the Mary Jane cabin at Alderworks Writers and Artists Retreat in Dyea, Alaska to my home in Sitka, Alaska.

Like Cara Murray’s cover image (all heart by the way), What’s Left Behind, we were a family of three atop a mountain of blue stone memories and adventures that are irreplaceable. Perhaps those were our chairs. How does one sift through a bundle of poems to establish a path through both extreme joy and anguish?  The collection is organized in six parts:  Mountain, Clutter, Cataclysm, Astral, Juncture, and Epilogue.  Once established, the curation commenced.  Poetry, more or less, fell under a broader topic and the wayfinding became easier to muster.

What’s Left Behind, by Cara Murray

I am especially thankful to Sheila-Na-Gig editor Haley Mitchell Haugen for believing in what that initial manuscript could become.  Her support and reading eye have been instrumental in its progress.  It has been a writing goal of mine for years to publish with Sheila-Na-Gig, to be part of the Sheila-Na-Gig family.  A quick Google image search of this ancient Irish goddess might give you all the reason behind the why.  She’s fierce.

Formally, the Gratitude page reads as such, and if you have a notion that you’re somehow included in that closing paragraph, well, you are.

Thank you to the Dyea Bradys (Jeff, Dorothy, and Annie) for their sharing of the Mary Jane cabin and forested space during my summer 2018 writing residency with Alderworks Alaska Writers & Artists Retreat.  Thank you for offering me this place to put words in order and find a healing path.

I am further grateful to the Alaska Statewide Poetry Contest for placing “The Ungulate’s Jaw,” “Katie’s Cabin,” “Curios,” and “Curate.”  

Heartfelt gratitude to my fellow editors, volunteers, and Alaska women writers at Alaska Women Speak, as well as Blue Canoe writers, along with my peers and professors through the University of Alaska Low-Residency MFA program.  You have all been a source of inspiration, good ear, and offered sweet friendship throughout the years.  

Thank you to artist Cara Jane Murray for recreating What’s Left Behind for cover placement.  Special appreciation to poets Vivian Faith Prescott, Caroline Goodwin, and Carol Birrell for giving this collection a read and an endorsement, and to Sheila-Na-Gig editor, Hayley Mitchell Haugen, for moving this collection into the reading world.  

To friends and family who have had my back these last few staggering years ­­–– I dare not mention you by name, in case I inadvertently leave someone out.  You have gifted me peace of mind and reunion with wildness.  Thank you for blank books, caw-cawing at ravens, all-night dancing, gin & tonics, online Scrabbling, doorknob installing, garage emptying, tarot card reading, camping out, random texting, hitting the road, forget-me-not beading, Solstice celebrating, daughter cake baking, salmon-sharing, Bruce storytelling, shenanigans and crimes, Justin Trudeau hand-shaking, check-ins, last minute proofreading, and dearest greetings of well-being, hope, and resilience.  My gratitude does not cover all I owe you in return.

Finally, I hope you get a chance to read this collection, and if you do, send me a note. I love talking poetry and how writing can sustain us no matter the challenge.

Curating the House of Nostalgia is available for purchase through Sheila-Na-Gig and can be ordered through locally-owned independent bookstores.

Author: kerstenchristianson

Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing, high school English-teaching Alaskan. She serves as poetry editor of the quarterly journal Alaska Women Speak. Her latest collection of poetry is Curating the House of Nostalgia (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2020). Kersten holds an MFA from the University of Alaska. @kerstenak

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