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!

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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