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 Amazon and can be ordered through locally-owned independent bookstores.

Voices in the Coalshed

Such a question mark hangs over the title of a poem when it ventures out into the reading world for possible arrival and eventual appearance in a literary journal. I’m always curious to see where my work might land, and have yet to be disappointed in its placement. The same can certainly be said of Voices in the Coalshed.

Poet Dave Alton is the editor of Voices in the Coalshed. Some information about Dave from the website:

About Voices in the Coalshed

Dave Alton has been a poet and writer for near on 5 decades. Four of them associated with The Tyneside Poets then, latterly, Northern Voices. Since moving to Barnsley, while continuing the link with Northern Voices, he has been instrumental in establishing Voices in the Coalshed (previously known as the Coalshed Poets) at the National Coal Mining Museum.

Set up and run by volunteers, the aim of Voices in the Coalshed is to involve people in expressing themselves through writing, and contributing their individual insights on coal mining in particular and the wider community, for which mining has been a significant influence.

Voices Abroad 1

I was happy to learn that Dave had selected a handful of my spring/summer writings to include in the journal: “Alignment of the Chakras,” “Courier,” and “Bawdy Muse.” Thank you to Dave and Voices in the Coalshed for this.

Changing Tides / Regal House Publishing

My mailbox has certainly delivered some joy this week! Changing Tides has published. I am grateful to Editor Jaynie Royal for including a short stack of my writings in this collection: “So This Is Starrigavin,” “Up the Coast from the Astrolabe,” and “Ache.” They are in good company and I look forward to reading this in its entirety.

From the website:

The poems, essays, and personal reflections in Changing Tides detail moving accounts of the human impact on our ocean environment and demonstrate the heightened need for individual, community, and global action in addressing what has become a collective crisis for life on this blue planet.

All net revenues from the sale of this anthology are donated to the Coral Restoration Foundation™, a 501 3 (c) non-profit organization that was founded in 2007 in response to the widespread loss of the dominant coral species on the Florida Reef Tract. Coral Restoration Foundation™ (CRF) now manages the largest coral restoration program in the world. The Coral Restoration Foundation™ works to support the reefs’ natural recovery processes through the large-scale cultivation, outplanting, and monitoring of genetically diverse, reef-building corals. Their mission is to restore coral reefs, to educate others on the importance of our oceans, and to use science to further coral research and coral reef monitoring techniques.

To learn more, and to get involved in the mission to save and restore our planet’s coral reefs, visit www.coralrestoration.org

The contributors are Susan Bruce, Christina Stefan, J.B. Stone, Kersten Christianson, Anthony Panegyres, Sheree Winslow, Gerard Sarnat, Julie Wilson, Franciszka Voeltz, d’Ores & Deja, Olivia Kingery, Tonya Wiley, Lorraine Jeffery, Liberty Lawson, Jayne Marek, Emma Bush, and Mandy-Suzanne Wong. With thanks to Alice Grainger, Communications Director at CRF, for her eloquently penned foreword.

October Hill Magazine

A sweet turn this week, much like the break in rain. Thank you to October Hill Magazine out of NYC for publishing “Love Bigger Than Loss” in its newly-released Summer 2020 issue.

It felt surreal to post writing like this at this moment. My summers are normally reserved for poetry, but now I’m finding that a lot of my July writing time is being allocated to other writing endeavors – mostly response to school opening plans and to various entities: admin, union, board. The writing of poetry is much more engaging than prose. Maybe I’ll start writing my responses to school openings in limerick form. Wouldn’t that be something? 

At any rate, it was a gentle knock on the door, a reminder to return to the kind of writing I enjoy most.

Summer 2020

Brute, Emily Skaja

This book is fierce! It’s a reading that dwells on the living through endings and upon closer examination, some beginnings, as well. Skaja’s word choice is superb, fresh, wild. From “How to Mend a Faucet Dripping Thread”

Every morning, a spider webs over my door, but I don’t do omens.

I will not hang all the maids, for example; it’s antifeminist.

But I will lie here with my face annexing the floor. Penelope, neat.

Pouring out a little whiskey for the sirens & swine.

Did I mention my love for the hat tip to older, timeless stories?

Organized into four sections: My History As, Girl Saints, Circle, and Bright Landscape, Skaja has interspersed each with two elegies with titles such as, “Elegy without a Single Tree I Can Save,” “Elegy with Feathers,” and “Elegy with Rabbits.” She explores forms such as the aubade.

Skaja’s poetry is such that it begs to be read aloud and my now-worn copy is filled with dog-eared pages for future reunions.

(Graywolf Press, 2018)

Tidal Echoes 2020

Have I ever expressed to you how much I love regional publications?  Yes?  Good, because I adore local voices and Tidal Echoes is hands down one of my all-time favorite and much-anticipated annual spring publication.  Compiled by students at UAS Juneau, its content is gathered December 1.  Acceptances usually land near the end of March, and normally there is an in-person Juneau launch in April.  Of course this year’s launch moved online in these days of Covid.  By May, the complimentary hard copy arrives in the mail.  It has not only become a seasonal marker, but reminder of this sweet Alaskan writing community of which I am lucky to be a part.  Even quick glance of the TOC lists out familiar names and faces from Alaska Women Speak, amazing students writers and artists from Sitka High, and dear friends from my local writing group, Blue Canoe Writers.  It’s a reunion of sorts on the page.  Anyway, here’s this year’s cover image by artist Pat Race, along with a couple of my 2019 poems the editors chose for this issue.  Cheers to those who put their time and effort into such a fine publication, and to poet/UAS professor Emily Wall for overseeing its delivery.

 

 

Whatever Keeps the Lights On

In these days of Stay in Place, Hunker Down, and Quarantine, I can say assuredly that the world feels as though it has been turned on its head.  While there are no known active cases of COVID-19 in the community [yet], the preparation is evident.  Businesses are closed down, folks have been furloughed, parking areas and lots once full are largely empty, and pretty much all social activities are canceled indefinitely until this threat passes.  Yet many are still on the front lines of working directly with the public at large and these folks have my utmost respect.  Their efforts make it easier to accept the reasoning for sheltering.

In Alaska, schools are closed until May 1st [at least].  As with all teachers,  I’ve spent too many hours last week online, moving my English classes to an online platform that will hopefully allow my students to keep moving forward in the month ahead.  Tuesday will offer a better idea on how effective this plan is while both teachers and students adjust to this learning curve and either gather, assess and post work OR complete and submit assignments.  The online platforms in my house will be smoking come Tuesday.  My daughter will be taking her online courses while I monitor my online courses.  Interesting times!

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So it was timely that the literary journal Whatever Keeps the Lights On published its special edition anthology, “Stolen Moments:  Poem Written at Desk Jobs” at this given time.  One, we all been given this strange time to tend, reflect, and — at least in my home, read.  Two, I’m happy to share that I have a couple of poems in this issue, “How to Disappear” and “Tidal Zone.”  I’m grateful the editors gave these two a home in their pages.

If you’re not actively writing, take a chance that you’ll find work within these pages that piques your interest.  Besides, Old Harbor Books is closed Sundays and this means no home delivery from our locally owned independent bookstore which is also trying to keep a stop in the door and business moving forward.

It’s a wild world out there, friends. Stay safe!

 

Halfway Down the Stairs

I think a poet’s four-leaf clover might well be akin to publishing a poem on the 1st of March.  Thank you to Halfway Down the Stairs for publishing “Emily’s To-Do List,” a poem I wrote on Emily Dickinson’s birthday.  It was actually written to serve as an example of a list poem for my high school students in Creative Writing, but I tinkered enough with it that it hopped into my submissions folder and out it went to to the world.  I’m happy that it found its home in this quarterly journal devoted to “Milestones.”

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