NPM 4: Alaska & Beyond

YARN’s National Poetry Month project “Crossing Country Line by Line” continues with this poetry chain started by Alaskan and middle grade novelist Annie Boochever.

Map of Alaska - Image courtesy of Adam (Wikimedia Commons)

Annie Boochever (Alaska)

Sestina to Paul Allen’s Yacht

Into Juneau’s Harbor sailed the largest private yacht
On earth– its girth eclipsed the rising moon, disaster
Made of our obsession with extravagance,
It pushed the little fishing boats aside to squeeze into
The channel, since no harbor stalls were big enough in town
To hold its sleek but bloated lines all ‘round.

A billionaire is in our midst. The word goes out. We look around
To see the famous Octopus. The tech stock magnate’s mythic yacht,
Not micro and certainly not soft, dwarfs the mountains where our town
Is nestled, unpretentious next to this unbridled feedback loop disaster.
Four-hundred and fourteen feet of obsolescence, motors into
Southeast Alaska, where we are unaccustomed to unnatural extravagance.

An environment in danger warns us to beware extravagance
Development on tide flats, wet lands, pristine places all around.
At risk Pacific sand lance, Dolly Varden, black bear, crashing into
Climate crises and the avarice embodied in a yacht
Big enough to discharge a city’s worth of chemicals, disaster
Looming for the plankton and the krill, the offshore residents of our town.

But of the day’s top stories in the paper of this town,
The war in Afghanistan, world hunger, glaciers melting, extravagance
In all forms: political hucksters, internet scams, natural disasters,
The murderer standing trial, the guilty priest, and round and round
All play out below the fold. Above, a picture of the yacht,
Paul Allen’s Octopus, sails our mostly sober citizens into

A world unknown, intoxicating. Calls us into
Places far away from what we know is real, the familiar ills of our town,
Poverty and daily tribulations, a fantasy of freedom, a yacht
That represents what we could hardly dream, extravagance
Like tidal current spinning past a shoal and around
Our minds. Could something of such beauty really spell disaster?

Yachts like that keep people here employed. Is that disaster
You ask. But there’s a price when ships of sweet seduction draw us into
Aphrodite’s spell. Paul Allen’s yacht extracts from each a round
Of self -recrimination. We, no longer satisfied with our town,
Our insecurities exposed, are helpless in the extravagance
Of one gargantuan, beguiling yacht.

It’s no disaster to the moon, of course, but in our town
That unexpected look into the soul of such extravagance
Turned heads, and thoughts, around the passing of Paul Allen’s yacht.

Sandra Sarr (Washington)

Matinal Oceania

After Natasha Trethewey

Underneath, turtles sweep in threes—
their sea wings caress the deep warm wet
long night fading in day’s dreams.

Out past the pull of tide, newlywed
swimmers shadow angels. Dawn-lit bay
gives way to the abyss where night ones fed.

Shore fades. Two pursue three out way
past breaking waves. One more mile, breathe deep,
clasp hands, sprout wings, turn back, now pray.

Today, this longing—this primal need
to taste what came first—urges a feast
of what drifts out, flows in, floats out, flows free.

Nadine Pinede (Indiana)

The Map of her Past

She is warm blooded,
and so are we.
She carries her young for 13 months
and has to come up for air.
We count and keep track
by charting her scars.

The map of her past
is unfurled on her back.
Steel sliced her skin.
She knows where each cut happened,
but can’t avoid the danger
to find warmer water.
She tries going deeper to graze.
The boats speed up;
she’s always in the way.

I look down—
on my knee an island
of flesh, I earned riding
the wind downhill no-hands,
gold and joy ‘til I hit the dirt.

A manatee is known
by her scars.
She wears them the way fish
wear hooks in their mouths.
She dives back down
not afraid of the dark.

Christine Rhein (Michigan)

Ode to Insomnia

Oh glorious glow
of my digital clock,
bright red lights all
in a row reminding
me of a bad dream
I could be having
about driving lost
in the wrong lane,
late for a surprise
test I somehow face,
yes, in my pajamas,
the same ones
now itching me
like the chocolate
cake in the kitchen,
the bills, the email
I need to answer first
thing in the morning,
which it already is,
but why get up & miss
the fun of lying here
with my husband
snoring & my monkey
mind racing around
a hamster wheel,
mixing all my meta-
phorical insights
with lyrics I can’t believe
I’m lucky to remember—
the rhythm is gonna
get you—pounding
over & over like
my heart & my hopes
for a brand new poem—
Oh glorious glow…

Catherine Abbey Hodges (California)

Northbound in a Dream

In my dream I’m northbound in a lane
called yesterday, late for a surprise,
early (I learn later) for the rest of my life.

I’m hungry, traveling too fast to exit
at the scenic route as planned, coming up
fast on the rest of my life.

In this dream I know (in that way we know
in dreams) the rest of my life’s the driver
of the car just ahead. I want to honk

or wave, but the radio sings No, sings
Hang onto your hat, little lady, where’s
the fire? Give her time to find you in her

rearview mirror, time to doubt herself
before believing. Time to catch your eye,
flash a grin. Let her be the first to wave.

Karen Gookin (Washington)

Driving Solo

here and there
near and far,
every departure and arrival
I drive happily

like the weightless pause
at the arc of a swing,
a child pumping up and down
toward motionless magic

a respite at last
from chaos, crisis, the mundane
packings of love

From here
I leave duty at the door,
breathe deep, hold, and drive

two hours west in sunset
six hours east with Brahms
eight hours north, worry-free
twelve hours south, all decisions pending

En route
I recollect
the who I am,
the I without other
the me inside we

I set boundaries firm again,
ground my soul–

then ready my arms

Annie Boochever is a life-long Alaskan and an award-wining music, library, and children’s-theatre teacher. In addition to many musical plays for children, Annie is the author of “My Bristol Bay Summer,” a middle-grade novel scheduled for publication by Alaska Northwest Books in 2013. She is currently under contract to Sealaska Heritage Institute to create “Our Ancestor’s Shell: Reader’s Theatre Adaptations of Southeast Alaska Native Legends,” scheduled for publication in Fall, 2012. Annie recently completed a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults through the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. She lives in Juneau, where she teaches English at Thunder Mountain High School.

Sandra Sarr grew up on the shores of Lake Erie, where she learned to float, then swim. “Matinal Oceania,” a terza rima inspired by Natasha Trethewey, is her first published poem. She holds bachelor of arts degrees in journalism and sociology. In 2013, she will earn an MFA in creative writing from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, Whidbey Writers Workshop, where faculty nominated her poem, “Sestina for a Young Widow,” for a 2012 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Intro Journals Project award. Sandra’s career in college communications and publishing spanned three decades and introduced her to intriguing people, places, and ideas. She wrote about them and earned awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Public Relations Society of America, and the International Association of Business Communicators. In 2003, Sandra founded the Story Catchers Program for Franciscan Hospice in Tacoma, Washington. She runs distance races and is at work on her first novel set in the late ’60s on the waterways of Southern Louisiana, where traditional healers, traiteurs, change the destiny of a coastal community.

Nadine France Martine Pinede, PhD, is a graduate of Harvard University and was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Literary Newsmakers, A Lime Jewel: Stories and Poetry in Aid of Haiti, Sampsonia Way, Becoming: What Makes a Woman, Spoon River Poetry Review, Soundings Review, and Haiti Noir. Nadine has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a finalist for a national Hurston-Wright Award. She is a recipient of fellowships and grants from the Indiana Arts Commission, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Ragdale, Hedgebrook, and Scholastic. Nadine will receive her MFA in Fiction from the Northwest Institute for Literary Arts/Whidbey Writers Workshop in August 2012. Her poetry chapbook, “Geographies of Hope,” will be published in September. Nadine lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her husband, Erick Janssen.

Christine Rhein is the author of “Wild Flight,” winner of the Walt McDonald Poetry Prize (Texas Tech University Press, 2008). Her work has appeared widely in literary journals including The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review, and has been selected for Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and Best New Poets. A former mechanical engineer in Detroit’s auto industry, Christine lives in Brighton, Michigan, where she conducts workshops, leads poetry circles, and works one-on-one with writers. Christine also serves as an advisor to UniVerse: A United Nations of Poetry. Read more about her on her website.

Catherine Abbey Hodges was named a finalist in poetry in the 2012 Summer Literary Seminars Unified Competition. Her chapbook “All the While” (Finishing Line Press, 2006) was a finalist in the New Women’s Voices competition and her poems have appeared in numerous print and online publications including The Southern Review, Verse Daily, Rock and Sling, Into the Teeth of the Wind, and Canary (Hip Pocket Press). Catherine lived in Sumatra, Indonesia for nine years before making her home in California’s San Joaquin Valley where she teaches English at Porterville College and writes poems on the backs of envelopes and the palms of her hands. She shares her life with her husband Rob and children Clara and McNeil.

Karen Gookin grew up in the wheat farming country of North Central Montana. Her poetry most often considers that expansive land, as well as her current home in the shrub steppes of Washington State. Most recently her poem “Wild Horses Monument” was published in “A Sense of Place: The Washington Geospatial Poetry Anthology.” Several other poems appear as award winners in two Yakima Allied Arts chapbooks and in a collection of poems by new writers, titled “In Other Words.” Karen and her husband Larry live in Ellensburg, where she teaches composition and technical writing at Central Washington University. Her poetry and teaching compete with a life-long love for music and the flute.

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One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Claudette Pierre-Noel says:

    I read all the poems with awe.
    Next time I see a huge yatch it will evoke in me different feelings…
    I’ll never look at a manatee swimming in the sea the same way I did before…

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