Marie Tozier’s new poetry collection Open the Dark (Boreal Books/Red Hen Press 2020) gave me an occasion to think and write about North American history, how time moves/freezes via language, aesthetics of resistance, and acts of generosity. My review essay is live at Terrain.org. Full text here.
Alaskan Inupiaq poet Marie Tozier’s new collection Open the Dark challenges—but also aligns with—western notions of linear time. Early on, the collection announces a cyclic, wheeling view of time as it unfolds in successive waves across the land. In one poem “An abandoned snowmachine / Sunk last spring, sits exposed near the far shore,” while another asks, “What’s inside / The space / Between laughter / And the memory / Of those you laughed with?”
Returns like these complicate the idea that continuity denotes simple abundance, suggesting instead that a sense of loss can persist even within a larger understanding of repetitions and returns. Indeed, the collection is full of the rhythms of seasons and family and ancient narratives, but it is also about the open wound of residential school history.
In celebration of Beth Peterson‘s gorgeous essay collection, Dispatches From the End of Ice, I wrote an essay about one of her essays. My piece appears as the December 7 installment of the 2020 Essay Advent Calendar published by Essay Daily.
One day, a Norwegian glacier museum burns to the ground. The glacier beyond it continues its incremental melting. “That’s the thing about a world on fire,” writes Beth Peterson. “You wonder if when the match was first struck, what would have happened if you had known to look.”
Strange losses abound in Peterson’s essay collection, Dispatches From the End of Ice. A theory of the universe is advanced, then dismissed. Peterson herself falls into a crevasse. A literature professor disappears while hiking on a Japanese volcano. And a friend is gone forever when he takes a deadly plunge off a mountainside. Even the coroner cannot initially identify him, for every single one of his teeth is broken from the fall.
“Apocalypse literature,” Beth Peterson reminds us, “pulls back the veil on reality.”
If Dispatches From the End of Ice pulls back a veil, here’s what I see behind it: the paradox that loss magnifies more than it erases.
Full piece available here.
I wrote a review of Mia C. Heavener’s new novel with Red Hen Press, Under Nushagak Bluff. This is an important new addition to the field of contemporary Indigenous novel because it is gorgeously conceived and written, its historic setting bucks an established trend in Indigenous literature, and it cracks open Bristol Bay’s history of epidemics—a history of eerie relevance to today’s coronavirus pandemic.
A couple short excerpts from my review:
My take: Heavener’s novel asks, precisely how does historic understanding erode? Where does the past, personal and collective, get mis-placed, mis-taken, coded, and ultimately concealed?
Seagulls swoop and dive, crying in the salty air. The waves of Nushagak Bay crash on sandbars and rocky shores. Machines rattle the warehouses on the cannery side of the village “where the beach flattened and the boardwalks grew tall.”
So many sounds; so many stories. Yet as I page through Mia Heavener’s new novel Under Nushagak Bluff under the long shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the novel’s subtle and steady investigation of silence that most captivates me.
Denali Sunrise Publications arranged my review alongside a beautiful array of historic photos, maps, and contextual historic commentary. Full review essay available here.