by Lisa Stice

Kersten Christianson’s Something Yet to Be Named (Kelsay Books, 2017) travels through Alaska and the Yukon, but the poems are as much about the in between as they are about place. They explore boundaries and hug the curves of scenic routes. Christianson again and again trudges her way through the harshest terrain and coldest temperatures toward beauty and the warmth of friends, family, and self.

Paused here between the stairs of the Alaska

Commercial Company Store and Cab Alley

in the vacuum of North wind, I hear—

above murmuring motors of early morning

vehicles and the hum of the building—


And, I can’t help but pause and think, “How beautiful.” Alaska of the local is far more picturesque than the Alaska I’ve seen as a tourist. From the five times I’ve visited, I’ve come away with broad sweeps of landscape, staying close to highways and main roads, visiting only in July when you just might need a light jacket.


There’s more to this collection than describing place and all the in-betweens, though. It’s much deeper than nature poetry for the sake of purely appreciating a place. It’s about thriving on the unpredictable.

Here on the island, the autumn rains

pound incessantly, winds

shake the shingles, snow dusts

the high peaks of the Sisters

and, in deference to falling leaves,

my dahlias bloom.

It’s about how sharing experiences helps us bond with others.


Eugene and Julian swim one day

in mirrored high mountain lakes

and the next in the open sea.

At Old Harbor Books, Liz tells me

of 10-inch banana slugs.

She marvels at the 5-inch pea pod

I’ve plucked from my parents’ garden.


It’s about being your own company in times of isolation.


I rise early

in a quiet house

under the dark sky

to tend dogs and savor

the morning’s coffee;

bitter-tinged and hot.


What I found most intriguing about this collection is that where I would expect conflict, there is none. The poems confront tensions – remoteness, isolation, keeping relationships strong – and grabs ahold of them to remold them into something solid. I get the sense that the dependability of tension is a comfort of its own sort and that personal strength comes from finding the joys and beauty in what might at first appear harsh.

Christianson, Kersten. Something Yet to Be Named. Kelsay Books, 2017.


Buy Something Yet to Be Named here

Learn more about Kersten on her blog

About the Author: Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing, high school English-teaching Alaskan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry through the Low-Residency Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2016. Her recent work has appeared in Cirque, Tidal Echoes, The Fredericksburg Literary & Art ReviewInklette, On the Rusk, We’Moon, Sheila-Na-Gig and Pure Slush among other literary journals.  Kersten co-edits the quarterly journal Alaska Women Speak.  When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon Territory, she lives in Sitka, Alaska with her husband and photographer Bruce Christianson, and daughter Rie.

lisaAbout the Reviewer: Lisa Stice is a Marine Corps wife. It’s difficult to say where “home” is, but she currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, daughter and dog. She is the author of a poetry collection, Uniform (Aldrich Press, 2016).You can find out more about her and her publications here and on Facebook .