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 Review, Inklette, 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.
About 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 .
Reading your review of Kersten’s new collection takes me back to the dark and frigid winters of Alaska when I was a young military wife living at the top of the world. This line in your review really resonates with me: “The poems confront tensions – remoteness, isolation, keeping relationships strong – and grabs ahold of them to remold them into something solid.”
I’ll definitely check out this new collection. I’m typing this on a cool November day in North Texas. But my mind and heart have plunged into another time when friends and neighbors became instant family and when running outdoors at twenty-five below zero required two face masks to protect my lungs.
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Thanks, Kathleen ❤ I think you're going to love 'Something Yet to Be Named.'