Guest blogger Erin Coughlin Hollowell will be participating in Poetry Solstice next week in Anchorage. It’s a celebration of three poets and their new work: Erin, Peggy Shumaker, and James Englelhardt. Please join us at their reading Tuesday, June 19 at The Writer’s Block Bookstore and Café in Spenard. The reading begins at 7 pm, and the poets will be available for a signing afterwards.
All the light. As we reach toward solstice, Alaskans are awash in light. We wake in full sun; we go to sleep in full sun. Even overcast days feature a harsh glare that sifts into the cracks of every hour. When I am in the Lower-48, people ask me about the darkness of winter, but no one imagines the hyper-mania of summertime in the upper latitudes. Summer light is good for exposing the details that poetry is knit from, a garment that takes on the features of the poet’s mindset and environment.
When I was tumbling through the fragmentation of my mother’s dementia, poetry was the pier to which I tied myself. The practice of paying attention to detail. The practice of sifting through events, tangled conversations, hours at hospital bedside and waiting at a distance. Throughout the chaos, the heartache, I reminded myself, “Pay attention,” knowing that everything eventually passes.
Writing poetry was one way to channel that attention. To put down in words instead of stone, and to hopefully create some signposts along the way for the next person swept off in the current. I take solace from the work of other poets. I turn to Peggy Shumaker for grace, Elizabeth Bradfield for wonder, Eva Saulitis for beauty in evanescence. I hope that Every Atom might have something to give to anyone with a difficult family relationship, especially those who are losing someone to dementia.
In the busyness that is Alaska’s summer, I hope that all of you will be able to give your attention to the world around you – not the screen, not the screed, not the push for more more more – but to the crinkle around your love’s eyes in laughter, the spark of wild roses, and maybe some poetry as it unspools across the page and into your heart.
Erin Coughlin Hollowell is a poet and writer who lives at the end of the road in Alaska. Prior to landing in Alaska, she lived on both coasts, in big cities and small towns, pursuing many different professions from tapestry weaving to arts administration. She is the author of Pause, Traveler (2013) and Every Atom (2018), both published by Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press. She has been awarded two Rasmuson Foundation Fellowships, a Connie Boochever Award, and an Alaska Literary Award. Her work has been most recently published in Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, Terrain.org, and Sugar House Review, and was a finalist for the 49th Parallel Contest for the Bellingham Review.