Summer Reading: Alaska Quarterly Review

If you’re looking for great summer reading that (at $6.95) won’t break the bank, be sure to check out the current issue of Alaska Quarterly Review, one of the country’s premier literary magazines.

By design, AQR doesn’t focus specifically on either Alaskan writers or Alaskan themes, but the Spring/Summer issue features a compelling nonfiction piece, “About a Moment,” by Nancy Lord, Alaska’s current Writer Laureate. Lord writes of visiting her ailing father in “a building full of people who’ve lost their minds…the saddest, sorriest, most heart-wrenching place of which I have personal knowledge.” Thoughtful, provocative, and touching, she tells of “things I’m not likely to forget, not at least until I forget very much more.”

The current issue of AQR also includes a special section of poetry by Tlingit poet Robert Davis Hoffman. I was so impressed by some of these poems that I shared them with a few of the special people I met while cruising the Inside Passage a few weeks ago, including an English professor from MIT and a young Tlingit leader with political aspirations. “Some men can’t help it,” Hoffman writes in “Saginaw Bay: I Keep Going Back.” “They take up too much space, always need more. They gnaw at the edge of the woods till the sky once swimming with branches becomes simply sky, till there is only a scarred stubble of clearcut like a head without its scalp of hair.”

Other selections intrigued me even though they had no Alaskan connection. “Patients are more than the sum of their failing parts,” writes John Gambel in his essay “The Elegant Eyeball,” after sharing remarkable facts and anecdotes about human sight. In “Resting Place,” Kim van Alkemade weaves police reports of her father’s suicide with a visit to his gravesite in Holland. In the fiction section, I especially enjoyed “Vestigal Horns,” a story by Ben Brooks that explores an aging father’s relationship with his granddaughter, and “One Person Per Life,” by Kristen Kearns, who juxtaposes a visit to an exhibit of plasticized corpses with a wife’s desire to have children despite her failing health.

Published twice a year by the University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Quarterly Review features contemporary literary art, publishing fiction, short plays, poetry, photo essays, and literary non-fiction in traditional and experimental styles. According to the journal’s website, “the editors encourage new and emerging writers, while continuing to publish award winning and established writers.” Now is a great time to consider submissions, as they are read between August 15 and May 15. Submission guidelines can be found on the AQR website.

Pick up the current issue of AQR at any major bookstore in Alaska (plus many throughout the U.S.). You can also order through their website.

4 thoughts on “Summer Reading: Alaska Quarterly Review”

  1. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    Thanks for pointing out a great, national-caliber publication that we Alaskans might take for granted all too easily. Sounds like an excellent summer read, Deb.

  2. Yes, thanks for this recommendation. In the writing world, there seem to be maybe only three or four degrees of separation… one author you mentioned, Kim van Alkemade, was on faculty at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and taught a technical writing class I took in the late 80s. Wow, 20 years ago!

    Her piece is moving and brought me back to some familiar places. It was good to learn of her successes through the small AQR bio. (If you see this, Kim, thanks for teaching me WordPerfect!)

  3. Kim van Alkemade

    Hi Deb and bikegirl, Kim van Alkemade here. Thanks so much for mentioning my essay in your blog post about AQR, Deb, it is an exceptional issue. I especially loved Timothy Irish Watt's essay about travelling to the Orkney Islands with his estranged father; all four of the nonfiction essays seemed to have a parent/child theme. And bikegirl, whoever you are, shoot me an email! I can't promise to remember you, but I grateful you remember me from my Milwaukee days.

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