Sunday, February 23, 2014

Angles in Alaska

Last Thursday evening I was honored to read in Takoma Park's Third Thursday poetry series -- along with poets Judy Neri and Kathleen O'Toole -- and my reading focused on poems of my times in Alaska.  The brilliant geometry of  our 49th state affected me strongly and "Angles of Light" became the title poem for a chapbook I published with Finishing Line Press in 2009.  Here is section 3 (of 7) from that poem.

       from  Angles of Light     by JoAnne Growney


       This place makes my heart turn corners, learn
       to trust the fierce geometry of angles, submit
       to the care of rivers and peaks, allow
       geography to bend, tear, reform.
       My spirits ignite, my blood rushes
       dark as mountain streams on the steep north face.
       It costs my life to belong here
       where December is dim, the light
       acutest at its vanishing.  Compressed
       distance.  Bronze snow heaped
       on high horizons.  The avalanche comes
       when snow hangs heavier than the angle
       of the mountain.  June days so long
       they forbid the aurora.  Warmth
       when rays escape the angle of the mountain—
       the mountain closest in morning, the mountain
       that exalts a man but makes his house small.

My first visit to Alaska was as a teen -- I worked in SE Alaska during the summer of 1959 when it became the 49th state.  "Angles of Light" was inspired during time spent in Skagway in 2003 as a poet-in-residence at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park ;  another poem from that time, "Skagway Study," gives some historical background for the 1898 gold-rush that founded Skagway.

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