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Two new collections of poetry lay the groundwork for reclaiming our humanity

Marybeth Holleman's

“Breaking into Air: Birth Poems”

By Emily Wall. Boreal Books/Red Hempress, 2022; 80 pages. $16.95.

“gentle gravity”

By Marybeth Holman. Boreal Books/Red Hempress, 2022; 88 pages. $16.95.

Founded and edited by former Alaskan Writer Laureate Peggy Shoemaker, Boreal Books has been publishing exemplary poetry and prose by Alaskans since 2008. Two very different but complementary new collections of her poetry were released this summer. Emily Wall’s Breaking into Air grew out of a project that gathered birth stories from her parents and others. Marybeth Holman’s “Tender Gravity” is a gentle exploration of a wide range of life encounters, particularly in the natural world, that are both heartbreaking and comforting.

A Juneau resident, mother of three, and teacher of English and creative writing at the University of Alaska Southeast, Wall has authored three books of poetry. Although her childbirth is one of her most common human experiences, it is not often the subject of her literary work. — artfully portraying some of her varied experiences, both joyous and traumatic. The content and form are surprisingly wide.

One poem, “Shaawatke’e’e’s Birth,” is taken from X’unei Lance Twitchell’s story about the birth of his daughter. But that’s not all. It is also about the preciousness and necessity of language, and incorporates translated Tlingit passages in footnotes.

Wall wrote: , come now/and the pain is also here, your mother is suffering. A dramatic reading of this deeply moving poem was presented by Wall and Twitchell at the 2017 Alaska Quarterly Review event and can be viewed on YouTube.

Other verses are for new mothers, experienced mothers, grandmothers, lesbian mothers, adoptive mothers, doctors, women who have miscarried, women who cannot conceive who find other ways to become mothers, biblical mothers, and even pregnant women. developed from the story of a woman in painting. They capture emotions ranging from fear, pain and heartbreak to hope, gratitude and immense joy. Wall’s own story appears within them as blocks of italicized prose.

“Don’t See the Lunar Eclipse” is a poem in which Wall collects ancient wisdom and superstitions related to pregnancy and childbirth. “Don’t put the scissors on the bed, it will give the baby a cleft palate.”

Another discovered poem, “What does a fetal heartbeat sound like?” is a compilation of the exact words of people who responded to a question Wall posted on Facebook. “Like feet running on damp sand/Like horses/Horses galloping/Like hummingbirds/A hundred hummingbirds in a blizzard.” , which introduces the idea that all people share different experiences, often beautifully expressed.

“Catch a Baby: Haiku” is “To the doctors in Juneau who shared these stories.” These 12 short poems capture memorable moments for their recipients. “First came the fist./Now I’m not just a doctor/Her first clue.”

“Tender Gravity” is the first collection of poetry from Anchorage author Marybeth Holman, although she previously wrote the non-fiction “Heart of the Sound” and co-wrote “Amon Wolves.” He is also known as a writer and co-editor of “Crosscurrent North”. teacher. Her work is characterized by her deep concern and respect for her natural world. Her poetry ranges from kayak-level considerations of marine life, to seeing sundews in wetlands up close, to moons, comets, and spacescapes. But they are more than observations and celebrations of nature. They question life and death, human and non-human responsibility, and the contradictions we all live with. Multiple references to his brother’s death add to the layering.

Like Wall, Holman opens with the “Heartbeat” verse. “The Beating Heart, Minus Gravity” talks about the dream of diving. “Into the blue depths/And soaring, soaring and so on/Bubble after bubble, watching/Golden sunlight shines overhead/But never reaches/No matter how hard you kick/Gravity of the gentle air. This sets the expectation for humbly immersing yourself in the presence of nature and its infinite mysteries.

Holleman’s love of the sea and its life is freely expressed in poems such as “Outer Coast”, “Carlos Strait, Five Months Later”, “Through the Barren Islands” and “Night Whales”. In “The Outer Coast,” the narrator dreams of a familiar place “… yet/home to some primordial memories/like these/moon jellies slipped/passed aimlessly for days The “after” of “Culross Passage” is the tar ball and absorbent pad that ripped through Holman’s beloved Prince William Sound after a massive oil spill. It represents the time when it was scattered on the beach. There she saw a mountain goat swimming from the island to the mainland.

One of the most poignant poems in the collection, “skating after many moons” takes the reader to the frozen pond where the narrator took his young son. Their mission on a summer’s day was for a scientist who was cataloging urban frogs, /who wanted to know how the weather changed,scientific For one, the task was to record the sounds of tree frogs. dried. ‘ She reminisces about her own childhood, as well as the time she spent with her son. “I wanted a certainty that her child felt/a world that would stabilize her…” As she awkwardly stands on the ice, her limbs recall her past moments that rock her. Start” again dizzy with her love.

Our recently appointed U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limon told PBS NewsHour last month: , we are only compartmentalizing and numbing ourselves to what is happening in the world. And poetry is where you can lay that foundation, where you can read poetry and think oh yeah. One thing is poetry’s ability to help mend our relationship with the earth. “

These key roles are just what are filled by the new, deeply felt and shared work by Wall and Holleman.