Sarah B. Aronson’s road to a published poetry collection and a New American Poetry Prize starts in Juneau.
The poet, whose new collection “And Other Bodiless Powers” was published Nov. 1, now lives in Montana, but Aronson was born, raised and discovered her love of poetry in the capital city.
“In second grade in Mrs. Allen’s class in Auke Bay Elementary, she introduced me to poetry, and she actually wrote my letter of reference for grad school,” Aronson said in an interview with the Capital City Weekly. “It’s very much tied to my schooling in Juneau and my love of landscapes growing up in Alaska.”
E X P I R A T I O N B L U E S
Overtones of the first and eighth elements
bound in ice—the way cold lights itself
from within. I step with my full weight
into a world. Press boots into sediment, watch
impressions swell from the ground up. Crouch
to tally the silver hairs of lupine banners,
but cannot number the soft granules in clay.
Some species flourish, come back fervid
after fire. This is certain. I say I like how suncups
dimple old snow. But this year came tundra-
sprung. Permafrost huffing, a bluff charge.
– Sarah B. Aronson
In the ensuing years, Aronson said she’s had individual poems published, but “And Other Bodiless Powers” is her first poetry collection to be published.
It was awarded the 2018 New American Poetry Prize. The annual award from the independent publisher New American Press comes with $1,200 and a book contract.
“I was completely floored and flattered and waves of self-doubt of course, but by then, it’s out of the world, and it’s not my decision, and it’s no longer mine,” Aronson said. “If somebody deemed it was good enough, I’ll take their word for it.”
Aronson said the poems in the collection were, for the most part, written over the past three years.
“There’s maybe a few stragglers from as late as five years ago, but really the heavy year ago was done in the last three years,” Aronson said.
She said many of the poems share common themes and are generally bound together by a shared examination of the environment.
“I think there are three primary strands,” Aronson said. “One is to Alaska and my home. The first half of the book is largely in conversation with Southeast Alaska and the glacier. The second theme is around maternity and what it means to choose to not be a mother. A third theme is around desire lines and desire paths and sort of the quickest route we take to get to where we want to get going.”
Aronson said relationship with land and being in conversation with the land is important to the collection.
“Attending to the land as if it is a real relationship because I believe that it is,” she said. “Not just sort of a canvas on which we live. I think that really speaks to growing up in Southeast, because that’s what you are taught growing up. I think about Ernestine Hayes, the land is noticing you just as much as you’re noticing the land.”
Aronson said she would advise would-be poets considering putting together poetry collections or writing poems to take inspiration from the things they care about.
“The best advice I got during my creative writing program was follow your obsessions,” Aronson said. “Listen to them and follow them through. Let them speak to you and be open.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.