Miriam Wagoner never thought her poems would be published, let alone win national awards.
But Sept. 9, the Juneau poet won a National Federation of Press Women’s National Communications Contest award for her book, “A Poem Book From My Kaasei Nook To The World.”
“I found out in May, and I still can’t believe it,” Wagoner said after returning home from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where the award ceremony was held. “It is out of nothingness that I accomplished this, so I’m still speechless.”
The contest is open to anyone over the age of 18 and is two tiered. The first tier is a state-level contest, and first-place winners then proceed to the national competition.
Wagoner placed as an honorable mention in the creative verse-book of poetry category.
Her poems were first published in the Capital City Weekly, and Wagoner later decided to self-publish a collection of poems as a book. She decided to self-publish based on a desire to retain full ownership of her work as well as a sense of urgency.
“If you want to traditionally publish instead of self-publish, you need to wait for two years at least,” Wagoner said. “I felt I was ready to publish.”
Wagoner was able to make the trip to Pennsylvania to receive the award in person as documented on her Facebook page thanks to support from the community.
She specifically credited Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, the Filipino community and Exit Realty of Juneau broker Roger Porto with making the trip possible.
“I was so proud of her,” Porto said. “She’s had some struggles in her life that she’s certainly overcome, and the poetry is very cathartic for her, and it touches a lot of people. I just happened to have some extra mileage, so I helped get her there and back.
“How about that, somebody from Juneau represents the state of Alaska in a national contest,” he added. “That’s pretty damn good.”
Wagoner’s story as an immigrant and survivor of domestic violence is a thematic presence in many of her poems, and it will also factor into an upcoming display of her work at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center.
She will be the featured artist for October in a partnership with local calligrapher Laurence Christenson, who will translate Wagoner’s poems into a visual medium.
The month of October was specifically chosen because it is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Wagoner started writing poetry while in transitional housing for survivors of domestic abuse. She had not written much since she was in high school, except for the occasional song.
“Being detached from the world allowed me to be more creative,” Wagoner said. “That was my outlet. It allowed me to have more of a voice rather than be shut up forever.”
WOUNDED EAGLE’S NEST
BY MIRIAM WAGONER
You are a bit hidden from the road;
many seem oblivious or don’t know you exist.
You stand beautiful, surrounded by towering trees
where eagles meet and rest and soar again.
You are more than a home.
You’re a comforter, a healer, a refuge.
Inside of you, live, the wounded eagles
that can’t (yet) ascend and fly.
Like you, they too are often unnoticed.
Their plight, no one understands.
Just how deep they’re wounded and scarred,
visible or invisible, no one can fathom.
their hearts, torn apart,
their spirits, so crushed,
they just survived abuse.
From your window, as I gazed at sun’s reflection,
radiating from calm waters of Twin Lakes,
I see hope, I see freedom, I see future.
I looked into my heart. There lives still — unfading — love.
Amid chaos, pains, terror, oppression, inequities, scorns, unknowns
I love my life, always did and will,
That, and faith — in me and in my God, is why I survived.
I can’t wait to fly again and soar.