"Who knew Fairbanks was so fabulous! " Michelle
I arrived in Fairbanks for the second time on April 29. Winter’s footprint was still stepping pretty heavily on spring’s neck. The air was cold, trees were bare, and while the roads were mostly clear, huge patches of ice and snow stretched over the landscape like tattered blankets. It seemed impossible that winter would ever go away. Three weeks later (which was about one week past the expiration date of my patience) the small light green buds of leaves finally appeared on the birch trees surrounding our house.
The day after I returned we headed out to Chatanika for the 14th Annual Poetry at the Dredge. About a dozen people traipsed across mounds of smooth rocks – cast aside by the hulking gold-mining machine – with children, dogs, blankets, coolers and books of poetry in tow. This year’s gathering was in honor of former Alaska poet-laureate John Haines who had died about a month earlier. We settled into a circle and people took turns reciting their favorite selections. It was an affable but gruff-looking older man who read the poem that would stick with me all these months: “Death and The Miser.”
There, by candle or fretted sun,
you might have seen, as now,
flickering and doubled by fever,
your shadow-self at work,
cowled and booted,
and with great butcher’s shears
slitting the rose of mercy
into a thousand tatters.
There are a lot of interesting facets to the John Haines story. One thing of note, as pointed out by essayist Dan Gioia, is that “(Haines) came late to artistic maturity” – having published his first book of poems at age 42 and first book of essays at age 57. (source)
Haines went on to become one of Alaska’s best known writers, winning awards and acclaim.
For anyone looking at the beginning of the New Year as a chance for transformation, perhaps these lessons may serve as inspiration. It’s never too late to begin. And just when you think nothing will ever change, spring finally arrives.
With that in mind, if you need a kick in the butt to get going, there are two imminent opportunities in Fairbanks:
1) For visual artists: KUAC has issued its 29th Annual Post CALL for Art. Submission deadline is this Friday, January 6.