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Vo l . 6 N o . 2


A l ways a Laurea t e

Joanne Townsend

My Friends Have Made The Story of My Life The title above is a quote from Emily Dickinson. I never found out which of her many poems and letters the words came from. It arrived in a greeting card with sketches of four expressive female faces above the text. I placed it in a forest green frame and we have traveled many years together. What does it signify? I think most of all connection, not just bonds I share with those close to me but with all those far away with whom there has been caring and trust--with whom when I do communicate, it’s as if we are suddenly in the same room and no time has passed. I think this is also true of language for those of us who write. We have to love it, work it with all its possibilities, sometimes stand away from it in order to reconnect and return.

organizing at the Pioneer Schoolhouse in a few weeks. I didn’t know Mrs. Mielke had served as Alaska’s first Poet Laureate. I didn’t tell her this was the first poem I had written since 1964 when I had been ill in the hospital and given my mother the key to my New York apartment, only to find later she had cleaned. A novella, short stories, poems, journals, notes I had jotted from writing workshops, had been carried out as trash. What could she have been thinking as they slid down the building’s incinerator? However I just smiled at Mrs. Mielke, said yes, went home to my small house in Nunaka Valley, turned part of our dining table into a desk and wrote like mad. All these years later I am still writing.

Sandra asked me to write as sort of a Three California poets came to that status account--my life, my writing, and reading: Marlene Vavra, Charles (Mickey) what I could say that would help younger Mitchell, and Jim Gove; and it was exciting writers. However I do not use Facebook to meet them and talk. Marlene would nor keep journals, though I have at times. commit suicide, Mickey would leave, but Joanne Townsend I did live in Alaska for 35 years, 1970Jim stayed three years. He published a 2005, and it was my honor to serve four small journal, Minotaur, was a mentor official years as Alaska’s 8th Poet Laureate, and about 2 to many local poets, and organized poetry readings in a years unofficially at the Arts Council’s request until a new restaurant on Northern Lights Boulevard; The building laureate was appointed. Sense of place was so strong was a Quonset hut,, a long narrow noisy space in which that we were living in New Mexico for three years before I we shouted our poems to crowds while pots banged could write a poem that did not have tinges of Alaska in it. and dishes clattered. When his employer called him back to the states, Jim asked Steve Levi and me to take over My plunge into life as a poet began in Anchorage in 1975. the readings. Later the place changed hands, and the I had spent weeks penciling a poem about my Polish readings were no longer welcome; but Steve had the idea grandfather and then had read in the newspaper that of starting a poetry magazine. We would work together, there was a poets’ luncheon as part of Fur Rendezvous. co-publish, and in spring 1978 Harpoon was born. It was going to be then or never; thus I shyly entered the Captain Cook Hotel clutching my penciled paper, found During this time I was taking university classes; teaching the room, took a seat--knew no one. After lunch, all these writing to gifted children at an elementary school; teaching people took out their books, typed sheets, and whateverpoetry in the men’s prison, an old concrete building on -some read poems from memory. I was last and nervously 3rd Avenue; juggling housekeeping, and raising a young read what would become “Grandfather Poem # 1” in a son. My husband worked long hours usually missing series. Folks applauded, and then Margaret Mielke came dinner and our son’s bedtime. Feminism, women’s rights over and asked if I would take part in a reading she was were in the news, discussed in group meetings and the

Profile for Michael Burwell

Cirque, Vol. 6 No. 2  

A Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Cirque, Vol. 6 No. 2  

A Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Profile for burwellm