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|Field Notes for the Alpine Tundra|
2015 / Poetry / $17.95
9781554471454 / Trade paper / 48 pp
In 2008, Elena Johnson was invited to be the writer-in-residence at a remote ecology research station in the Yukon's Ruby Range mountains. For several weeks she lived in the alpine tundra, working alongside a team of biologists whose research interests ranged from plants to marmots and ptarmigan. Field Notes for the Alpine Tundra is the result of that residency, evidence that "Each landscape leaves its mark / a scratch at the heart". Employing a range of poetic techniques (from the lyric to maps, charts and lists), Johnson's poems are immersed in the remoteness of their environment, where the weather is "a cup over the valley", "nights are mostly sunset" and people are "the tallest objects / bent by the wind". Johnson observes how both the routine (laundry, camp life) and the minute (lichen, flowers, contour lines) take on new meaning in the vast wilderness of the tundra, how the creek "carries the sound of rain even in sunshine" and how the fox, encountered, "fits no guidebook description". Like caribou silently appearing "antlers-first / from behind a ridge", Johnson's poems reward the reader with a mixture of surprise and recognition.