Between Fire and Water, Ice and Sky
Gretchen Diemer's poems are strong and full of the tragediesboth public and privateof our time: two brothers who drowned, the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Allende. There is also a probing sequence that moves with subtle skill between travels in Europe and memories of Alaska. Like all good poetry her work is immediate, even tactile, and delivers an authentic version of the world to the reader. Vern Rutsala
With this generous and thoughtful new collection, Gretchen Diemer has revealed a seriously engaged Alaska writer, one deserving the attention of readers for whom poetry is more than another distraction of the entertainment industry. May this book find the readers it deserves. John Haines
About the Author
Gretchen Diemer was born in northern Wisconsin. Her family moved west when she was twelve, eventually settling in Montana. She studied at the University of Montana and completed an MFA and teacher certification program at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 1994 she was hired to teach in the Alaskan village of Noorvik, followed by positions on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs, and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, where she presently teaches. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications including Ice-Floe, 13th Moon, Cumberland Poetry Review, Long Pond Review, Duckabush Journal, Poetry Northwest, Willow Springs, Fine Madness, Cutbank, Seattle Review and others. She lives outside of Wasilla, Alaska, with her artist-husband, Eric Deeter, and their son, Jeffrey. They share quarters with a menagerie of dogs and cats.
Selected Poem: Your Brother’s Hand
When the children are knocking down
a wasp nest or plucking baby finches
from under the mother’s wing I stop and stare
into the darkest valleys of the Kobuk River
and throw a few stones. I hum an old hymn
from childhood, stroke the fireweed and foxtail,
search in pools of water for frogs or minnows,
a raven, in shadow, dreaming overhead.
Upriver two brothers drowned, the older
going down when he tried to save the other trapped
in a whirlpool. How can it be to feel the touch
of your brother’s hand, sudden like a wasp’s
sting, the current’s blinding depth, exquisite pain?
You stand dumbly as if your tongue had been pulled
from your jaw. In your eyes still stunned by light, the questions
fade. Is it possible to breathe under water, to lift
a brother’s waterlogged body into the wind
and give it breath?
How to repair what breaks in small
hands?a bird’s wing, the butterfly.