Lily is Leaving

In Lily is Leaving: Poems by Leslie A. Fried, the reader travels by train across Texas flatlands with the poet as she grieves for her lost lover, inhales the “spicy scent of leaves smoldering” as she recalls her beloved mother, walks in late summer along Oregon cow paths to search for the “dangerous opulence” of blackberries, considers the intelligence of crows, makes a feeble attempt to explain the fragility of life to her granddaughter, and mourns the loss of those innocents beaten down by history. All of this she does in seven chapters with titles such as Laws of Attraction; How and Why; and Shipwreck and Resurrection — using language that curls the ear, wracks the heart and satisfies the mind.

Leslie Fried is an archeologist of the soul, digging through the fractured histories of ancestors, and her own past with parents, lovers and sons, to describe the forces that mold our characters and haunt our dreams. She uses her acute powers of observation, and vivid images and metaphors, to relate both the depths of trauma and the heights of delight. She is particularly adept at revealing the deceitfulness we all use to bind others to ourselves and to make sense of our histories. In Leslie’s poetic world, time is not linear, love covers a multitude of pains and disappointments, and grace is still possible.

—Tonja Woelber, author of the poetry collections Glacier Blue (2016) and Tundra Songs (2017).

In her debut collection, Lily is Leaving, Leslie Fried writes “on the train my shadow is my letter of introduction.” These poems are marked by their sensitivity to lives in transit, lives that need to journey in order to prosper, and, at times, to simply survive. When the speaker finds shelter, it’s often outwardly flimsy — “our house is tiny / a chicken coop once /a crazy quilt now /of wood and windows /under the great fir” — but Fried vividly shows us how familial bonds deepen and intimacy flourishes in such idiosyncratic spaces. Indeed, the author delights in all invitations, large or small, that the world extends. And her poems make us at home in that world, as if we, too, are invited to live fully. For instance, she accepts an “Invitation to an Intimate Dinner Room 43, Airport Way South,” and dines at “a small square table / covered in butcher paper /folded and taped” an experience that could have passed her by, had she let it. This is a narrator who takes her knocks at times because, fundamentally, she’s in cahoots with abundance. When Fried tells us “I am planted and sprouting /in luminous air,” we believe her.

—Deborah Woodard, author of Borrowed Tales

Leslie Fried’s debut collection offers an elegance in language illuminating carefully crafted poems that invite me to read and re-read lines, verses, and whole poems as I discover fresh angles, peepholes and circumstances to experience: ardor, family, history, loss, intimacy, death; to. . .know hard love as a trick of the trail. . .Here is a lively edginess of surprises along with Fried’s 100 descriptions of place, each so vivid you might remember them later as if you had physically been there. It is a gift. Her gift is extended by her own illustrations. Delicate and impish special treats. For my own pleasure, I read the poems aloud to myself, and discover more heart, more about being alive as. . .the earth is breathing stories. . .

—Carol Levin, author of Stunned by Velocity (2012), Confident Music Would Fly Us to Paradise (2014), and An Undercurrent of Jitters (2018).


Review of Lilly is Leaving by Frances McCue

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The Fox Boy

In 1968, fresh from college, Gretchen Brinck became the lone child welfare worker serving a remote region the size of Oregon State. The Fox Boy recounts her work in rural Alaska, her encounters with abuse, injustices against Alaska Natives, controversial adoptions, and the tragic disappearance of Gabriel Fox.

Gretchen Brinck offers a searing and heartbreaking account of child abuse and bureaucratic incompetence in post-colonial SW Alaska, 1968-70. Her personal narrative reveals why the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 was desperately needed in the U.S. Alcohol brought by Russians, then the U.S., and the loss of indigenous autonomy, brought misery and chaos to Alaska Native families. Her brilliant and honest memoir reminds us we need to honor the cultural dimensions of a child’s need for identity and happiness.

—Kerry Dean Feldman, Professor Emeritus, Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage

In 1968, as the lone child welfare worker in a vast remote region roughly the size of Oregon, Gretchen Brinck shouldered daunting responsibilities. She struggled against entrenched practices that did not consider Native families appropriate for child placement. Ms. Brinck saw the importance of culture, the strengths evident in Yup’ik traditional values and the potential harm of removing Yup’ik children and placing them with faraway white families. The Fox Boy is a must-read for all intending to “help” in child welfare services.

—Joan P Dewey, LCSW, 24 years of service in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region of Alaska

For the first time ever, in reading The Fox Boy, I am able to heal from the generational trauma that has affected my people for many years. Although it is set in the sixties, we still experience situations like this. This book can bring healing to our people to hear how a “child snatcher” fought so hard for children and who came to serve a population they would come to love.

—Starretta Abdiu-Lucas, foster parent, Asset Supervisor, Public Housing, Yukon-Kuskokwim DeltaMore praise for The Fox Boy

The Fox Boy is a gripping story of one person’s efforts to serve the families, especially the children, in a remote region of Alaska. A young child protection worker faces frustrating barriers as she struggles with some unfeeling administrators, lack of resources, and inhuman regulations before she can help those who need her. I was touched by her love of the people and her persistence in finding ways to overcome those barriers. This account is sensitively written, putting us into the homes of real people and helping us understand their lives.

—Elaine Jordan, author of Mrs. Ogg Played the Harp… Read More

Praise for Cirque Press

Praise for Cirque Press Cirque Press has been so good to work with. I appreciate Sandra Kleven’s encouragement, her optimism, and her communication throughout the publishing process and her unselfish advocacy for writers. Michael Burwell possesses extensive knowledge when it … Read More


CIRQUE PRESS proudly announces The Dream That is Childhood: A Memoir in Verse by Sandra Wassilie.

The Dream That Is Childhood: A Memoir in Verse introduces a young girl growing into awareness of an uncertain world through an apprenticeship with the wilderness of territorial Alaska. Set during the years of the Cold War, it recalls a particular place, dominated by a lake, on the north side of the Alaska Range. It is a glimpse into the middle of the twentieth century from a child whose scant knowledge of the outside world comes mainly from overhearing the talk of adults and from books. Her daily life involves dog teams, boats, and planes. The outside world is different.

Wassilie writes in a narrative style that leaps into the lyrical and into depths of mystery whether of waterweeds or parental behavior or her own changing body. Her childhood is a negotiation between loneness and a growing family in a hybrid community of woodsmen and government workers, between being lost in books and immersed in the forest, if not the changing moods of the sky and lake. She confronts the harsh beauty of her life equally with sorrow and humor. She comes to accept it as a series of arrivals and departures with hard choices to be made along the way. And in that acceptance, she finds she can forgive.

Wassilie’s poems are a wellspring of keen observations, written purely from the heart, with a sense of deep time and connection to place.

— Kathleen Tarr, author of We Are All Poets Here

Like a prospector, Sandra Wassilie has tunneled, sifted and arranged the specks and nuggets of her Alaska childhood into a collection worthy of the art of poetry.

— Doug Capra, author of The Spaces Between: Stories from the Kenai Mountains to the Kenai Fjords… Read More


Hundreds of thousands visit Seward, Alaska, each summer, wondering what it would be like to live there. A woman wresting with a return to her hometown, a man studying the play of light, and daily snapshots of citizens, their art and their stunning yet fitful environment bring a year in the mountain-rimmed port city to life.

There is a certain intimacy about Alaska—one that requires patience and endurance to truly appreciate and understand. In Sean Ulman’s Seward Soundboard, he does what few are capable of doing by appreciating the delicate and minute details of the Last Frontier’s harsh and wondrous life and then setting it in motion to the ebb and flow of a small, Alaskan town.

—Rickey Gates, author of Cross Country

In Sean Ulman’s Seward Soundboard, Seward, Alaska, is where the sky spinning a fleece of mist is as much a character as a tsunami siren echoing off the mountains, a hymn of noon bells, tourists gawking at sun-licked Exit Glacier, a Mt. Marathon racer dirtied with blood and sap and locals such as the beachcombing Lightseeker playing with parallelogram prisms and studying the sun through a shoebox. Ulman’s style is unique with skillfully crafted language — both poetic and lyrical, creating a quirky and recognizable small-town Alaskan community.

—Vivian Faith Prescott, author of The Dead Go to Seattle

With a playful, acrobatic use of language, Sean Ulman shines an intimate spotlight into every corner of this small harbor town, where the elements of weather–from sustained winds to perpetual rain to the much sought after sun — hold starring roles in the lives of the eclectic community of folks that visit or call Seward home.

—Christy Everett, author of the blog Following Elias… Read More

Loggers Don't Make Love

Loggers Don’t Make Love is a tricky deftly written mystery with a narrator that could coax you into a barrel above Niagra falls. Author Dave Rowan paints a true picture of the rough and tumble life in a logging camp on the Olympic Peninsula. The mystery isn’t over when the story ends. Reading the prologue reveals the cleverness the author had when penning this thriller.

—James Sweeney, author of A Thousand Prayers: Alaska Climbing Expedition, Marine Life Solidarity and The List

It’s the waning days of old growth logging on the Olympic Peninsula, and Dave Rowan’s Knucklehead is one of a group of raucous loggers. Knucklehead relates a fast-paced tale in a strong voice of friendship, love, death, and murder amongst the big trees. No one escapes unscathed, and in the end, Knucklehead concludes “perhaps just recognizing our karma during one lifetime will help us get rid of it in the next one.”

—Doug Pope, Author of The Way to Gaamaak Cove

Loggers Don’t Make Love, a stunning debut novella by a former NW logger, Dave Rowan, defies a literary pigeon-hole. Glorious first-growth NW forests—wild and free and lovely—seep their wildness and more into the loggers who harvest them in the US ’70s, and the women who love them. Throw in a murder mystery and you have a feast that is good-to-the-last-surprising-drop.

—Kerry Dean Feldman, author of Alice’s Trading Post: A Novel of the West and Drunk on Love: Twelve Stories to Savor Responsibly


Also Available on IngramSpark… Read More

The Way to Gaamaack Cove

Doug Pope writes about the Alaskan backcountry better than any writer I’ve ever read. The Way to Gaamaak Cove is more than just a great adventure, it is coming-of-middle-age in which one man confronts life’s big questions, reevaluates his priorities, and discovers the biggest adventure of all—love.

—Jonathan Evison, author of All About Lulu, West of Here, and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

In The Way to Gaamaak Cove, Doug Pope asks himself, “Is love your greatest risk or is risk your greatest love?” The answer emerges as he chronicles the exhilaration, tribulations, and serenity of wilderness travel. What makes this book so distinctive is how beautifully Pope ranges beyond the usual tales of Alaska adventure to reveal the story of a man who discovers his truest self with the woman who shares so many of these journeys. In language spare and affecting, these accounts overlap and braid and eddy out, illuminated by a rare vulnerability and a keep attentiveness to the moments that add up to a life filled with meaning.

—Sherry Simpson, author of Dominion of Bears: Living With Wildlife in Alaska, The Accidental Explorer: Wayfinding in Alaska, and The Way Winter Comes: Alaska Series

Doug Pope turns out to be as lucky in love as he is in grizzly bear encounters. These linked tales of true wilderness and true romance have enough things going wrong to keep the pages turning. Sometimes, survival and love are not that far apart, as we see in this richly detailed tribute to a family and to Alaska.

—Tom Kizzia, author of Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier, and The Wake of the Unseen Object: Travels Through Alaska’s Native Landscape

To download a full-color map that is in the book, click this link for a pdf version

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Chris Laskowski Photography

I have always had the camera “bug” in my blood.  I started taking family photos at a very early age with a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye.  I went on to use a 110 then upgraded to a 120.  I received a … Read More

Cartography of Water by Mike Burwell

The poems are among the best I have read by an Alaskan poet.

—John Haines, author of Winter News, News From the Glacier: Selected Poems 1960–1980, and For the Centuries End: Poems 1990-1999

Mike Burwell’s poems remind me of the movement of a glacial river, powerful and true. This is the work of a mature poet, one who is sure of his craft and his place in the world. Cartography of Water is a most welcome addition to Alaskan literature.

—Tom Sexton, author of Autumn in the Alaska Range, A Clock With No Hands, For the Sake of the Light, and Li Bai Rides a Celestial Dolphin Home

Here, in Cartography of Water, the quietude of the untamed, wilder world is kept company by the wilderness of one man’s longing and loud ache. Wolves appear, and bears, and the rusty remnants of old miners’ dreams. Also a suffering son, born into his father’s world on the back of a meteor shower. Against the beauty and terror of life, the poet holds to words which manage, in turn, to capture and hold up for us some remnant of the brief joys of his world, actual and imagined.

—Anne Caston, author of Flying Out With The Wounded, Judah’s Lion, and Prodigal

From the opening poem of this fine collection, where the speaker announces himself coconspirator to the sexy moon that “runs” him, to the final poem’s “still life of leaf and cone, poised in death,” these lyrical meditations repeatedly position themselves vis-à-vis a spectacular, uncontainable, and humbling landscape. The author knows when to listen, how to filter winds and currents, seasons and storms, as his words “fall off the headlands.” This is not “nature poetry,” whatever that is, but a stunning prayer, sensual and secular, to the earth that the poet adores. He wisely fears that earth a little, too, since it claims us all comment or care. I’ve been an admirer of Mike Burwell’s work since I published him in Poems and Plays a dozen years ago, and Cartography of Water is long, long overdue. As this talented poet moves your hands across the “cool waist of the planet,” breathe deeply that dizzying Alaskan heaven, and enjoy.

—Gaylord Brewer, Editor Poems & Plays… Read More

Defiance Street

“Sandra Kleven walks a path of beautiful grit and hard honesty that remains uncompromising throughout. In poems like, ‘Lament for Scott’ and ‘As She Waits for Word on Her Biopsy,’ she gnaws her thoughts on aging to the bone with confessions borne of a poet’s long consideration. Kleven’s prose pieces are wall-to-wall poems. She speaks of the famous Blue Moon tavern, of the birth of the second half of the 20th century, and of Theodore Roethke better than he ever did. Bottom line? When I read Sandra Kleven’s lines, ‘She went after boys who looked like Jesus, / sandaled, contemplative, guys with that / crucified look,’ I knew I’d need to say little else about Defiance Street besides: You must give this book a chance.”

—Nathan Brown… Read More

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