paper • 76 pages • 16.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-945588-92-1

This Alaska

Carlie Hoffman

Reviewed in Publishers Weekly
Featured in Ordinary Plots 
Interviewed in Queens Gazette

To live in an Alaska of the mind is to map the imagined cartography of winter on all that is physical. To dwell perpetually in a symbolic cold, and to emerge, with grace, unscathed. This book questions what it means to live and love in such a buried season. This Alaska interrogates all that emotional and physical intimacy cannot salvage or keep warm. Death and dreams are at the very center of this book. But life — and all it entails and circles and loses and loves — is at its heart.


In the lozenge-colored glow of the garage
you are the hero skinning a rabbit

bit by bit, careful not to hook a vein.
I am the daughter peering through the window.

What if the world really is a stale bowl of water
that we can’t keep our fingers out of—

The night sky stiffens in a squeal of light.
How can I look away?

Praise from Binnie Kirshenbaum
Praise from Josh Bell
Praise from Thylias Moss

This Alaska abounds with birds. Grackles, herons, pigeons, crows, and oil-slick seagulls reveal the heartless beauty of nature and the social Darwinism of civilization. Joseph Brodsky wrote that when one encounters a bird in a poem, chances are that the bird is actually the poet. Hoffman’s birds scrounge, suffer, die and get buried, but they also rise up like a magnificent heron, ‘so blue and big and saintlike.’ Carlie Hoffman’s debut collection is excruciating and glorious and true.

When you die you go to This Alaska. When you’re raised from the dead you’re raised by the memory of song and you will go searching for This Alaska. It is a book of heaven that has not forgotten the body nor the shadow cast by the body, nor how hunger leads you to the slaughterhouse and is love.

As I read this collection of poetry, I am at once struck by how Carlie seems to know exactly my current situation, how the poems are also pushing against what Michigan and politics insist on right now, a dilution of compassion such that even using the word rings hollow, even light getting lost so that incessant winter becomes the singular season—and even grace disgusts. Carlie offers the true ending of a year, so even that we have gotten incorrect. I return to the poems, seeking what has led us astray, carnival danger leaps out, everything for sale, constant urging to try your luck, for even the dead come into houses, not funeral homes, for I get the feeling that most occupancy is dead to really feeling, dead to possibilities of healing, and this state is delivered in beautiful language of the hope Carlie’s poems offer: soothing cadences of words revealing seldom spoken truths, and that is the actual hope that Carlie identifies, for we must do more than merely hope and dream. For in the end, hopes and dreams are small engines that do not power the cages away.