Bone Strings: Poems by Anne Coray

Praise for Bone Strings

Bone Strings contains some of the finest poems I have read by an Alaska poet in recent years. They are not the poems of a city visitor, but of a resident in the truest sense, one who can speak with a deep sense of place, of life lived and remembered in detail from day to day, season to season. The poems deserve many readers. —John Haines
Anne Coray's precise, austere yet sensuous language is a fine instrument for tracing the harsh geography of her native Alaska. Cool as the moon, her poems shine a clear light on unforgiving landscapes, and on tough truths of the heart. Bone Strings sings a hard-earned song. —Stephen Kessler
Surprisingly soon into Anne Coray's outstanding first poetry collection, Bone Strings, you can "relax" (the quotes guard against any impression that these might all be light or easy poems) in the knowledge that you are in the hands of a writer with an infectious confidence in what she says and how she says it, and so you are willing and then eager to get her take on things. From her vantage point in Alaska, where she was born and where she resides, this take is very close to nature. —Martin Mitchell, Editor-in-Chief,
Anne Coray's poems are deeply satisfying for their graceful combination of devotions, to the natural — animal/vegetable/mineral — and to the way nature resonates in us, the humans who live in a "sacred space." She is keenly observant, sensitive without swooning, and conveys both the loveliness and the brutality of her world in a complex and disciplined language. —Rosellen Brown


  • If you listen long to the waves
    you will learn to measure distance,
    broad strum of wind from the valley,
    short pluck and pick from the lake’s edge.
  • Those mornings when a wing of light
    glides up above the bay we watch.
    We talk: nothing much. Last night was cool.
    The lake is calm. We’ve berries still to harvest.
  • Dinner: potatoes, grouse, and lettuce and dill
    from the garden. Preparing it, I ask,
    “Is meaning synonymous with worth?” “Some questions,”
    says my husband, “sure make a slow salad.”
  • September twenty-fourth. The swans and geese are leaving.
    Which ones fly first? Are they nervous or wiser?
    To the north, a joining of snow
    to mountains more luminous than a church.
  • Port Alsworth: one hundred resident Baptists.
    We’re thirteen miles away, and staying. In summer,
    dust from the airstrip toils upward and stalls;
    a pterodactylic signature of souls.
  • History’s full of false holds, like this lake
    dubbed over, named for Clark. He only passed through once,
    with a reporter. Qizhjeh Vena,
    the Dena’ina called it. “Many peoples gather.”
  • We live on sacred ground. Brown Carlson, long gone,
    buried his first wife on this plot, and up the hill
    a circle of stones for my brother Paul.
    O curse us spirits, if we so close, not visit.
  • Mountain cloud, solo drummer. We can’t beat joy out.
    It comes sometimes in the form of color:
    rose on scarp and peak just west of Copper,
    backdrop rhythm of sky, blue-violet.
  • Soon it will snow, and rosehips outliving the last
    glow of summer won’t survive the storms. Memory,
    dried stem, works hard to remember them, like breath,
    urging the late night coals to a color almost translucent.