Sheila Nickerson does a good job of describing landscape in her poem Tales of the North. She describes the scenery of Alaska and many aspects of life in Alaska in this short poem. I enjoy the line about the “oranges from the islands of Japan,’ which I remember vividly from my childhood. We always got the Japanese mandarin oranges at Christmastime. They were the best oranges we got all year!
Sheila has written many poems and essays. She focuses on nature and explorations in Alaska. I found it interesting that she also wrote a full length musical called The Enchanted Halibut. She encourages young people to be poets. Her advice is, “Do it! Write what you see, hear, feel, smell, touch, taste, experience. Write with nouns and verbs. There is no “right’ or “wrong.’ Read the works of Kenneth Koch on the subject of poetry: Wishes, Lies and Dreams, and Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?’
Part of what drew me in with her poem was that she was not only describing the scenery. Aside from the mention of the orange, which triggers a happy emotional memory for me, she talks about the berries that grow wild in Alaska that are often made into jams or eaten as they are picked. Her poem encompassed all my senses. The landscape in her poem was much more than just scenery. I could see the moss growing on roofs, I could hear the raven, feel the bearskin, taste the berries, and smell the oranges.
The Last New Land, Tales of the North, Sheila Nickerson, pg. 269