Anne Coray’s poetry collections include Bone Strings, A Measure’s Hush, and Violet Transparent. She is coauthor of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve and coeditor of Crosscurrents North: Alaskans on the Environment. The recipient of grants and a fellowship from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and an Individual Artist Project Award from the Rasmuson Foundation, she lives at her birthplace on remote Qizhjeh Vena (Lake Clark) in southwest Alaska.
Unflinching, elegiac, and sometimes fueled with invective, Violet Transparent examines loss in both the natural and human landscapes. Anne Coray does not shy away from political or environmental commentary, but she knows when to pull back and let the poem be a poem. This collection dares to follow in the footsteps of luminaries like W. S. Merwin and William Heyen, poets whose deep and compassionate regard for nature informs and makes imperative their work.
In "This Close to Permanence” Anne Coray looks into a lake and thinks, "Nothing I’ve made has such beauty of fusion.” Several poems later she asks, "Is it possible, then, to reconcile division?” This, then, is the struggle of this fine poet: by way of the poem, despite lament and anger over our accelerating natural and spiritual losses—to achieve a sustaining vision of language and place that might hold for her listeners, too. Nothing, of course, is certain—”Ask the great auk about guarantees”—but poem after poem here achieves an earned stay against despair, against resignation. I’ve read Violet Transparent with admiration and gratitude. Willliam Heyen
Violet Transparent is an exact, and exacting, map of the heart’s north country, where "the snow-graced peaks reflect/ what most of us come to know:/ the best we can have is the welcome/ of looking through.” Anne Coray knows such welcome, and in these poems she proves herself to be a fearless and inventive explorer of a land that most of us but glimpse in dream or from a great distance. Hers is "a furious faith/ in the righting of wrongs.” Violet Transparent helps us see the world aright.
International Writing Program
University of Iowa
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
Anne Coray’s poems in Bone Strings emanate an intuitive sense of the Alaskan wilderness where she grew up. As one who is intimate with landscape, she is able to bypass the tendency to conceive wilderness as a pristine, magical presence. Instead, through her poems, she meanders the fractured line between harshness and beauty. She readily confronts the odds of survival and exposes the reader to a certain reality not only about the wilderness of nature but also about the wilderness of self.
Her poems are attentive to the plight of wildlife as civilization encroaches. The walrus, the moose, the ptarmigan, the wolves are just some of the presences with which she interrelates in her poems, and even if they fail in their individual struggle to survive, she draws on the continuity of nature as an active setting to death’s inevitable presence. In the poem “Elegy for Four Wolves Killed by a Neighbor Last December,” the opening line, which lends the book its title, reverberates with this sense of a cosmic presence lending continuity to a harsh reality:
wind strums its bone strings.
Ravens too make their music, plucking
the last fish scraps from the ice.
Beneath Sleeping Lady
Coray’s attention to nature goes beyond a sense of place. Her most genuine lines reveal how nature transforms the self. In the same poem, she continues, “And I am still worrying transitions, / stuck in a brutal month of blood and skins.” This sense of transition permeates her poems. Another example is found in “The Unexalted,” where she leads us again to the interaction of landscape with self: “The land / only collects our grief; the stars release it, untraceable, anonymous.”
Throughout her poems, her treatment of the human presence is as fragile as that of wildlife. She writes of a father who died in flight, of a mother waiting. In the poem “Alaskan,” she opens with the line, “Here, death is common by air,” acknowledging in her steady voice what one accepts from living on the edge of wilderness. Yet, even in this knowledge, she doesn’t give over to the finality of death, but instead she gives the reader a sense of its place in the cosmic world:
So they are given over:
flying a Cook
or a mountain pass,
there are little puffs
that make the airplane shudder,
breaths of the invisible
reclaiming their position
in the sun-washed sky.
Even though these poems are anchored in the Alaskan landscapes, they have a tendency to appeal to the universal meandering in each of us. In the same poem, she draws up images as universal as Penelope waiting for the return of Ulysses, only here the women do not wait for return from the sea, but from the sky:
fog and overloaded planes
take many, and widows lie
in star-laced beds,
the names of the unburied
soft upon their lips.
In her seamless transitions, Coray’s references to language infiltrate the imagery of external and internal landscapes. In the poem “Kinships,” she gives us, in her own words, the “landscape of tongue.” Here again, she underscores that fine line between beauty and harshness by giving wilderness its own voice, “the river’s throat learning / its earliest course,” leading us to “the world awash with voice,” which is as good a description as any for her book — a world awash with voice. Katie Kingston in www.poetrywest.org/review1.htm
HOMEPAGE (ANNE CORAY) : http://annecorayalaska.com/Bio-1.html