Poetry: Field Notes for the Alpine Tundra

Poetry by Elena Johnson, Gaspereau Press, 2015

Review by Cassie Guinan


This collection was a simple reminder that while I don’t always know what I’m looking at in nature, somebody does. Johnson knows her shit but isn’t arrogant about it. She shares things that even the not-so outdoorsy types can experience: “When the coffee is boiling we don’t hear the sky.” Field Notes for the Alpine Tundra is a record of Johnson’s residency at an ecology research station in the Yukon’s Ruby Range mountains. These poems reflect the setting’s remoteness; it’s a give in. But I think that these poems are so calming because they don’t feel lonesome. There’s always something breathing nearby. It seems that a key part to handling remoteness is partnering with others while maintaining independance, being at peace with your own voice and the quiet.