FAIRBANKS — As a little girl growing up on 160 acres on the fringes of Anchorage from the 1940s to 1960s, Linda Schandelmeier and her siblings used to put the family chickens to sleep all over the yard with a little trickery. This memory became the poem “Sleeping with Chickens,” part of her new, yet-to-be-published book of poetry and images, “Homestead.”
“It’s an emblematic poem in many ways,” Schandelmeier said from her Fairbanks home. “It was something to do when we were bored. We would take their heads, tuck it under the wings and rock them back and forth. The chickens seemed to go to sleep, so you can lay it on the ground and it won’t move. It would just lay there. We’d put 10 or 15 asleep all over the yard.”
Eventually, the chickens would just “pop up” and continue as if nothing had happened, Schandelmeier added with a laugh.
Schandelmeier will be reading poetry and displaying photos from her book Thursday as part of the Northern Voices Speakers Series at the Noel Wien Public Library.
“Homestead” contains 30 poems and even more photographs. Though Schandelmeier has been writing poetry about Alaska since the 1960s, “Homestead” focuses on one period of her life — growing up with the outside as her playground.
“I was mothered by trees and inertia because I spent as much of my childhood as I could out wandering about,” she said. “I spent a lot of time outside.”
Schandelmeier received a Rasmuson Foundation grant to write the book. Homesteading hadn’t been written about much, especially though poetry.
“And it’s still close,” she added. “It’s not so long ago, so not much has been written about it. I think that was part of” the appeal.
Schandelmeier credits her interest in poetry to the creative writing program at University of Alaska Fairbanks. She was at school studying biological sciences, but attended a writing workshop with a friend and became hooked. Her life in Alaska became a natural outlet for her words.
“I often take my images from the landscape,” she said.
Her first book, “Listening Hard Among The Birches,” contained “all the poems I thought were any good that I’d ever written.” she said. It was released in 2004.
Schandelmeier said she was halfway through the current project when she decided that her old photos would have stories and poems to tell as well. She is currently in the final editing process of the photos.
“The photos just had to be in there,” she said, “I took some with my little Brownie camera. They have character.”
Contact features editor Glenn BurnSilver at 459-7510.
IF YOU GO
What: Northern Voices Speakers Series with Linda Schandelmeier
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Noel Wien Library Auditorium, 1215 Cowles St.,
Information: 452-5021 or www.northern.org