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Nickerson, Sheila B(unker) 1942-

NICKERSON, Sheila B(unker) 1942-

PERSONAL: Born April 14, 1942, in New York, NY; daughter of Charles Cantine (an investment analyst) and Mavis (McGuire) Bunker; married Martinus Hoffman Nickerson (a traffic engineer), September 5, 1964; children: Helen, Thomas Merriman, Samuel Bunker. Education: Bryn Mawr College, B.A. (English, with honors; magna cum laude), 1964; Union Institute, Ph.D. (creative writing), 1985.

ADDRESSES: Home—242 Bayside Road, Bellingham, WA 98225.

CAREER: University Within Walls (statewide prison education system), Alaska, editor of prison literary magazine, 1979-82, associate director, instructor, and director of arts program, 1981-82; State of Alaska, Department of Administration, Word Processing Center, proofreader and assistant supervisor, 1983-85, acting supervisor, 1985; editor of Alaska Fish and Game (magazine), 1985-92; writer. Alaska State Council on the Arts, Artists-in-the-Schools Program, writer-inresidence at schools in Juneau, Petersburg, Skagway, Cordova, Ketchikan, and Tenakee Springs, 1974-81; Writer-in-residence and designer of writing program for the Alaska State Library system, 1979; University Within Walls, Alaska, part-time instructor in English and creative writing, 1979-81; University of Alaska, part-time instructor in creative and technical writing, 1979-83, became assistant professor; State of Alaska, part-time instructor in technical writing for employees, 1979-83; Sitka Summer Writers Symposium in Sitka, Alaska, faculty member, 1984 and 1993. Member of the grants panel for the National Endowment for the Arts literature program, 1980. Has given readings at libraries, bookstores, colleges, and conferences throughout Alaska.

MEMBER: PEN West.

AWARDS, HONORS: Top Hand awards for best book of poetry, 1975, 1980, and 1982; Pushcart Prizes from Pushcart Press, 1976 and 1985-86; publication assistance grant, Alaska State Council on the Arts, 1977; Alaska poet laureate, 1977-81; merit and purchase awards for poetry, Alaska State Council on the Arts, 1980; literacy award, Delta Kappa Gamma, 1980.

WRITINGS:

Letter from Alaska and Other Poems, Thorp Springs Press (Berkeley, CA), 1972.

To the Waters and the Wild: Poems of Alaska, Thorp Springs Press (Berkeley, CA), 1975.

In Rooms of Falling Rain (novel), Thorp Springs Press (Berkeley, CA), 1976.

Songs of the Pine-Wife (poetry), Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1980.

(Author of text) The Enchanted Halibut (full-length musical play), music by Jack Cannon, first produced in Douglas, AK, at Perseverance Theatre, April, 1981.

Waiting for the News of Death (poetry chapbook), Bits Press (Cleveland, OH), 1982.

Writers in the Public Library (nonfiction), Shoe String (Hamden, CT), 1984.

On Why the Quilt-Maker Became a Dragon (poetry), Vanessa Press (Fairbanks, AK), 1985.

Feast of the Animals: An Alaska Bestiary, Volume 1 (poetry), Old Harbor Press (Sitka, AK), 1987.

In the Compass of Unrest (poetry chapbook), Trout Creek Press (Parkdale, OR), 1988.

Feast of the Animals: An Alaska Bestiary, Volume 2 (poetry), Old Harbor Press (Sitka, AK), 1991.

Disappearance, a Map: A Meditation on Death and Loss in the High Latitudes, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1996.

In an August Garden (poetry), Black Spruce Press (Sandpoint, ID), 1997.

Midnight to the North: The Untold Story of the Inuit Woman Who Saved the Polaris Expedition, J. P. Tarcher/Putnam (New York, NY), 2002.

Also contributor to Grrrr, a book of bear poems. Author of text for Songs from the Dragon Quilt (orchestral and choral composition), music by Alice Parker, performed December, 1984, and author of half-hour videotape documentary for educational television, released 1982. Work represented in anthologies, including The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, Pushcart (Wainscott, NY), 1976, 1985-86; Windflower Almanac, Windflower Press (Lincoln, NE), 1980; Hunger and Dreams, edited by Pat Monoghan, Fireweed Press (Falls Church, VA), 1983; In the Dreamlight: Twenty-one Alaskan Writers, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1984; Only Morning in Her Shoes, Utah State University Press (Logan, UT), 1990; Heart of the Flower, Chicory Blue Press, 1991; and From the Island's Edge: A Sitka Reader, Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 1995. Contributor of poems to magazines, including Bits, Crab Creek Review, Croton Review, Hyperion, Ms., New Laurel Review, Permafrost, and Tar River Poetry Review. Coeditor of Lemon Creek Gold: A Journal of Prison Literature, 1979-85; coeditor of Juneau 2000 Proceedings, November, 1982; member of editorial board of On People and Things Alaskan, edited by Bridget Smith, Firsthand Press (Douglas, AK), 1982.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Poetry collection and nonfiction.

SIDELIGHTS: Sheila B. Nickerson, a former poet laureate of Alaska, is known for her lyrical explorations of wilderness both external and internal. Nickerson became interested in writing while a child and found her voice after settling in Alaska in the 1970s. She is widely represented in anthologies, as well as in books of poetry she has published with small presses in Alaska and on the mainland.

Disappearance, a Map: Meditations on Death and Loss in the High Latitudes was inspired by the loss of one of the poet's colleagues in a plane crash in rural Alaska. The book recounts the deaths of Arctic explorers as well as the disappearance of the unique cultures of native Alaskans. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commended Disappearance, a Map as "beautifully written," adding that the book "gives us a sense of place not found in ordinary maps." Donna Seaman in Booklist likewise praised the work as "an unusual, magnetically beautiful, and lyrically thoughtful meditation."

Nickerson's Midnight to the North: The Untold Story of the Inuit Woman Who Saved the Polaris Expedition tells the tale of a native woman, Tookoolito, who offered aid to the stranded crew of the ship Polaris after it was lost in ice. Though forgotten by history, Tookoolito and her husband have been credited with saving the lives of half of the Polaris crew, when logic dictated that the knowledgeable Inuit should have just abandoned the crew. "Few Arctic exploration books offer a more compelling subject," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer of Midnight to the North. The reviewer added that Nickerson "is outstanding in illustrating Inuit customs, culture and legends." In Booklist, Gavin Quinn praised Nickerson for being "the first to shed light on this little-mentioned historical figure." A Kirkus Reviews critic found the book "a probing literary and historical contribution of consequence and beauty . . . making a significant addition to the truncated record of women's achievements there."

Nickerson once told CA: "Although I live in an area of compelling landscape, I am more concerned with inner landscape than outer. On the ferry trip to Juneau, Alaska, in 1971 when I moved there, people asked me, 'Do you think you will like it?' In retrospect I find that a stranger question now than I did at the time. I have written a great deal on Alaska—the land and what the connection with the land has meant to me—but I have come to realize through the years that the place of power is inside, not outside, and that we determine our view of a place by the level of awareness we bring to it. As a writer I work to observe. By observing, I learn to connect with what is there. As I connect, I break through the distractions of the everyday world and find union with the harmony of the universe. The 'tao of Writing' is my goal—finding in writing the path with a heart, the process that leads us to greater awareness, no matter what the product."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 15, 1995, Donna Seaman, review of Disappearance, a Map: Meditation on Death and Loss in the High Latitudes, p. 684; February 1, 2002, Gavin Quinn, review of Midnight to the North: The Untold Story of the Inuit Woman Who Saved the Polaris Expedition, p. 918.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2002, review of Midnight to the North, p. 34.

Library Journal, February 1, 2002, Alison Hopkins, review of Midnight to the North, p. 120.

Publishers Weekly, January 1, 1996, review of Disappearance, a Map, p. 65; February 18, 2002, review of Midnight to the North, p. 89.

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