View from Mattie’s Pillow

Last night, a visit from my friend Joe Enzweiler (see the link to his website) to talk about poetry, life, and the writer’s discipline. Joe recently had a poem read on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac and we talked about how this might affect his work. Joe is a cabin-dwelling poet, not quite off the grid. He lives in a spruce log cabin he built himself 30 years ago, tucked away in a stand of birches. He has a rotary phone and a manual typewriter, though he was recently given a laptop and has become curious about the internet. But mostly he’s a pen-and-paper writer.

I’ve known Joe since I arrived in Fairbanks from the Pacific Northwest in the late seventies. I joined a writer’s workshop at the university, all young hotshots with big ideas and some gift with language. Joe and I have stayed friends since then, and he has dedicated himself to the writer’s life more profoundly than anyone I know who doesn’t have a university writing program job. Every morning, he rises with the sun (around 10 am, these days) makes tea, and sits by the window and writes. His Manx cat, Little Man hops on his lap to watch the redpolls and chickadees feed outside the window. He gets up from time to time to stoke the wood stove, his main source of heat. At some point, he leaves the house and takes his bow saw and clears small trees from the woods around his house. He cuts the wood into fireplace lengths and hauls it back to his house where he stacks it under his porch. All around the house there’s a mosaic of alder, spruce, birch, and willow stacked with the round ends out. Small wood, but good kindling and plenty to keep him warm and writing all winter.

In the summer, Joe builds things–decks, saunas, sheds, fences–as meticulously as he stacks wood or crafts poems. He loves to stack stone and has built stone walls for his brother in Kentucky and for many friends here.

In the winter we meet for Poetry Thursdays. They keep me focused on the task at hand and give him an audience for his current projects. He’s agreed to let me post a poem on the Poem of the Day page.

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