The strong, measured, and contemplative voice in Open the Dark, a debut collection of forty-two lyric poems, belongs to poet Marie Tozier (Inupiaq/Puerto Rican.) The book’s release in August 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, prevented Tozier from giving any public readings. The work drew attention, however, and last winter the Poetry Foundation chose her poem “Little Brother” as a Poem of the Day and included two more on its site, and Poetry Daily featured “Aakuaksrak” as a Poem of the Day.” Marie wrote the poems for her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the University of Alaska Anchorage, which she received in 2016.
Originally from Nome, Marie celebrates a life that harmonizes with seasonal rhythms and the land’s varied offerings throughout the year. Most of her short lyric poems focus on family, the northwest landscape, nature, seasons, gathering food, fishing and hunting. Other poems, however, highlight the challenges and problems that beset Native people. The writing, subtle and restrained, explores joyful moments, personal traumas, memory and loss. The language is accessible and clear but with layers of complexities and meanings.