Reading the north

January 5, 2013 

Bridge Street at Dusk

By Tom Sexton (Loom Press, $15)

The blurb: Former University of Alaska faculty member, original editor of the Alaska Quarterly Review and Alaska's poet laureate from 1995 to 2000, Tom Sexton returns to where he was born in Lowell, Mass., for this book of poetry.

Excerpt: "Snow fell all that windless night

like the flour sifted for the cake

my mother was certain to make

if school was canceled to my delight.

Some sixty years later I watch it snow

all night because I cannot sleep.

I watch it cover the road like a sheet

I watch the wind begin to blow."



Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race

By Elizabeth "Libbie" Martin (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99)

The blurb: This history and collection of photographs traces the roots of the Yukon Quest, a 1,000-mile sled dog race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, and profiles some of the mushers who have made the trek.

Excerpt: "Race marshal Carl Huntington and race judge Leo Olesen gathered the mushers together for a final pre-race briefing and to go over the rules one more time. Even though they had heard them the previous day and studied the rule book, the mushers listened patiently. There was no room for error in the Bush, and they knew that.

The race marshal's word is law on the trail; there is no appeal. The mushers listened to him carefully; since this was the first race, all of them were considered rookies -- even veteran mushers. They had to know what they could and could not do and -- most important of all -- that dog care was the first and foremost priority. They were reminded the race was a test of their survival skills, meaning no outside assistance allowed except during the mandatory 36-hour layover in Dawson City. If anyone besides the musher touched the dogs or sled or assisted in any way, the musher was disqualified.

The mushers had already started the mind games and psychological decpetions that occur during a long-distance race. They looked at each other sideways, trying not to let on that they were sizing up the opponents. Lorrina Mitchell showed up at the first meeting in a very feminine dress and high heels; the men had a hard time imagining her hunkering down in minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit weather with no access to a shower or laundry facilities for two weeks. How tough could she be? 'Good,' she thought. 'If that means the guys underestimate me, so much the better.' "

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News

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