Finnish North American Literature Association
Kirsten Dierking was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and has lived in Minnesota,
Toronto, and Colorado. She is half Finnish and currently lives in Arden Hills,
Minnesota, with her husband.
She earned a bachelor's degree in International Affairs and History from the
University of Colorado and possesses a master's degree in creative writing from
Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
She has received grants for her writing from the Minnesota State Arts Board,
the Loft Literary Center, and SASE/The Jerome Foundation. She teaches
humanities at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
You can visit her website at www.dierking.net.
Northern Oracle: Poems by Kirsten Dierking, Minneapolis, MN: Spout Press, 2007.
(Scroll down to read a review of this text.)
One Red Eye: Poems by Kirsten Dierking. Duluth, MN: Holy Cow Press, 2001.
“Northern Oracle.” In To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-
territorial Days to the Present, Bemidji MN, New Rivers Press, 2007
“Delacroix’s Ophelia.” In In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare, Iowa
City, IA, University of Iowa Press, 2005
“Fashioned for Heat.” Saunas – A Collection of works, mostly in English, by
Finnish-Canadians, Finnish-Americans, and Finns: Minnetonka, MN, OTSA Press,
“Hilda Holappa.” In Red, White, and a Paler Shade of Blue: Poems on the Finnish
American Experience. Rhinelander, WI: Tamarack Publishing for FinnFest USA '96,
A Review of Northern Oracle
Northern Oracle Connects Our Spirits to Our Homelands
By Beth L. Virtanen, PhD
Kirsten Dierking’s second book of poetry is a delight to read. I captured my own
sense of belonging to something larger and bound me to the ancestors from
whence I came. Explicitly, Dierking introduces the text as influenced by her Sami
forerunners with their animist traditions. She says, “In many ways, these [Sami]
beliefs reflect my own sense that our lives are inextricably entwined with the
spiritual in animals and nature” (Author’s Note).
Strategically to orient the reader within her own Sami mindset, Dierking
introduces each of the five sections of her work with a snippet of poetry from the
work of the late Nils-Alsak Vaalkeapää, Trekways of the Wind. The first section,
titled the Animist,” is introduced with a verse thus by Vaalkeapää:
writes in the air with a puff of breath
inscribes the water with a finger
This arrangement announces, in case anyone might have been in doubt, that the
point of the work is to comment on the large themes of existence through the
minutia of lived experience, though Vaalkeapää’s eyes as contained in a puff of
breath or in the transient inscription on the water by a single finger.
On the following page, Dierking writes thus in “Northern Oracle”:
The aluminum prow scratches over
submerged vines, drifts through platters
of lily-pads. I lean to the side,
rest my hand on the water, touch
the sky of unknowable swimmers
feeding beneath me. . . . (p. 5)
We are, as a result of her words, placed into the order of her universe, one in
which underwater beings are as important and cognizant in their own ways of the
world about them. Humans, all of us, are beings in a world that is inhabited by
varieties sensate creatures, each with a perspective and an experience to
contemplate. Dierking’s work is like that, acknowledging all of our world and our
places in it.
Of natural world, in “Shovelling Snow,” she writes,
If day after day I was caught inside
this muffle and hush
I would notice how birches
move with a lovely hum of spirits. (p. 10)
Here, she acknowledges a living world, the vibrant place that provides for and
keeps the beings who live upon its surface. It is a world with a particular sound and
very particular sense. I think, perhaps, that I might have heard these birch trees
hum; in fact, I am sure, for Dierking reminds me
how falling snow is a privacy
warm as the space for sleeping” (p. 10).
She shares with me
how radiant snow is a dream
like leaving behind a body
and rising into that luminous place
where sometimes you meet
the people you’ve lost. How
silver branches scrawl their names
in tangled script against the white.
How the curves and cheekbones
of all my loved ones appear
in the polished marble of drifts. (p. 10)
These visions connect our selves so strongly to those who came before in our
intimate relationship with the experiential world; these visions are the stuff of
Dierking’s work. It is powerful.
The text itself is divided into four sections, each introduced by the words of the
Sami poet Nils-Alsak Vaalkeapää. Dierking, in her intimate way, connects with,
plays off, and extends his work to the North American continent. As Nils-Alsak
Vaalkeapää says, “my home is in my heart/it migrates with me,” Kirsten Dierking
replies, “All this time,/the life you were/supposed to live/has been rising around
you/like the walls of a house/designed with warm/harmonious lines. . . . (75).
Northern Oracle is published by Sprout Press.