Donald Junkins Red Point Journal: Swan’s Island, Summer 2001

This spring, the passing of our former poetry editor Donald Junkins saddened the NDQ community. Junkins was a poet, educator, and editor both for the Quarterly and the Massachusetts Review. In recognition of his contributions to NDQ and his work, we thought we’d republish a collection of his poems from NDQ 70.2 (Spring 2003).

“Red Point Journal: Swan’s Island, Summer 2001” is a series of sixteen poems that interlace the landscape of Swan’s Island in Maine with personal reflections. The glare of the sun, the smell of summer rain, and the coastal fogs frame the interplay of the past and present in Junkins’s seaside reveries. We will publish the poems on the dates included in their titles inviting readers to back to Junkins’s vision of Swan’s Island 20 years later. 


I remember writing “1937″ on my multiplication table
papers in Miss Reynolds’ room in my yellow Lynnhurst
school, when seventy-two seemed as high as numbers were able
to reach; then weekly the twelfth numeral burst

until a hundred and forty-four seemed sufficient
for all the problems of life. Before I left that yellow school
Miss Bridgham eased me into third percentage
and the mysteries of higher math, and I was ready to travel

the bus to junior high and the world. All
my math teachers now are dead, but the calculus of memory
brings back the names as quickly as I begin to call
the roll: Misters Rice, Lahey, Watson, Haley,

and Miss Fox. They taught me more than what to count.
They taught me special days and how to give
the simple numbers meaning: how they all mount
up, one by one. Addition shows us how to live.


To read more about Donald Junkins see his obituaries in the Boston Globe and at UMass-Amherst.

As you likely know, these days are particularly challenging for many cultural institutions, publishers, and little magazines. So even if NDQ doesn’t float your boat, If you can, consider buying a book from a small presssubscribing to a literary journal (like our UNP stablemate, Hotel Amerika), or otherwise supporting the arts.

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