Sheila Nickerson

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Sheila Bunker Nickerson (born 1942) is an American poet and writer. She served as poet laureate of Alaska and was twice awarded the Pushcart Prize. Much of her writing focuses on Alaska, nature, and arctic exploration.

Life and education[edit]

Nickerson was born in 1942 in New York City.[1] She is the eldest of three children of Charles Cantine Bunker and Mavis Bunker (née McGuire),[1] and the great niece of diplomat Ellsworth Bunker.

After attending the Chapin School, she went on to Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in English. She also received a Ph.D. in creative writing from the Union Institute and University. She previously lived in Juneau, Alaska, and currently lives in Bellingham, Washington.

Career and work[edit]

Nickerson was named poet laureate of Alaska in 1977.[2] She served as writer-in-residence for the State of Alaska Artists-in-the-Schools program, was writer-in-residence at the Alaska State Library, and was co-founder of University Within Walls, a statewide prison education program. She was also editor of Alaska's Wildlife, a magazine published by the State of Alaska Department of Fish & Game.

Nickerson's poems and essays have been published in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. In 1976, she was awarded the Pushcart Prize for the poem "The Song of the Soapstone Carver".[3] In 1986, she was again awarded the Pushcart Prize for the poem "Kodiak Widow".[4]

Her 1996 nonfiction work Disappearance: A Map, is part personal memoir about the loss of a colleague and part nonfiction account of disappearances in Alaska, including Franklin's lost expedition in 1845, polar expeditions of Captain Bob Bartlett and Vilhjalmur Stefansson and more recent vanishings such as those of U.S. Congressmen Nick Begich and Hale Boggs.[5][6] Nickerson discussed disappearances in Alaska in the "Alaska's Bermuda Triangle" episode of The History Channel's History's Mysteries series.[7]

In 2001 Nickerson was a Harriman scholar participating in The Harriman Expedition Retraced,[8][9] a voyage sponsored by Smith College and the Public Broadcasting Service following the itinerary of the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899. She was interviewed in a 2-hour PBS documentary film about the 2001 expedition.[10]

Published works[edit]


  • Hitchhiking the Highway of Tears (Moonpath Press, 2017) ISBN 978-1-936657-31-5
  • Along the Alaska Highway (Sheltering Pines Press, 2009)
  • In an August Garden (Black Spruce Press, 1997) ISBN 978-1884236037
  • Feast of the Animals: An Alaska Bestiary, Vol. II (with engravings by Dale DeArmond, Old Harbor Press, 1991) ISBN 978-0961552985
  • In the Compass of Unrest (Trout Creek Press, 1988) ISBN 978-0916155049
  • Feast of the Animals: An Alaska Bestiary, Vol. I (with engravings by Dale DeArmond, Old Harbor Press, 1987) ISBN 978-0961552947
  • On Why the Quilt-Maker Became a Dragon (Vanessapress, 1985) ISBN 978-0914221043
  • Waiting for the News of Death (Bits Press, 1982)
  • Songs of the Pine Wife (Copper Canyon Press, 1980) ISBN 978-0914742418
  • To the Waters and the Wild: Poems of Alaska (Thorp Springs Press, 1975) ISBN 978-0914476429
  • Letter from Alaska and Other Poems (Thorp Springs Press, 1972)



  • Blackbird Flying, a memoir (Fuze Publishing, 2019) ISBN 978-0-9998089-6-2
  • Harnessed to the Pole: Sledge Dogs in Service to American Explorers of the Arctic 1853-1909 (University of Alaska Press, 2014) ISBN 978-1602232235
  • Midnight to the North: The Untold Story of the Inuit Woman Who Saved the Polaris Expedition (Tarcher/Penguin Putnam, 2002) ISBN 978-1585421336
  • Disappearance: A Map (Doubleday, 1996) ISBN 978-0385481700
  • Writers in the Public Library (The Shoe String Press, 1984) ISBN 978-0208018724


  1. ^ a b Nickerson, Sheila B(unker) 1942-,, Contemporary Authors, New Revisions Series, 2004. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  2. ^ "Alaska - State Poet Laureate". The Library of Congress. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  3. ^ Henderson, Bill, ed. (1976). The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses. Harpercollins. ISBN 9780380007523.
  4. ^ Henderson, Bill, ed. (1986). The Pushcart Prize X: Best of the Small Presses. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140080087.
  5. ^ Jones-Davis, Georgia. "The Coordinates That Hold Us in Place : A poet tries to comprehend the losses, disappearances and tragedies that occur all too frequently in Alaska". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  6. ^ "Nonfiction Review: Disappearnce by Sheila Nickerson". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  7. ^ "History's Mysteries: Season 10, Episode 9, Alaska's Bermuda Triangle". IMDb. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
  8. ^ "PBS - Harriman: Sheila Nickerson". Harriman Expedition Retraced: A Century of Change. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Retrieved 12 April 2012.
  9. ^ Markell, Joanna (26 July 2001). "Harriman 2001 visits Juneau". The Juneau Empire. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  10. ^ "The Harriman Alaska Expedition Retraced". IMDb. Retrieved 9 April 2012.

External links[edit]