Alaskan literature has flourished in the last hundred years, and even before that legends and folklore were abundant among native peoples. One common thing I have noticed is that authors of Alaskan literature are most influenced by the land. They may write about the landscape, wildlife, or the weather and seasonal changes in Alaska. Within these three items are a number of categories that can give inspiration or create an experience that must be shared on paper. An experience while fishing for salmon, or the view of an Alaskan forest could be the moment an author needs to create a great work.
Most literature I’ve read and reflected on have been from novels or stories about Alaska. Now, I wanted the opportunity to reflect on poetry of Alaska. Blaze by Peggy Shumaker gives an image of a forest just before winter begins (Shumaker). I was reminded of when summer was just ending in Alaska. The days are getting shorter, temperatures are getting colder, and that moment when everyone can smell the snow and ice in the air before it falls. There are a number of authors who have written about Alaska, and how the landscape affects them. The landscape can bring on moments of happiness, when the land is at its most beautiful time and gives plenty of resources to those who want it. The landscape can also take away everything and be brutal; reminding everyone who has ever experienced this aspect that Alaska will never be a tame land.
Photo: Self. Fairbanks at about between 12-2pm, December.
A second poem reflecting of Alaskan moments is every single day by John Straley. Straley uses one word to evoke a multitude of memories from it, which I found that Alaska would have plenty of single words or phrases that would hold a conversation for hours. Straley wrote “king salmon” and wrote of fishing and the memories that took place (Straley). When I read the word king salmon I thought of my grandpa’s kings that he would catch on the Yukon River. We would eat grilled salmon, smoked salmon, salmon jerky, salmon burgers. Oh, there are so many wonderful ways to eat salmon. I also remember learning how to head, gut, and filet 70-pound kings during a summer job at a sport fish processing store. That is a proud skill I still am able to apply today whenever I need it.
It’s a good skill for authors to be able to create moments for the readers that they remember or are able to relate with. This can be common for Alaskan readers as many have experienced in some way what contemporary authors have written about. Even non-Alaskan are able to gain insight into Alaska’s unique land and the impact it has on who has lived there and who has seen all of its many characters.
Shumaker, Peggy (with Kesler Woodward). “Blaze.” Blackbird Archive. Spring 2004, vol 3, no 1.
Straley, John. “every single day”. The Rising and the Rain. University of Alaska Press. 2008.