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Reading the North

Steam Laundry

By Nicole Stellon O'Donnell (Boreal Books, $19.95)

The blurb: "Steam Laundry" is a novel in poems based on the true story of Sarah Ellen Gibson, the sixth woman to arrive in Fairbanks in the gold rush of 1903. Incorporating persona, narrative and lyric poems, and historical photographs and documents to tell Gibson's story, it offers the reader the chance to try on the dusty, mining-town overcoat of Gibson's life.

Excerpt: "Dear Mother,

"You will have to excuse this writing

"as the table is rough and the pencil

"runs away with itself.

"I expected a letter on the last steamer,

"but she is in and I have not got it yet.

"Judging from your last telegram, there will be no letter.

"If you want to know how it is in Dawson these days,

"you could ask. But you don't. I'd tell you it is dying,

"the river steals the people as town wastes away.

Preston Singletary: Echoes, Fire, and Shadows

By Melissa G. Post (Museum of Glass/University of Washington Press)

The blurb: For nearly two decades, Preston Singletary has straddle two unique cultures -- melding his Tlingit ancestry with the dynamism of the Studio Glass movement. This mid-career retrospective of his work, rich in full color photographs of his art, includes contributions by Steven Clay Brown and Walter C. Porter.

Excerpt: "At Singletary's first exhibition of Tlingit work in 1991, his Aunt Theresa's constructive criticism would forever alter his work and its visual impact. 'Honey,' she whispered, 'you're missing the boat! Now go over and aim that spotlight directly over that hat.' He did and the room full of spectators released an audible 'ahhhhh.' Inverting the form and bathing it in light produced dramatic shadows, animating the glass and enriching the iconography and the viewer's experience. Singletary had transformed this otherwise symbolic and decorative headpiece into a visually arresting entity. This form would become iconic within his work.

"Because this man's Army can't handle the truth," she says.

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News