Art Beat: Ring out the old year with award-winning poetry

Mike Dunham
Joan Naviyuk Kane looks at photographs of King Island and former residents of the Inupiat Eskimo village that was abandoned decades ago.
Rachel D'Oro
Gyre expedition crew members load marine debris onto a boat during an intensive cleanup of Hallo Bay in Katmai National Park, June 2013.
Photo by Kip Evans
Renée Fleming in the title role of Dvorák's “Rusalka.” Taken during the rehearsal on March 6, 2009 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Ken Howard
Author Alice Sebold speaks at the Sunday Book and Author Breakfast at BookExpo America, Sunday June 3, 2007 in New York.

Alaska poet and member of the Anchorage Daily News editorial board Joan Naviyuk Kane, who will be leaving for a 2-month writing residency in Santa Fe, N.M., in January, will present a reading with music on New Year's Eve at the home of Olena Kalytiak Davis. Kane is treating it as a "book launch" for her new volume of poetry, "Hyperboreal," which won the Association of Writers and Writing Program's Don Hall Prize in Poetry for 2012 and has just recently been published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. "I'll have books on hand," she promised.

Readings from the critically applauded volume are set for the Lower 48 in the spring, she added, but this is the only reading she has scheduled in Alaska.

New York Times poetry blogger Dana Jennings published an email interview with Kane on Nov. 14. Jennings described her work as "lyrical blasts from a far northern landscape of history and myth."

In her responses, Kane spoke of finding inspiration from her parents -- a father who "had me memorizing Blake and Yeats as soon as I could hold onto a rhyme" and a mother who was fluent in Inupiaq as spoken in her home village of King Island. She recalled her studies at Harvard and "The perspective afforded by the Alaskan landscape" as constituting "a significant part of my voice."

She also spoke eloquently about the precariousness that is the lot of many writers and which she feels personally. "I'm lucky to be alive," she said. "The odds are not good for Native women who remain in Alaska."

She addressed how culture affects her work. "It's tremendously difficult for Native writers to find audiences within our communities," she told Jennings, "for a number of complicated reasons that will hopefully diminish or change as we begin to leverage our growing networks across indigenous America."

And, she said, "We are losing so many of our elders, and we have just one or two remaining generations of people who grew up with the kind of specific cultural knowledge that gave rise to millennia of Arctic and sub-Arctic inhabitation. I don't want my children or their children to encounter our culture only through anthropology. A lot of my work is written against loss."

The full interview can be read here. "Ms. Kane transports us," Jennings enthuses.

The free Anchorage reading will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at 120 W. 11th Ave. The music will be provided by singer/guitarist Michael Howard. Kane promised to keep it "brief" and -- tongue in cheek, we think -- extended her condolences to those whose New Year's celebration involves listening to a poet.

Writers Conference lineup announced

Alice Sebold, best known for her novel "The Lovely Bones," will be the keynote speaker at the Kachemak Bay Writer's Conference, scheduled for June 13-17. "Bones," which was made into a movie directed by Peter Jackson, was a best-seller and remains a strong candidate for the title of most impressive debut American novel of the past 10 years.

The faculty will include well-known Alaska writers, including Richard Chiappone, Nancy Lord, former Daily News reporter Tom Kizzia and poet Peggy Shumaker. Eowyn Ivey, whose "The Snow Child" remains in the top 10 for paperback fiction on the Pacific Northwest Independent Booksellers list and whose career got a big boost from the conference, will be a guest speaker.

Participants can receive agent/editor consultations and manuscript reviews and receive academic credit. Free evening readings are open to the public. Enrollment is $375 prior to May 2. More information is available at or by shooting an email to

2014 resolutions

A few upcoming presentations on my must-see list for next year:

Perseverance Theatre will debut Arlitia Jones' newest play, "Rush at Everlasting," directed by the estimable Bostin Christopher. The show runs Feb. 14-22. In April, Perseverance will bring its production of Tennessee Williams' oft-staged "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," but I'm much more interested in what UAA Theatre Department will do with another Williams play, "Night of the Iguana," also opening Feb. 14 and running through March 2.

Cyrano's will present Dick Reichman's latest, "Audition." The blurb says it's about a legendary stage director who visits a small theater (much like Cyrano's) to teach a master class. "Local actors read for her, hoping to escape their ordinary lives for theatrical careers in New York." The setup promises to be funny or insightful or both. We'll look forward to seeing which way Reichman goes with the idea.

A new and localized version of Johann Strauss' "Die Fledermaus" will come to life courtesy of Anchorage Opera, April 4-6. This version, subtitled "The Polar Bat," has been tweaked and reset in more or less contemporary Alaska by playwright Deborah Brevoort, once a resident of Homer before going on to bigger things back east and best known as the librettist for the musical "A King Island Christmas."

Violinist Paul Rosenthal will take the guest seat in the Alaska Airlines Winter Classics programs -- a series he inaugurated -- when he joins cellist Zuille Bailey and pianist Piers Lane in concerts Feb. 14-16. Somewhere in the trio of programs are both Schubert Piano Trios.

The Metropolitan Opera live HD broadcasts are shown at both Regal Tikahtnu and Century 16 theaters as well as in Fairbanks, as recently reported, and at the Homer Family Theater, as we just learned recently. I'm particularly looking forward to Dvorak's "Rusalka" -- kind of a Czech version of "The Little Mermaid" -- on Feb. 8, repeating Feb. 12. Renee Fleming in the title role is a big draw, but what really got my attention is the fabulous mezzo Dolora Zajick as Jezibaba, the witch.

The Anchorage Museum shows what can be done with flotsam in a big exhibit titled "Gyre: The Plastic Ocean" opening Feb. 7. The show is said to address "the global marine debris crisis" and includes a science component and art made from repurposed ocean-borne trash, including some made from the four tons of beach junk gathered at Hallo Bay in Alaska last year. Which reminds us of another great resolution for 2014 -- don't litter.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.