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Reading the North: Poetry and razor clams

  • Author: Alaska Dispatch News
  • Updated: September 16, 2017
  • Published September 16, 2017

Ends of the Earth

Poems by Kate Partridge; University of Alaska Press; 2017; 74 pages; $14.95

What it's about: Partridge, whose poems have appeared in Pleiades and Alaska Quarterly Review, positions the Alaska landscape as a testing ground for love, isolation and location in her debut collection. The poems use humor and observation to detail Partridge's response to an urban Alaska environment. Says author Eric Pankey: " 'Ends of the Earth' is wholly original, a work at once breathtakingly new and sincerely aware of and beholden to its forebearers, as a true original should be."

Except: "My old GPS doesn't work in Alaska, so I've reverted to paper maps, which I love: their soft rustle, the requirement that you have at least a general sense of geography before using them.

"I spend a great deal of time nodding along while people tell me about driving to X or Y, then run home to look up which side of the state that's even on.

"What's fortunate: most places are reached by one road, if any at all."

Razor Clams: Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest

By David Berger; University of Washington Press; 2017; 226 pages; $26.95

What it's about: Even though Southcentral Alaska's premier clamming beaches near Clam Gulch have been shuttered recently, clamming fans can pique their interest with this volume, which details the science and history surrounding the species.

Among Berger's topics: the long history of razor clamming as a recreational, subsistence and commercial activity, as well as how-to information on digging, cleaning and cooking them. Need recipes? He has those, too.

Excerpt: "Eventually, I sought a more formal introduction to Siliqua patula, or the Pacific razor clam, as it's commonly known. It dwells only on the western edge of the North American continent, from northern California to southern Alaska, but most especially on the 53 miles of flat, sandy beaches that make up Washington's southern coast, prime habitat for razor clams. Here, they are plentiful in numbers hard to imagine.

"The shell is an elegant affair that grows to about 6.25 inches long at full maturity. It fits in your hand just so, elongated and oblong, the exterior shiny and in shades of golden brown, olive, and tan. It's a streamlined, wily creature designed to move up and down in the sand column, like a little elevator. The clam's digging foot extends from the bottom, and its siphon — or neck, as it's commonly called — extends from the top. The neck, the only part of the clam to poke above the sand, is tough as tire rubber."

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