Emily Wall: Poetry Reading + Workshop

Posted on October 23, 2012 by

A quick reminder, this week we’ll have Juneau poet Emily Wall reading from her new collection, “Liveaboard” on Friday night at 7pm at the Downtown Library.  Books will be available for sale and signing after the reading.

On Saturday morning from 10-1,  Emily will lead a workshop at the Douglas Library called, “Eat, Drink, Write: writing about food”.  Can a cookbook be literature? Could we fillet a salmon in a poem? We’ll explore some of these questions in this workshop. There is a long and rich tradition of writers using food as a starting place, a central metaphor, or simply as a foundation for a book. We’ll study published writers (poets and prose writers), learn some new techniques, and do some writing of our own.   Participants are invited (not required) to bring a favorite recipe with them or a dish to share.   This workshop is free and open to writers of all levels.  Sponsored by the Friends of the Juneau Public Libraries.

Here’s one of Emily’s food poems that came out of the class she’s teaching at UAS this fall and you can read many of the poems from “Liveaboard” on her website.

My Mom’s Old Recipe Box  by Emily Wall
I slide out a card
and flavors explode on my
tongue:  Love.  Longing.  Regret.

The workshop got me thinking again of a great poem by Nora Marks Dauenhauer who was recently named as Alaska’s 2012 Writer Laureate!

How to Make Good Baked Salmon from the River       by Nora Dauenhauer

It’s best made in dry-fish camp on a beach by a
fish stream on sticks over an open fire, or during
fishing, or during cannery season.

In this case, we’ll make it in the city baked in
an electric oven on a black fry pan.

Barbecue sticks of alder wood.
In this case, the oven will do.
Salmon: River salmon, current supermarket cost
$4.99 a pound.
In this case, salmon poached from river.
Seal oil or olachen oil.
In this case, butter or Wesson oil, if available.

To butcher, split head up the jaw. Cut through,
remove gills. Split from throat down the belly.
Gut, but make sure you toss all to the seagulls and
the ravens because they’re your kin, and make sure
you speak to them while you’re feeding them.
Then split down along the back bone and through
the skin. Enjoy how nice it looks when it’s split.

Push stake through flesh and skin like pushing
a needle through cloth, so that it hangs on stakes
while cooking over fire made from alder wood.

Then sit around and watch the slime on the salmon
begin to dry out. Notice how red the flesh is,
and how silvery the skin looks. Watch and listen
to the grease crackle, and smell its delicious
aroma drifting around on a breeze.

Mash some fresh berries to go along for dessert.
Pour seal oil in with a little water. Set aside.

In this case, put the poached salmon in a fry pan.
Smell how good it smells while it’s cooking,
because it’s soooooooo important.

Cut up an onion. Put in a small dish. Notice how
nice this smells too and how good it will taste.
Cook a pot of rice to go along with salmon. Find
some soy sauce to put on rice, maybe borrow some.

In this case, think about how nice the berries would
have been after the salmon, but open a can of fruit
cocktail instead.

Then go out by the cool stream and get some skunk
cabbage, because it’s biodegradable, to serve the
salmon from. Before you take back the skunk cabbage
you can make a cup out of one to drink from the
cool stream.

In this case, plastic forks paper plates and cups will do, and
drink cool water from the faucet.

After smelling smoke and fish and watching the
cooking, smelling the skunk cabbage and the berries
mixed with seal oil, when the salmon is done, put
the salmon on stakes on the skunk cabbage and pour
some seal oil over it and watch the oil run into
the nice cooked flakey flesh which has now turned

Shoo mosquitoes off the salmon, and shoo the ravens
away, but don’t insult them because the mosquitoes
are known to be the ashes of the cannibal giant,
and Raven is known to take off with just about

In this case, dish out on paper plates from fry pan.
Serve to all relatives and friends you have invited
to the barbecue and those who love it.

And think how good it is that we have good spirits
that still bring salmon and oil.

Everyone knows that you can eat just about every
part of the salmon, so I don’t have to tell you
that you start with the head because it’s everyone’s
favorite. You take it apart bone by bone, but make
sure you don’t miss the eyes, the cheeks, the nose,
and the very best part–the jawbone.

You start on the mandible with a glottalized
alveolar fricative action as expressed in the Tlingit
verb als’oos’.

Chew on the tasty, crispy skins before you start
on the bones. Eeeeeeeeeeeee!! How delicious.

Then you start on the body by sucking on the fins
with the same action. Include crispy skins, then
the meat with grease dripping all over it.

Have some cool water from the stream with the salmon.

In this case, water from the faucet will do.
Enjoy how the water tastes sweeter with salmon.

When done, toss the bones to the ravens and
seagulls and mosquitoes, but don’t throw them in
the salmon stream because the salmon have spirits
and don’t like to see the remains of their kin
among them in the stream.

In this case, put bones in plastic bag to put
in dumpster.

Now settle back to a story telling session, while
someone feeds the fire.

In this case, small talk and jokes with friends
will do while you drink beer. If you shouldn’t
drink beer, tea or coffee will do nicely.

Gunalcheesh for coming to my barbecue.


If you’re hungry for more, check out Billy Collins’ poem, “The Fish” as well as a recipe for whole-roasted sea bass with winter vegetables from an article in the New York Times Magazine.

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