Poet Carrie Ayaġaduk Ojanen visits Nome for reading and book signing
Attendees gathered last Saturday at the Katirvik Cultural Center alongside Inupiat poet Carrie Ayaġaduk Ojanen, author of “Roughly for the North,” for a two-hour poetry workshop led by Ojanen followed by a free poetry reading and book-signing event.
She prefaced her poetry reading with sentiments for her culture. “We grew up around art. Singing, dancing, sewing, drawing, carving and storytelling,” she said. “These wonderful art forms that so many in the community practice inspire me in my writing and continue to inspire me. The art we make here is world-class, but a lot of people don’t know about it. This is just me appreciating you for the night.”
Ojanen selected five poems to read for the event from her first book of poetry “Roughly for the North,” including “Blue Cabin,” “All Her Breath is Gone,” “Sixth Saint,” “Tiimiaq, Something Carried,” and the title poem for the book.
Other Nome poets were given an opportunity to share their poetry at the event, including four students from Nome-Beltz High School who are enrolled in Teriscovkya Smith’s Creative Writing class.
Colleen Reynolds, Curator of Educational Programs at the Katirvik Cultural Center, also shared an original poem she wrote titled “What Was Life Like When You Were a Kid, Mom?” inspired by her memories in Golovin when she was young. “I had to leave my village after I graduated from eighth grade and went to boarding school in Unalakleet, and I didn’t want to forget my community members. So I wrote this [poem] about my childhood, about all the people in my community, how well they loved me, how they interacted with me. I wanted to bring them with me.”
The King Island Dance Group wrapped up the evening with traditional song and dance while Ojanen signed copies of her book for attendees.
Ojanen grew up in Nome and is from the Ugiuvamiut tribe of King Island. Her work is inspired by her upbringing, her connection with her grandparents, traditional Native art forms and her visit to the uninhabited King Island. Grief, trauma and adversity are common themes throughout her writing.
Ojanen’s book “Roughly for the North” was published by the University of Alaska Press, and her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, the Louisville Review, As/Us Journal and Yellow Medicine Review.