When Jamison called, I asked for a sample copy before I gave them an answer. What if they were mediocre slackers? That would never do. Last year's version came in the mail about a week later, and I read a few passages to my son at breakfast one morning. I picked a poem at random, which turned out to be 'To Build a Fire' by Dan Pinkerton. I remember reading the story of the same title by Jack London in high school and how intense it was. Pinkerton's version was funny and made my son and I laugh.
That was all I needed, so I emailed them and told them, 'Sure, it would make perfect sense to use my photograph for your literary journal.' Permafrost is published by the Department of English at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, and is the farthest North literary journal for writing and the arts. It is run by volunteer graduate students in the creative writing program. This was too cool, especially in light of my own art living on the proverbial edge. How could I refuse?
What clinched the deal was shameless name-dropping. They mentioned that one of their students knew me, Lance Twitchell. Lance is a very bright young man who my son really connected to when he was a little boy. He'd follow Lance around like a little shadow, and Lance was always patient and nice to him.
I asked Jamison whether I could submit my own small written piece for the journal, kind of like an afterword or something, in lieu of their regular payment. Was this a bribe? Oops. Pretend you didn't read that part. What the heck, it was just a small blurb, and after all, it was about writing. Here is what it said:
It is an honor to have my photograph 'Real Indians' accompany this literary journal. My first passion in life was writing. I still have a few parts of journals from when I was a teenager, and it is nice to see that even at that age I had flashes of my own future style embedded in the writing. It is notable that Jamison asked to use this photograph in conjunction with 'Permafrost,' because I view the photograph as being done by a writer photographer. My affinity with words is readily apparent and the photograph was a conscious effort to use words in a photograph without being didactic or preachy while simultaneously injecting my own brand of subtle humor that was a characteristic of my writing style. Almost all of my current art has stories, language, words or whatever you want to call it as a notable part of my art. Some of the journal entries could be interpreted as poems, although I'd never say that publicly because I never took any poetry classes. On the other hand, I've read a lot of poetry and really love various writers, and some of them have even inspired my own work. Joy Harjo, Simon Ortiz, Paula Allen Gunn, Nora Dauenhauer, Wendy Rose, Janet Campbell Hale, Leslie Marmon Silko and others are not only powerful influences, but some are good friends. My studio has photocopied poems on the wall from various books. So here's to you from a wannabe poet. It Tlingit we say Gunalsheesh, Thank you.