The Artist Series: Writers

In the first of a new series of portraits, K.B. Dixon concentrates his lens on the faces of 10 leading contemporary Oregon writers.


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


This is the first in what I hope will be a long series on local artists—in this case, writers, the unusually talented people who work in words, the most common and most difficult of mediums.

The writers here are some of Oregon’s most accomplished and decorated. Their work offers the reader that unique adventure that only the evolutionary miracle of language allows—access to other worlds, both real and imagined.

The visual approach to this new series of portraits differs greatly from my previous series, In the Frame. Here the environmental details are kept to a minimum. The subjects have the frame to themselves and do not compete with the context for attention. This provides for a simpler, blunter, more intense encounter with character.


KIM STAFFORD


Oregon’s Poet Laureate, and Director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis &Clark College. His latest collection of poems is Wild Honey, Tough Salt.

“Among the many forms of wealth,
in the catalog of luxuries, I choose
the right to be forgotten on a quiet
morning such as this….”

– Excerpt from the poem “The Right to Be Forgotten,”
in the collection Wild Honey, Tough Salt


JON RAYMOND


Novelist, short-story writer, Emmy-nominated screenwriter, and editor. His latest novel is Freebird.

“Two survivors walk into a room…

“It could almost be a joke, Anne thought. They walk into a room, though, and then what? They see a duck? There was definitely a joke in there, she knew it, but where did it go? Where was that weird non sequitur that took it somewhere else? Somewhere hilarious?”

– From the novel Freebird


SAMIYA BASHIR


Poet, professor, and founder of the advocacy group Fire & Ink. Her latest collection is Field Theories.

“I step from the airplane. My hair melts dead air. I walk quickly: click-clunk, click-clunk, click-clunk. Barbara Jordan, bronze and sober, glasses poised, the last me I’ll see for three more days and three more days forever. Outside I slow the click-clunk to a three-sound crawl: click-clickclunk &etc.”

– Excerpt from the poem “Paleontology,”
in the collection
Field Theories


OMAR EL AKKAD


Writer and journalist. His latest novel is American War.

“When I was young, I collected postcards. I kept them in a shoebox under my bed in the orphanage. Later, when I moved into my first home in New Anchorage, I stored the shoebox at the bottom of an old oil drum in my crumbling toolshed. Having spent most of my life studying the history of war, I found some sense of balance in collecting snapshots of the world that was, idealized and serene.”

– From the novel American War


WILLY VLAUTIN


Novelist, musician, and songwriter. His latest novel is Don’t Skip Out on Me.

“Horace Hopper opened his eyes and looked at the clock: five a.m. The first thought that came to him that morning was his mother, whom he hadn’t seen in nearly three years. Then he thought about how in a little more than a week’s time he’d be alone on a bus heading to Tucson. Awake less than a minute and already there was a pit in his stomach.” 

– From the novel Don’t Skip Out on Me


LIDIA YUKNAVICH


Novelist, memoirist, writer, and founder of the workshop series Corporeal Writing.

“One winter night when she was no longer a child, the girl walks outside, her shoes against the snow, her arms cradling a self, her back to a house not her own but some other. It is a year after the blast that has atomized her entire family in front of her eyes. She is six. It is a house she has lived in with a widow woman who took her in—orphan of war, girl of nothingness.”

– From the novel The Small Backs of Children


LENI ZUMAS


Novelist, short-story writer, and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Portland State University. Her latest novel is Red Clocks.

“In a room for women whose bodies are broken, Eivor Minervudottir’s biographer waits her turn. She wears sweatpants, is white skinned and freckle cheeked, not young, not old. Before she is called to climb into stirrups and feel her vagina prodded with a wand that makes black pictures, on a screen, of her ovaries and uterus, the biographer sees every wedding ring in the room. Serious rocks, fat bands of glitter. They live on the fingers of women who have leather sofas and solvent husbands….”

– From the novel Red Clocks


JUSTIN TAYLOR


Novelist, short-story writer, and editor. His latest collection of stories is Flings.

“Percy took Intro to US Labor History for an elective in the spring of his sophomore year. The professor’s name was Leon Pitzer, an embittered pinko penius with an august limp. In him Percy knew he had finally found the father surrogate he’d been searching for since arriving at Schmall, a semielite liberal arts college in a town of the same name in the heart of the heart of Ohio.”

– From the short story Flings


KIMBERLY KING PARSONS


Author of the short-story collection Black Light and the novel The Boiling River forthcoming from Knopf.

“This house is a house where you shake out your shoes. We have bloodsuckers, creepy-crawlies. If it’s pissed off and fits in a boot, we’ve got it. Conenoses and masked hunters, lone star ticks and brown dog ticks. We have scorpions. Scorpions. Bull’s-eye bugs, my brother calls them. Bugs that put you in a wheelchair or make it so one side of you face droops for always. They’re sprung and ready, waiting to strike at your dark toe.”

– From the short story Fiddlebacks,
in the collection
Black Light


KEVIN SAMPSELL


Writer, collage artist, and publisher of Future Tense Books.

“The first time I went to your apartment, I wanted you to show me every room and demonstrate something you did in each one. “I like to imagine what you are doing all day when you’re here,” I said. “I like to think of you all the time….”

– From the novel This Is Between Us


  • Regular ArtsWatch contributor K.B. Dixon, a winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Award and the Eric Hoffer Book Award, is a Portland photographer, essayist, and novelist. His most recent book is Too True: Essays on Photography.

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