TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON
This is the second installment of portraits in The Artist Series. Like the first, it focuses on Oregon writers—the unusually gifted people who make up this state’s diverse and dynamic literary culture.
The visual approach remains the same. It relies on an economy of means, on a simple alchemic mix of raw materials: time, light, and character.
My hope is to call attention to the uniquely rewarding work of these talented people, and, as always, to produce a good photograph—one that presents a feeling as well as a form, one that preserves for myself and others a faithful representation of the subject.
“My brain is a jukebox stuffed with old songs
playing a phrase or two at random over
and over. I keep the volume turned low
but you can sometimes see my lips move
as I sing along, eyebrows rising as I reach
for a silent high note.”
Excerpt from the poem “Over and Over” in the collection Far West
“I assembled a fantasy caretaker army of mostly loose and tragic women mixed with audacious and assertive ones—a hologram of what I imagined you would be like if I hadn’t been stolen from you. If you hadn’t left me for the bottle long before my father took me away to America eleven-years-your-daughter.”
From the memoir Mother Winter
“If you ask me what is the shape of the world,
I would say it’s a spiral, a cone, a wisp of smoke
Spinning on the long axis of remembering and forgetting.
A balustrade, fractal, strand of genetic instruction.”
Excerpt from the poem “Republic Cafe” in the collection Republic Cafe
“Our mother performed in starlight. Whose innovation this was I never discovered. Probably it was Chief Bigtree’s idea, and it was a good one—to blank the follow spot and let a sharp moon cut across the sky, unchaperoned; to kill the microphone; to leave the stage lights’ tin eyelids scrolled and to give the tourists in the stands a chance to enjoy the darkness of our island; to encourage the whole stadium to gulp air along with Swamplandia!’s star performer, the world-famous alligator wrestler Hilola Bigtree.”
Excerpt from the novel Swamplandia!
“We were paddling our canoes down a remote, slow-moving river, a full day’s travel in either direction from the nearest road, when Otto decided to do something spectacular and stupid. Around a bend we encountered a sandy cliff rising up out of the water. Otto announced he would climb the cliff and then run down its steep face. We could all take pictures as he descended in long Olympian strides.”
Excerpt from the short story “Turtleface” in the collection Turtleface and Beyond
“When I was nineteen years old, I took off from home, went to Hollywood, and worked in the movies for a year or so. This was back before the war, 1938, 1939. Jobs were still hard to come by in those days, but they were making cheap cowboy pictures as fast as they could churn them out, and I met a bronc rider at the Burns Roundup who told me you could get work down there if you could fall off a horse without breaking any bones.”
From the novel Falling from Horses
KATE CARROLL DE GUTES
“My friend who appears rough and tumble tough but is really just the most tender and gentle soul wrapped in six feet said to me, “Is it okay to be mad?” She was talking about all the clowns in the world and cancer, and death and the unfairness of the dark mornings in the northern latitudes, particularly on days when the espresso machine is acting finicky….”
Excerpt from the essay “The Dark and the Light” in The Authenticity Experiment
I am 30. I sit somewhere between formed and forming. Thankfully, you are here with me. Three decades, and still you haven’t left. You and I, two misfit kids who met in the loud silence, back when we were barely knee-high. Here in our own space, we speak in words only we know.”
Excerpt from the memoir I Am Yours
“When I think
of mountains I think
of beer, and how clean
everything can be.
When I think of buoys
I think of the darkness.
but also I think of seals.”
Excerpt from the poem “A Mountain’s Job is to Jut” in the collection Pulver Maar
between the bodies of the dark house
and the scent of the gardens
there was a pack of dogs.
They led me through the woods
and we ended up at a campsite that the stars used when on earth.
The tents were still pitched but all empty and no constellations to be seen,
like they had left in a hurry or like they would be back shortly.”
Excerpt from the poem Opera