S is for Salmon, R is for Raven

Art and poetry at Village Books

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hannah Viano has always involved herself with creative projects like art and dance, as well as a 10-year career in outdoor education with youth in the mountains, woodlands and water of the Pacific Northwest. But it was in a weekend retreat at Skagit County’s North Cascades Institute in 2010 with Olympia-based papercut artist Nikki McClure that helped show her a way to tie these passions together.

“I had recently become a mother and, in the wake of that change, I was re-evaluating my interests, putting myself out in new directions, trying new things,” Viano explains. “I had loved Nikki’s work for years and attended her class mostly to see her process, not really because of much interest in papercut. I was surprised to find I loved it. Her style of subtle activism paired with striking images will always be tied up in my memory with my own view of the Northwest.”

After her experience in the North Cascades, Viano got a grant to create displays for children’s programs around Seattle. Inspired by a visual alphabet artist Mary Azarian made for Vermont schools, Viano began work on a Northwest-focused alphabet, adding a sense of place, natural history information and environmental awareness to this common learning tool.

The papercut images in S is for Salmon—which Viano will share at a kid-friendly event Sat., April 12 at Village Books—are striking and bold yet intimate, colored by the muted tones of the Northwest sea and sky. Each page showcase species most of us know and love here in our Cascadian home: Douglas firs, ferns, morels, trillium, volcano and whale. In her depiction of kelp, you can sense the pull of the currents as the blades sway in the Salish Sea.

“Making image ideas and sketches is very fun, but the best part of the project has been getting to go into classrooms and bookstores to share the alphabet and its characters with my community,” Viano says. “Hearing a small child talk about an animal or plant they have some connection to is so encouraging for all of us striving to keep those relationships strong.”

Another author inspired by the outdoors, Holly Hughes, will also make her way to Village Books April 12 to attempt to answer questions such as: How do we find our way when lost, whether at sea, in love or in life?

Hughes’ new collection of poetry, Sailing By Ravens, draws from her more than 30 years of experience as a mariner and Alaskan salmon gillnetter to seek answers to these questions.

“During all those seasons working at sea, I fell in love with the practice and language of navigation and these poems make use of that rich, metaphorical language,” Hughes explains. “The collection is organized into sections based on the four points of the compass, with each section representing a different phase in my quest to chart a path for myself following the end of my marriage.”

Navigating both inner and outer realms of the human experience, Hughes uses a wide variety of poetic forms—including sonnet, sestina, ghazal and prose poems—to explore her truths. Her 20 years of service as a writing instructor at Edmonds Community College provides her with experience and agility to move effortlessly through a multitude of styles.

Hughes’ poems, with titles like “Correcting for Variation,” “Barometer,” “Navigating the Body,” “Terra Incognito,” and “Adrift,” contain wind, maps, constellations of stars, knots, birds, seawater, compass and fish. These earthly, unadorned details ground the poet’s emotional wanderings and wonderings.

“In this collection, the challenge was to weave together the facts of navigation history that fascinate me with my personal story,” she furthers, “and I hope I succeeded in bringing some of that history alive in doing so.”

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