“Roughly For the North” is the debut poetry collection from Carrie Aya<span class='IDappliedStyle' title='InDesign: Medium'>ġ</span>aduk Ojanen.                                 <strong>Courtesty photo</strong>

“Roughly For the North” is the debut poetry collection from Carrie Ayaġaduk Ojanen. Courtesty photo

Book Review: ‘Roughly For the North”

“Roughly for the North” scratches the same itch as a favorite, devastating breakup album.

Good poetry elicits an emotional response and “Roughly For the North” certainly does that.

It would be nearly impossible to read Carrie Ayagaduk Ojanen’s debut collection of poetry published by University of Alaska Press and not feel something.

However, most of the emotions provoked over the course of “Roughly For the North” aren’t positive.

“Roughly For the North” scratches the same itch while taking a psychic toll as a favorite weep-y movie or particularly devastating breakup album.

That’s because Ojanen’s chosen subject matter tends to be eras, places and people lost to the ceaseless expanse of time or colonial imposition. Throughout the 67-page collection, Ojanen creates pictures loaded with sensory details that make her portraits of wistfulness, grief, longing and searching evoke real sensations.

The observed orange smearing from berry picking, the black blood sprays of eviscerated fish and the sloping posture of aged relatives lend an almost oppressive weight of reality to poems that sometimes straddle the line between the waking and dreaming worlds.

The works underscore the reality that the events of the past are both immutable and removed, but equally irresistable to consideration. It is a profound sentiment but also a tough one.

All of the poetry’s raw emotion is presented through the prism of Ojanen’s cultural identity.

She is an Inupiat writer and member of Ugiuvamiut tribe, and the displacement of her grandparents from Ugiuvak to Nome inspire her writing, according to book’s about the author entry.

There are poems that present the anguish her elders felt to be separated from not only their home, but their customs. They capture the cultural changes that were endured, the scraps of identity that were salvaged in the transition and brief moments of reclamation.

The focus on tradition means that some poems in “Roughly for the North” may be difficult for folks with an aversion to depictions of animal slaughter. While it’s not done cruelly by any of the poem’s characters or speakers, it is described with the keen eye for detail that is found elsewhere in the collection.

As “Roughly For the North” progresses, a strong parallel begins to emerge between Ojanen’s transplanted grandparents’ disconnect from their ancestral home and the loss of connection between generations caused by inevitable demise.

Ojanen’s ancestors are not the entirety of the collection, which despite unifying sentiments, is fairly varied.

Topics include a meditations on the soul, a short scene of a child watching his father trim a tree and recollections of a passing flock of geese among many others.

The form of the poems can also very greatly with fluctuations in length, shape and capitalization. Rhyme even occasionally creeps into the lyrical free verse.

This makes the bite-sized book particularly easy to devour on a cold, dark evening.

• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


More in Home

During a hearing at the Juneau Courthouse, 34-year-old Anthony Michael Migliaccio, 34, pleaded not guilty after he was arrested on a first-degree murder charge in the killing of a 55-year-old Juneau woman. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Man arrested in killing of Faith Rogers pleads not guilty

News follows a two-month investigation.

The Alaska State Capitol awaits a legislators forming new majority coalitions and the return of Gov. Mike Dunleavy after the winners of the general election were announced Wednesday. The Senate will have a 17-member bipartisan ruling coalition, while the House arrangement remains uncertain due to at least one likely recount and questions about partisan alignments. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Bipartisan majority formed for new state Senate

Eight Republicans join nine Democrats after many years of Republican rule

Sugar Bear Alaskan Treasures, seen here, was one of many artist vendors featured at the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Indigenous Artists & Vendors Holiday Market from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday through Sunday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Indigenous Holiday Market features local artists

Market’s first return since 2018.

Anthony Whiteman, left, thanks volunteer Frank Balogh for blending the traditional Thanksgiving foods served during The Salvation Army’s annual communal meal at midday Thursday so they could be consumed through a straw. Whiteman said his jaw was broken three weeks ago by three assailants with brass knuckles and the Thanksgiving meal was his first food other than liquid nutrition since the attack. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Thankful for a smooth holiday feast

Resumption of in-person communal Thanksgiving meal offers many blessings for diners and volunteers

Alan Alda, center, was host of PBS’s “Scientific American Frontiers” when he visited Alaska in 2004. To his right is By Valentine, who worked in the glaciers lab at the Geophysical Institute with glaciologist Keith Echelmeyer (on Alda’s left). Echelmeyer died of brain cancer six years after Alda’s visit. (Courtesy Photo / Ned Rozell, enhanced 18 years later by JR Ancheta)
Alaska Science Forum: Alan Alda and the Alaska messengers

Climate change in the Arctic and Alaska is substantial; we can see signals it has arrived…”

A larger-than-life reindeer awaits holiday shoppers near an entrance at Nugget Mall on Wednesday, where there were no obvious “Black Friday” signs or banners on display, but merchants are nonetheless readying sales prices in the hopes of luring an increased flow of traffic. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Black Friday looking less bleak

Economic and weather storms a setback, but post-pandemic participation by shoppers promising

Mile runners takeoff from the starting line during the ninth annual Turkey Trot on Thursday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
And they’re off: Turkey Trot draws hundreds

Fun in the briefly shining sun.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Barbara Bechtold and John Tomaro deliver a Thanksgiving meal package to a Mendenhall Valley home on Saturday. The couple, both of whom have lived in Juneau since the 1970s, have made the deliveries and taken part in other volunteer efforts for many years. The estimated 300 to 400 packages being delivered this year are a collaborative effort by St. Vincent de Paul, The Salvation Army, The Glory Hall and other local entities.
Fowl weather friends deliver feasts

Thanksgiving food baskets and communal gathering provide traditional meal for thousands

Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai shows the ranked choice tabulation for the U.S. House race Wednesday afternoon in Juneau. Democratic incumbent Mary Peltola prevailed over Republican former Gov. Sarah Palin by a final tally of 54.9% to 45.1% after lower-finishing candidates Republican Nick Begich III amd Libertarian Chris Bye were eliminated during the first two rounds of instant choice runoffs. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Update: Incumbents secure reelection in statewide races

Ranked choice results mean legislative leadership future is unclear.

Most Read