Volcanic verse

Mount Redoubt inspires
eruptive show of local

Editor’s note: The Redoubt Reporter invited readers to submit photos and haiku poems of and inspired by Mount Redoubt’s eruptions. One photo and one poem were chosen as winners, and those submitters receive a T-shirt, a year’s subscription to the paper and are mentioned below. The Redoubt Reporter thanks everyone who participated. Photo prints are available for purchase from the photographers, or contact redoubtreporter@alaska.net to get in touch with the photographers listed here.

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

As Joe Kashi, of Soldotna, jokingly wrote in response to The Redoubt Reporter’s contest of poetry inspired by Mount Redoubt’s eruptions (with due credit given to John Donne and John Kennedy): “Ash not for whom it blows, it blows for thee.”

In a sense, he’s right (albeit a little corny). The volcano’s unrest has inspired curiosity and creativity in onlookers on the central Kenai Peninsula, and around the world, for that matter. It’s provided excitement, a topic of conversation, some celebrity status among friends and relatives down south, a reason for volcano-watching outings with the family, and motivation to pick up a camera or put pen to paper.

The Redoubt Reporter invited readers to share the results of their creativity with the paper, and is pleased to publish those submissions here.

While Kashi’s whimsical haiku poetry submission:
Redoubt volcano
Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom
Twenty times to date
— didn’t rank tops in The Redoubt Reporter’s haiku contest, one of his photos of the smoldering mountain got top mention in the photo division. The shot was taken at sunset March 31 at the top of the hill on Robinson Loop Road.

At left is the winning photo, taken by Joe Kashi, of Soldotna, showing Mount Redoubt at sunset from Robinson Loop Road on March 31.

Above is the winning photo, taken by Joe Kashi, of Soldotna, showing Mount Redoubt at sunset from Robinson Loop Road on March 31.

“I live at the base of the hill. I heard the volcano was simmering so I went up to take a look with my kid and took my camera,” he said.

He used a Kodak z1012 long zoom camera, which he has been keeping with him in his car, in case Redoubt erupted while he was driving somewhere, he said.

“I had that happen during the iconic April 1990 (Redoubt) eruption, which I saw that morning from start to finish, without a camera,” Kashi said.

Judges Jayne Jones, a photography professor at Kenai Peninsula College, artist and Art Works gallery owner Zirrus VanDevere, and photographer and former central peninsula resident Jay Barrett said they liked the shot particularly for its color and composition.

“Pleasing colors are captured in the sky with a strong movement of ash cloud from the mountain in the distance bringing the ash to the viewer in the foreground and filling the right frame. The dark trees are in the frame just enough to be noticed and create an interesting shape. The exposure is right on as it give us a strong silhouette in the lower one seventh of the frame while maintaining details in the treeline and in the row of mountains dwarfed by Mount Redoubt. This image is pleasing and calming yet deceiving, as we know Mount Redoubt can release its fury with little advance notice,” Jones said.

“It’s a well-composed and well-executed photograph showing the threatening nature of the volcano’s eruption. Pictures of Mount Redoubt are a dime a dozen, but photographs connecting you to the volcano are far more rare. Of all the warm sunset images submitted, this is the best. First, the exposure was right and the blacks were rich and solid. It’s obvious this was not just a snapshot,” Barrett said.

Kashi has been involved in photography on and off in his life, though mostly on, since he was 15 and worked in a photography shop where he grew up in Pennsylvania. He did a lot of photography while attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the editor of the student paper, and studied with Minor White, who co-founded and edited Aperture magazine. Kashi said that, while attending law school in Washington, D.C., he spent Saturdays in the Library of Congress researching photography — the high-quality, but no longer commercially used, chemical processes, lenses, etc.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s Kashi taught photography at Kenai Peninsula College, and had a custom photo printing lab for a few years. He shelved photography altogether from about 1986 until 2003, when he started using digital photography in his legal practice. By 2006, he was firmly ensconced in the digital medium, and his wife encouraged him to start doing fine art photography again. His work has been in numerous statewide and local art shows since.

He said he’s been shooting Redoubt photos, “Here and there, whenever Redoubt is visible, and that’s been kind of erratic the past couple months,” he said.

When asked for pointers in shooting the volcano, he recommended underexposing a bit or using the bracketing exposure function on digital cameras, where, in a series of shots, one is a little underexposed, one is a littler overexposed and one is taken at the metered exposure. In cameras that have the function, he also suggested using the expanded dynamic range option, which helps maintain shadow and highlight detail.

Beyond that, though, the old photography expression applies:

“Honest to God, just ‘f8 and be there,’” he said. “A clear view and a clear day and (you get) decent stuff. The weather’s good, so you might as well do it, you know?”

Herb Schaan’s winning haiku poem, “Chalice in the sky,” is one of many creative expressions Mount Redoubt has inspired in him. He lives a few miles north of Kenai on the bluff and has enjoyed an unobstructed view of the volcano’s activity this winter.

“From my front yard it’s just a very beautiful view. It’s wide open, nobody lives in front of me, straight into the water and ocean and the volcano,” Schaan said.
The retired counselor and Lutheran Church worker has lived in the Kenai area for about 22 years. Before that he spent 15 years in Papua New Guinea and eight in Hawaii. He attends the Kenai Writers Group and is working on memoirs from his time spent in Papua New Guinea.

His poem was noted for its strong imagery yet double meaning:
Chalice in the sky
Filled with gold and copper light
Fertile in due time

In a literal sense, it’s a reference to the effects Redoubt’s ash can have on sunlight, and the mountain’s unpredictability.

“If there’s ash, the ash really highlights a lot of the color spectrum — lavenders and just endless kind of peach colors that are just amazing. It’s very exciting to see that because it’s very temporary. You can see that and photograph it and tomorrow it will be something else,” Schaan said.

Yet the poem also gives a nod to the fact that, even though the eruptions are destructive, ash lends fertility to the soil, from which new life will benefit in due time.

“There are aspects about the volcano that I think are fascinating,” Schaan said. “They are a link with the power, deep, deep in the hot realm of the Earth, so deep that we know very little about it to the point where you can’t predict what is going on. It gives the volcano the mystique of, you know, when will it blow?

“I think it’s just fascinating how the creation of Earth’s crust, and the destruction and melting down of Earth’s crust, is going on right before our eyes. There are not many places where you can watch this.”

He’s been e-mailing his Redoubt imagery, both photographic and literary, to friends around the country and world, and it’s been forwarded and re-forwarded much farther than he’s ever traveled, he said.

“It touches something basic in the human mind. The combination of something potentially threatening and overwhelming and at same time something that grabs your interest and makes you stop and look. It definitely is something that stirs human interest in a lot of minds of people who love nature and are inquisitive about how the Earth works. It touches something basic in the human interest realm.”

Redoubt haikus:

Pressure builds, taunting
Yellow to orange, life moves on
Orange, red, at last relief
Erin Boehme

Nature at its best
Spectacular plumes float north
Redoubt lives again
Jane Pitcock
Clam Gulch

Smoke and ash upward
Went bellowing to the sky
Our white snow turns dark
Sonja Foutty

Pink, blue, orange clouds.
Flowing north, ashing the range.
Volcanic sunset.
Billy Snodgrass

Drastically changing,
Constantly rearranging,
The plume’s amazing.
Heidi Hanson

The moon is alit,
Mother Nature in a fit,
Will she ever quit?
Heidi Hanson

Twenty degrees. Winds.
Eyes, lenses trace ash cirrus.
Silent silhouette.
Ralph S. Carlson

Cauliflower bloom
blown from mountain mouth:
morning’s ragged edge.
Ralph S. Carlson

Dormant, now active
booming volcanic action
Redoubt, watch her live!
Sara Hondel

By Bill Taylor, Kenai:
Slumbering giant
It grumbles and spews ash
Yet is still asleep

Months of observing
The sleeping monstrosity
Causes fear in men

Carefully watching
The sleeping giant causes
Erroneous predictions

By Brent Johnson, Clam Gulch:
“Except Redoubt”
A bump on a log
and a bump on our planet
don’t often gambol.

“Regal Redoubt”
White, sheer pyramid
baring dark shadowy cliffs
and far-flung sunsets.

“News flash”
The airplanes can’t fly
for particles small and dry.
Mount Redoubt kicks ash!

“Risqué display”
The blue sky declares
when Redoubt volcano flares.
Everybody stares.

Urban friends call me,
Are you near the lava flow?
I lie and say yes.
Laura Forbes,

Eleven miles high
From the womb into the sky
Did Mother Earth cry?
John Demske,

By Barbara Waters, Kenai:
Mount Redoubt steaming
Across Cook Inlet waters
Ash fall coming soon

Awaken Redoubt
Rumble, stretch, let off some steam
Slumber returns soon

Ash darkens the sky
The sun disappears within
Mount Redoubt exhaling

The sky is falling!
Folks grab their masks and look up
Fallout = Redoubt spume

By Herb Schaan, Kenai:
Color drained away
Ash and oil, prehistoric
Wait for sunlit morn.

Lines across the sky
Belie dark ash, endless streams
Flow onward, fishless.

Carbon veils streak high
Bleak, hypnotic, overwhelm
Deep Earth dust mocks sun.

Raging battle flares
Swallowed sunlight, eaten whole
Magma born of Earth.

From my window pane
Butterfly peace, molten hell
Life symbols collide.

Reach out, north and south
Open arms encompassing
East, west, everywhere.

Stealthy clouds distant
Struggle for a second shot
Ash dragon, stop now!



Filed under art, Mount Redoubt, photography, volcanoes

2 responses to “Volcanic verse

  1. Nita Nettleton

    Sorry, I came in late. How about some Limmericks? Let’s start with the obvious:

    There was a volcano named Redoubt
    With an uncomfortable need to bleed out.
    It spewed out its guts,
    From nipples to nuts,
    And feels much better now, peed out.

    Make it personal:

    A thirsty young pica named Frank
    Trundled up the volcano’s south flank.
    He reeled at the brink,
    Giddy from the stink–
    Making magma the last thing he drank.

    Look for the silver lining:

    If the volcano were spewing dollars,
    We would all spread open our collars
    To collect the efluvium
    With happy enthusium,
    Like so many landlubbing trawlers.

    Now, time to tidy up:

    There’s no polite jargon for ‘spew.’
    The imagery is next door to ‘eew.’
    The word, in fact,
    Is devoid of tact,
    And sticks to the palate like glue.

  2. Barbara

    I love the poetry, but haiku and limericks.

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