Tidal Echoes: Capturing Southeast culture in print

The latest edition of the University of Alaska Southeast literary journal Tidal Echoes was recently released. It takes a year to curate all of the work that goes into the book, which showcases poets, fiction writers, and artists. There’s only one requirement for submission: you have to be a full-time resident of Southeast.

Listen now:

Emily Wall flips through 114 matte pages of the freshly published journal.

“That’s a photograph, that’s 3-D art made out of an egg carton,” she says.

Wall is faculty advisor for Tidal Echoes, now in its eighth year. The journal is edited by UAS students. It accepts work from all over Southeast Alaska, from Lemon Creek Correctional Center to Metlakatla. Wall says there are no themes. It’s more about creating a platform for local artists and writers.

“So I really like that for down south audiences, it’s a way to distinguish us as a region. This is a very particular and different aspect of the state,” Wall says.

There are other literary journals in Alaska. Some accept submissions from out-of-state, but none are regionally specific. In this edition of Tidal Echoes, the featured writer and artist are both from Juneau. The cover has Fumi Matsumoto’s artwork on it, a collection of used tea bags stamped with ravens.

Dancing Ravens by Fumi Matsumoto
Dancing Ravens by Fumi Matsumoto

“It’s a happy cover. You know what I mean? Someone said that, too. All the ravens look like they’re having a good time,” she says.

Matsumoto is a found artist who’s lived in Alaska for almost 30 years. You might look at an empty milk carton or the dying leaves of a house plant and see trash. Matsumoto thinks of something else.

“The image of a wolf popped out of the pile of leaves. It’s almost like a puzzle. Then looking for the right leaf to make the ear. That’s what I like to do, if I find something and you look at it for a while, a piece of driftwood or whatever, what kind of images come out when you’re staring at it,” Matsumoto says.

There was the time she noticed the glint of a pile of Mountain Dew cans.

“I don’t drink it. I just have the cans and I thought, ‘Wow the colors are really nice.’ You’ve got the greens and reds,” she says.

She realized the colorful aluminum looked like the feathers of her bird, Pogo.

“Very parrot like. So I just made parrots out of those,” she says.

Matsumoto is Japanese-American and uses different Eastern techniques in her art: origami, kirigami or paper-cutting. Also, sumi-e, which is ink brush painting. Some of her work is playful, like the Mountain Dew Parrots. Other pieces tell the story of her family history, like Minidoka Interlude.

“It’s a very subtle photo of a Japanese woman in a kimono and that’s my mom,” she says.

The photograph is encased in a square metal cage.

“There’s a gold button, barbed wire, and a scroll that has the name of some of the Japanese internees there,” Matsumoto says.

Minidoka refers to the Idaho internment camp that Japanese Americans were sent to during World War II. Matsumoto’s father and other relatives were sent to a different camp. At the time, the U.S. government feared another attack like Pearl Harbor. But little evidence was ever uncovered to support theories of espionage.

“It’s just that we looked like the enemy. You know? I don’t know if we hadn’t looked like Japanese people, I doubt we would have been rounded up and stuck in camps,” she says.

Matsumoto says she didn’t learn about her family’s past until she was older.

“That was the thing. Most Japanese Americans were basically wanting to put it behind them. It was very shameful to be accused of being a spy or un-loyal because they weren’t,” Matsumoto says.

Her father later left the internment camp for the U.S. Army and went on to be a highly decorated war hero. Matsumoto says she hopes making artwork like this will help create a dialogue.

“Then perhaps people will become aware and sensitive to what happened and that it won’t happen again,” she says.

You can see Fumi Matsumoto’s work in the latest edition of Tidal Echoes, along with other pieces from Southeast artists and writers.

Copies can be purchased at UAS or Hearthside Books.