The 2018 Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon is always the best-timed event of the year. At this point in the winter, last summer’s fishing season seems far enough away that we’ve forgotten about the rough and tough days at sea that made us think hard about our decision to work on the water. February is the month when our memories slyly turn stormy seasick days into backdeck camaraderie and huge deckload days, and we dream of the upcoming season like the hopeless romantics that only fishermen are.
When we attend Fisher Poets we’re reminded of the strength and pride in our community of commercial fishermen, and leave reassured that there are many other people thinking about fish and boats and weather and tides and changes in the ocean and feeding the world and the heritage we share too. We’re inspired by the way every fishermen who stands up to read words they’ve written, articulates a the feelings about fishing we find sometimes hard to describe – the bittersweetness between feeling beat down and held up by the ocean, and the magnetism that draws us back each year despite all odds, to learn something about ourselves, or to prove something, or to feel connected to the ocean’s wild abundance.
Though there were too many magnificent moments to capture and performers to mention at Fisher Poets this year, here are a few of our favorites moments that we’d like to share and remember.
Bumble Bee Cannery - Astoria, OR
Wild salmon snacks at Bristol Bay workshop
The Strength of the Tides workshop, empowering females in the fishing industry
Downtime on the docks at Bouy Brewery and We Are Bristol Bay Stickers
Gyotaku fish printing workshop
Downtown Astoria photo projection by Corey Arnold showcasing fishing in Bristol Bay
Rainy Day on the Columbia River
Bristol Bay workshop in Astoria's Heritage Museum
If you missed Fisher Poets this year, you can listen to interviews with some of the talented poets, artists and fishermen who performed this year.
And get inspired by some of the Fisher Poet's best:
We leave you with a poem by Bristol Bay fisherman Maggie Bursch:
They Call Them Netmares
The demons took me
When I was twelve and they made my dreams
I would beg them, but the salmon
Kept swimming into my room
My sister, sleeping soundly
With a flounder under head.
Panicked in my sinking bed
I searched for steering wheel
And throttle in the sheets,
Swearing and groping as the water rose
Until I’d wake her, and she’d wake me
And the waves dropped
Back to clothing on the floor.
Later I learned to wake myself
Wading through the waves
To the kitchen
Washing my face at the sink
Until the currents subsided
And the piles of net turned
Back into plywood under my legs.
I still sleep
With sockeye in my sheets
And jump out of bed
Telling everyone to get up now
The net is out and munched
And the waves are big and the water is shallow
And I can’t run this fucking boat alone.
Then I wake
And everyone is sleeping, And I
Am standing wide eyed and naked
In the cabin in my sweat.
And I remember then, the eyes of the fisherman
As he spits black in his beer can
“You’re a tough girl,
you could take a couple demons.”
Then he looks at me knowingly
far too long.
Mark you calendars for next year’s gathering (Feb 22-24, 2019) – and get writing!