Astoria Warrenton - Pure Character

When Commercial Fishermen Recite Poetry

2/12/2014

Written by Chris Collision / Published by Pacific Standard



Ever year, hundreds of commercial fishermen gather in Astoria, Oregon, to present their poems and talk about an industry in flux.

The annual Fisher Poets Gathering is pretty much exactly as advertised: A group of around 70 mostly commercial fishermen from mostly the Pacific Northwest and Alaska gather in Astoria, Oregon, to read mostly poetry, mostly about commercial fishing. It draws hundreds of people—one account said 700—to hear poems, songs, and stories of this profession, the kind of talk and art that has always flooded and buoyed those who do this work, but that most people never hear.

The poetry of fishing runs deep and draws from oral traditions both ancient and modern. At the Fisher Poets Gathering, you’ll hear historians singing shanties formerly sung shipboard and ashore, and you’ll hear audiences join in. In more recent times, high-powered ship-to-ship radio communication has allowed fishermen to be in touch with one another—and to “while away long hours at sea when waiting for the fish to bite by sharing recipes, stories and poems.” Writing, as mentioned in the documentary Fisher Poets, has similarly strong maritime ties in the form of fishermen’s letters home, to loved ones, and so on.

Read the rest of the story at Pacific Standard Magazine.

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