The 19th FisherPoets Gathering is around the next bend. During the weekend of Feb. 26-28, over 90 performers who have experience in the commercial fishing industry will school up in Astoria, Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River to read, sing and recite their works celebrating working on the water. Astoria opens her doors to embrace the participants and audience – galleries like KALA, Imogen and Riversea host fish-related art shows, local hotels discount rooms if you mention the Gathering, and restaurants, theaters and pubs open their spaces for readings and music on Friday and Saturday night. The Columbia RiverMaritime Museum hosts workshops on everything from knot-tying to writing poetry on Saturday morning and afternoon, and a story-circle comprised of experienced fishermen entertains large audiences each year on Saturday afternoon.
Be sure to visit the Gear Shack, where the performers offer their books, photos, art, jewelry, ‘Zines and CDs for sale (there’s also a find-raiser silent auction) at discounted show prices. Highlights this year promise to be the first book of Wesley "Geno” Leech’s poetry and stories, Waterlogged. Of it, renowned Oregon poet Clemens Starck says, “[Geno’s] brash, salty, bare-knuckled poems and prose sketches are like nothing that has ever fallen from the sky or been hauled up from the deep.”
Erin Fristad will be promoting her new book of stories and poems about her 15 years fishing in Alaska, The Glass Jar, also. Scheduled for release in May by Finishing Line Press , she’ll have information on pre-ordering available. As author Kim Stafford describes it, “By this book’s light you peer through a porthole of visceral poetry and prose into a life onboard where the hiss of the stove, seething fish-hold, deckhand’s mood, rough weather and scant wages all cast you free from landed comforts.”
For the second year Anchored in Deep Water: The FisherPoets Anthology will be available for purchase. A seven-book set of thematic volumes on the community, history, risk, politics, family issues, gender issues and the love of the work will be offered for sale as individual books or bound in a fish-shaped cover with the complete set. Joanne Rideout, host of Astoria’s iconic PBS radio show The Ship Report, offers: “I so enjoy picturing the artists I know and love as I read their work, and getting to know those I have not seen yet. Like being at the great FisherPoets Gathering anytime I want.”
So if you’d like to join the hundreds of folks who love stories, poems and songs about commercial fishing, the sea and working on and near the water, fire up the main and head downriver. A $15 Event Button (available at the Gear Shack and the venue doors) will get you admission into performances and special events all weekend. Throw some words in your log book and bring’em along. There’s plenty of opportunity at the open mics, and the weekend festivities culminate with the Saturday night Poetry Contest, open to all comers. Check out the schedule online at www.fisherpoets.org. Put on your Xtra Tufs! We’ll see you by the water in Astoria!