Last weekend I visited Astoria, Oregon for the annual Fisherpoets Gathering. The event features fishermen and women from across North America who recite original poetry celebrating one of the world’s oldest professions. The gathering started as a humble affair over 17 years ago and has remained a humble affair – but has also grown into a tourist attraction that fills venues with warm bodies across the downtown area. I’ve been going for four years and I always look forward to revisiting the cafes, pubs and art galleries that become makeshift venues during this weekend-long event.
Here’s a video from one of my favorite performers:
The Fisherpoets Gathering draws a unique mixture of folks from the commercial fishing industry. Crabbers, divers, trollers, set netters, drifters, seiners, biologists, captains, capitalists, conservationists – you’ll meet most any type there. Of course, many of the poets would check “all of the above” were there a Fisherpoet census.
Though I didn’t participate this year due to time constraints, for several years I’ve been supporting an event at Clemente’s Restaurant, along with author Bill Carter and Trout Unlimited, to spread awareness of the proposed Pebble Mine, a copper/gold mine that would threaten Alaska’s Bristol Bay fishery. When someone asked me over the weekend “why would they want a pebble mine all the way up there?” I was reintroduced to the cleverness of the euphemistic title. This copper/gold mine would generate billions of dollars in the short term, but would destroy the world’s largest and most sustainable sockeye salmon fishery, and a food source for thousands of additional sustenance fishermen in the process. This perspective was recently confirmed by the EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.
The Fisherpoets Gathering continues to be one of my favorite weekend getaways during the doldrums of February. You’ll hear great poets, bad poets that are great because they are bad, and authentic people with interesting stories to share about working in the last frontier. As I walked around the wonderful city of Astoria I spotted the telltale Alaskan – wearing flip flops and a teeshirt in the cold February night. I also saw people wearing “No Pebble Mine” buttons and stickers, and heard at least one person remark that he couldn’t believe the message had made its way to the lower 48.
The Fisherpoets Gathering is held during the 4th weekend of February every year.
For more, check out their website: www.fisherpoetsgathering.org