Teenagers and the Sea: Fisher Poet Tales (with Video!)

7 12 2012

National Fisherman did a nice write-up on last week’s Fisher Poets “On the Road” performance at Fish Expo, where Dano Quinn, Patrick Dixon, Abigail Culkin and I each had 20 minutes to perform. For the second post in a row: thanks, NF!

I swear Pat and I didn’t plan this, but with back-to-back readings, you couldn’t miss our shared theme: adolescence. Rough for any parent/spawn relationship, this is a particularly rocky period for those trapped together aboard a small fishing boat. Forced not only to co-exist, but to cooperate – the family’s livelihood depends on it. So does physical safety. As their parents’ crew, boat kids develop a ferocious work ethic, endurance, and responsibility. Transferable skills, whether they continue fishing or not. And it seems to be about a fifty-fifty split: of the boat kids I grew up with, maybe half are like Joel and me – salt-stained lifers who aren’t fully themselves away from the sea. The other half couldn’t jump ship fast enough.

Photo thanks to F/V Kathleen Jo

Photo thanks to F/V Kathleen Jo

The story Pat read, “The Connection,” is one of my favorites. It’s how I met Pat, and first learned about Fisher Poets, at Fish Expo four or five years ago. The audience packed the room – it was right next the beer garden – and I wedged into the back. When this tall gillnetter took the stage, I didn’t know what to expect – but it surely wasn’t this tear-jerking story of a reluctant killer, reflecting on what it meant to build one’s life by taking life. I’d never heard another fisherman so perfectly express my own inner conflict. Watch “The Connection” here.

And the story I read? Years ago, one of our fleet elders said something that stuck with me. He said, “Everybody has a rock up here with their name on it. If you fish long enough, you’ll find it.” As it happened, six years was all it took for this sleepy mariner. A story of drama, danger, romance, and triumph, watch “The Rock With My Name ” here.

This is a great warm-up, friends… Mark your calendars: the 16th annual Fisher Poets Gathering is less than three months away! This year’s dates are February 22-24, hosted in Astoria, Oregon. Check out their brand-new website – which includes a sneak peek at the performers signing up! (Between the veteran and first-time names, it’s already a great line-up, with many more yet to come.) I’d love to see you there.

Thanks again to National Fisherman for supporting this Fisher Poets “On the Road” performance, and to Pat Dixon for making it happen. Also, thanks to the delightful Betsy Delph, whose video may not have turned out as well, but her efforts were much appreciated. 





Hooked on Oregon Public Broadcasting

7 03 2012

I told you about my first scheduled performance at Fisher Poets Gathering 2012, but I didn’t tell you what happened next.

During the break, a tall, kind-eyed man introduced himself. Ifanyi Bell, digital producer with Oregon Public Broadcasting. He wanted to do a story about a greenhorn performer, someone brand-new to the Fisher Poets scene. Would I be interested?

I recalled the fall course I’d taken with editor Brooke Warner. She’d rejected proposals based on the author’s nonexistent platform, and urged us to start building our online presence before shopping our books. Would I be interested? Ah, yes.

We met up Saturday afternoon in the Fort George Showroom, the same venue that I’d perform in later that night. Good for his filming goals, and a welcome opportunity for me to get comfortable with the acoustics while rehearsing that evening’s piece. (If you were in the audience that night, you’ll notice that what I rehearsed isn’t what you heard. Abrupt change of plans a few hours before show time… But that’s another story.)

With floor to ceiling windows and brick walls, the former car showroom was cold, but the company was warm. We bonded over our unique names, both familiar with using their mispronunciation to weed out telemarketers. (If-ahn-ee and Tell-ah, BTW.) Delightfully personable, he asked insightful questions about the culture of commercial fishing, storytelling, and where they intersect. Our interview re-routed into an almost two hour conversation.

Ifanyi’s story went live on OPB this afternoon. Watching the finished video, I felt like I’d stepped into one of my favorite storytelling podcasts. His gifts as an interviewer had been apparent, but seeing the way that he pulled it all together was astonishing. Take a look, and keep an eye out for this man’s work. You can follow @ifanyi on Twitter.

Thanks, Tom Hilton, for this photo.

Serious skills you have, sir… Much gratitude for promoting my work with such generous artfulness.








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