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. 




4 responses

7 12 2012

Powerful, heartwarming/breaking story. It’s a wonder any of us survive adolescence, parents or kids. So many times I resonated with the scenes, especially thrusting out a protective arm. What a way to trip into your teen years. You found your rock & you belong to the seafaring life.

18 12 2012

Huh… I hadn’t thought of it as well as you just stated it – what a ridiculously clear metaphor, sudden, devastating impact with a rock at the onset of those very rocky teen years! Thanks for that, Angela.

8 12 2012
Spencer severson

Hi Telly. Just thought I’d mention to you about my daughter ida. Single father. Diver. Lotta days playing with her dolls off San Miguel or some other island with a hung over tender on deck. Many sitters while daddy scratched urchins in Craig, cukes on Lopez, abalone at the farallons. Even went with pa to tonga to dive lobster at 12 . Always a non meat eater she quit seafood too at 12. She’s a great sailor and mom but doesn’t do fishing boats. Grandson now 16 gives the fishing life a wide berth. Lotta psychology to study there i reckon. Thanks for the write.

18 12 2012

Hey, Spencer! I’m delighted to hear about Ida, and am going to guess that among her dolls were bull kelp mermaid ladies. (At least, those were a favorite of mine – sure liked giving them “haircuts.”) Sounds like you and she shared some special experiences; thanks for sharing them here. My non-fishing friends are always fascinated to hear about boat kids – the mere fact that we existed, let alone how many of us there were.

Always a pleasure to hear from you, Spencer. Best holiday wishes to you and Ellen.

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