Fisher-poets of the pale tide

A gathering of maritime minstrels on the Oregon coast.

  • Jon Broderick, founder of Fisher-Poets, pushes a skiff into deeper water beside a set gillnet in Nushagak Bay, Alaska.

    Chris Miller

Pat Dixon wrote his first fishing poem in 1989, in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. For 12 years, Dixon had gillnetted salmon in Cook Inlet, the finger of water that points from the Gulf of Alaska to Anchorage. After the Valdez dumped its noxious cargo into nearby Prince William Sound, fishing in Cook Inlet was shut down, and Dixon was cast adrift. One bleak afternoon by the water, as he watched a squall move along the beach, he found himself day-dreaming about all the things he was going to miss. A poem came to him, unbidden, and there, in the front seat of his parked truck, he began to write.

Twenty-six years later, on a chill night near the mouth of the Columbia River, Dixon — a barrel-chested man with a beard the color and texture of polar bear fur — climbed onto a stage in Astoria, Oregon, to read a new poem, “Exit Strategy,” to a rapt audience of 200. In a clear, unhurried voice, he intoned: 


I shall leave today,

motor through a school of leaping fish

stretching from the river mouth

to the horizon’s soft curve,

sluice my bow through a green

ocean swell, tide on my stern,

sun white alongside, burning

reflection in a moving mirror.


Dixon was among the 87 commercial fishermen who’d come to perform at the 18th annual Fisher-Poets Gathering, a weekend-long celebration of maritime verse. Readers came from Cordova, Alaska; Camden, Maine; Jyväskylä, Finland. On the streets, pickup trucks sported bumper stickers condemning salmon farms and the overreach of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Baseball caps and facial hair were de rigueur.

“This is our party, and we’re doing it our way,” Jon Broderick, Fisher-Poets’ founder, told me. Broderick is a former high school teacher who chases salmon in Alaska’s Bristol Bay with his sons every summer. He’s also a talented songwriter, and he’d followed Dixon’s reading with a swaying, klezmer-inflected ode to an alluring female cannery worker. “There’s nothing ersatz or kitsch or phony about it.”

“Write what you know,” they say, and it’s a maxim the fisher-poets have taken to heart. Their verse serves as a crash course in the daily rituals and hard-won knowledge of their profession. John Palmes, a hand-troller from Juneau, tore through a song about humpback salmon’s singular preference for pink lures (as opposed to coho, which favor chartreuse). Doug Rhodes, from Craig, Alaska, drew reliable laughs by poking fun at the government’s regulatory ineptitude. Rob Seitz, a trawler from Los Osos, California, performed “Tribute to the Five-Gallon Bucket,” a bit of doggerel about the hazards of at-sea defecation:


The water from the bucket would get your backside drenched

Kind of like those toilets designed by the French.    


Even love and lust, poetry’s most timeless concerns, were contemplated through a briny lens. From Erin Fristad, of Port Townsend, Washington: “She engulfs me like she has the mouth of a lingcod / I know that shouldn’t be sexy, but it is.” The landlubbers in the audience giggled uncertainly.

On the festival’s final evening, a standing-room-only crowd packed into a waterfront restaurant that jutted out over the Columbia on wooden pilings. Rust-colored tankers glowed in the fiery sunset; sea lions honked beneath the pier. At the front of the room, a mop-haired veterinarian named Meezie Hermansen stood at the mic. Hermansen has fished summers in Cook Inlet since she was a child — “I knew I was a fisherman before I knew I was a woman”—and she’d started writing poetry in college to amuse her friends. Fisher-Poets had long been on her bucket list, and her set at the 2011 gathering was the first time she’d ever read in public.

“Now I think about the event all year long,” she told me. She’s inseparable from her notebook. “I’ve written poems out on the skiff, which is not the most convenient place to have something come to you.”

Onstage, Hermansen had time for one more poem. “Back home in Alaska, there are some proposed projects that stand to threaten our wild salmon stocks and habitat,” she said. She ticked off the dangers: coal mines that would bury streams, dams that would obstruct rivers, the Pebble copper mine in Bristol Bay. Her voice low and lyrical, she launched into the piece without notes: 


We need to realize

Open our steel eyes

Before we jeopardize

What we should all esteem.

There is a place for enterprise

But we need to analyze and scrutinize

As they attempt to minimize and -capitalize

For we all live downstream.


The crowd applauded at poem’s end, and Hermansen smiled shyly as she left the stage.

To read and listen to more Fisher-Poetry by Dixon, Broderick, Hermansen and other performers, check out In the Tote.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Based in the state capitol, Boise State Public Radio is the premier NPR affiliate in Idaho. With 18 transmitters and translators, it reaches 2/3rds of...
  • Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one.
  • Organization Background: The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a non-profit 501(3)(c) organization, founded in 2006. Our mission is to protect the ecosystems of the...
  • If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...
  • Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Home, barns, garage, separate apt, more. Just under 2 ac, edge of town. Famously pure air and water. Skiing, mountaineering, bike,...
  • Become a force for nature and a healthy planet by joining the Arizona Chapter as Forest Stewardship Project Director. You will play a key role...
  • Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is accepting applications for an Executive Director. This position will provide leadership to RSA, develop a fund raising plan, and effectively communicate...
  • REGISTER ONLINE BY: Friday, June 15 WHERE: Durango, CO (location TBD) WHEN: Monday, July 16 Youth workshop: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. (18 and under,...
  • The Equity in the Outdoors Coordinator will lead community engagement, program implementation and development, and data collection for the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement (EVOM). EVOM...
  • The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a personable individual who is passionate about conservation to join our Sandpoint Field Office. The Community Engagement Assistant will...
  • 4 standard or custom lengths. Rugged protection for backpacking. Affordable pricing.
  • Actively introduce students to Experiential Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Sustainability while engaging and challenging them to learn and participate in these diverse opportunities. Room, board,...
  • In-depth investigations of polluters, lobbyists, regulators, elected officials and others focused on environmentally damaging projects in the U.S. and internationally. We specialize in mining projects,...
  • in beautiful Montezuma County.
  • Class A & B drivers, pass all DOT requirements and clean driving record
  • - Thriving Indie bookstore in the heart of Durango, Colorado. General bookstore with 34-year history as a community hub for Southwest region of CO. 1800...
  • HawkWatch International seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our awesome team! This position will provide support in all aspects of the department. We are looking...
  • will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details:

Наш нужный портал , он рассказывает про написание текстов на заказ.