An Addicting Kind of Terror

by OFN Graduate Research Assistant Em Knott

Set against the backdrop of turbulent sea-water, storm-battered row houses, and a charming downtown, the FisherPoets Gathering is held annually in Astoria, Oregon. This three day event allows commercial fishers from all over the world to gather and perform original poetry, prose and songs. The Oregon Folklife Network sent graduate students Adrienne Decker, Julie Meyer, and Em Knott to the Gathering to document the event and conduct interviews with the performers.

The men and women interviewed expressed their opinions concerning gendered interactions among fishers, environmental activism, and belief and spirituality. These themes were also echoed in their writing.

But it was in the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning that we, the graduate students, got to sit around a table with a multi-generational fisher family and their friends, that we gained true insight into life as a FisherPoet. One of the friends was discussing the performance she gave earlier that night. She confessed that she had terrible stage fright but she loved coming to FisherPoets to perform. She joked that it was an “addicting kind of terror”. The other fishers around the table laughed, and joked, “so is fishing”.

On Saturday afternoon we conducted interviews in the upstairs loft of the Lightbox Gallery. As we worked our way through the interviews, one of the constant themes was disaster stories. So we asked: what is it about fishing that continuously brings people back to it year after year, even as dangerous as it is. The resounding answer we received is that they loved it, and that they couldn’t imagine a life where they weren’t fishing.

Commercial fishing is an addicting kind of terror. Our informants continuously spoke of how the weather would be perfect and then, not an hour later, there would be swells towering a hundred feet over their heads. Their creative work reflected this as well. The poetry, prose and songs described the dangers of their profession as they wrote about waves crashing over the decks of their ships, and fellow fishers being catapulted into the icy water as the ship bucked with the raging waters.

Whether it is in a boat in the waters of the pacific or standing up in front of a crowd to perform, there is an element of addicting terror.

Save the Date: The FisherPoets are Coming to Eugene!

Jon Broderick and Jay Speakman, founders of Astoria’s FisherPoets gathering, will soon be performing and teaching in Eugene!

Thursday, May 1st at Cozmic Pizza:
Music and Poetry Performance: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Writing Workshop: 4:00 – 5:30 pm

Friday, May 2nd at the U. of O. Longhouse:
Performances, conversations, and oral history of the FisherPoets Gathering: 12:00 – 2:00 pm

Traditional Storytelling Night at the Many Nations Longhouse on the U. of O. Campus

Co-sponsored by the Oregon Folklife Network

UO Many Nations Longhouse
Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
5 – 8 PM

From Gordon Bettles, Many Nations Longhouse Steward:

The University of Oregon Many Nations Longhouse is continuing the Native American tradition of Storytelling. This has to occur during the winter season in order to be proper. To do so otherwise is to invite winter to stay overlong. It is preferred to have respected Tribal Storytellers do the ‘telling’ in order to hear stories told correctly.

Virginia Beavert, who is now in her nineties, is a Elder of the Yakama Tribe. She has heard  the stories since she was very young and is a delightful Storyteller. Virginia received her Ph.D. in Linguistics and teaches at the Northwest Indian Language Institute.

George Wasson, an Elder of the Coquille Indian Tribe, is a retired professor at the University of Oregon. He was instrumental in the creation of the Native American Student Union. George’s Coquille stories will make you laugh and think at the same time.

Ed Edmo is from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and grew up with the Columbia River Tribes. Ed is an accomplished poet, entertainer in several mediums and lately was on the Portlandia television show. Ed has been telling stories since….who can remember how long.

Folklife on the McKenzie River

by OFN Graduate Research Assistant Bruno Seraphin

OFN is involved in a multi-year effort to document traditional culture on the McKenzie, in particular the work of fishing guides.

This includes wooden drift boat building, legends and histories, stories about hatcheries, fishing, fly tying, dams, floods, the old white water parade, hunting and trapping, lodges, food traditions (Dutch oven cooking), and pretty much anything about this river and the people who live with it.

We are partnering with Ken Engelman of the McKenzie River Reflections newspaper and UO Professor Katie Lynch’s ongoing MyMcKenzie project.

I spoke with Randy Dersham, founder of the online McKenzie River Drift Boat Museum. Plywood drift boats such as this have a simple, elegant design, and are built for navigating rough waters. They are used around the world, but were invented right here on the McKenzie by Veltie Pruitt, in the early 20th century.

The project is off to a great start!