May Day Benefit for Oregon Folklife Network Brings Fisher Poets to Eugene

Oregon Folklife Network presents an interactive arts workshop followed by an evening of entertainment with Fisher Poets, Jon Broderick and Jay Speakman, at Cozmic Pizza on Thursday, May 1, at 4 and 7pm.

Come learn more about one of Oregon’s unique occupations on May 1, and celebrate May Day – a traditional labor holiday! A 4pm workshop on poetry writing and recitation is appropriate for both young and adult writers of all experience levels.  The 7pm performance brings the poetry to life with readings, music, jokes, and spoken word.

Fisher Poetry is part of Oregon’s cultural and occupational folklife. An art form unique to commercial fishermen (and women – who incidentally prefer the same name), Fisher Poets express and share their exciting, dangerous, and sublime experiences on the sea through poems and songs.

Broderick and Speakman, organizers of the annual FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria each year, recite and sing about the dangers of their work, the beauty of a livelihood embedded in nature, and the values they share by growing up amidst small family businesses.  While enjoying their lyrical stories, you’ll learn about their unique skills and laugh at the humor they bring to bizarre challenges that come with enduring impossibly long hours, like sleeping in full rubber attire.

Tickets for each event will be available at the door for sliding scale fee ($3-$20), and will help sustain folklife programming in our state. 

Save the Dates:

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

“Conversations with Funders” Set to Continue April 9-16

The Oregon Cultural Trust and its partners the Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Heritage and Oregon Humanities will continue “Conversations with Funders: Arts, Heritage and Humanities” from noon – 2 p.m., April 9, at the Des Chutes Historical Museum, 129 NW Idaho, Bend.

Conversations sessions will provide information about grants, resources and services that could be of value to your organization. The sessions encourage sharing ideas, needs and initiatives and provide the opportunity to connect with other cultural organizations and efforts in your area.

Additional Conversations sessions will take place throughout the state through April 16. Sites include:

  • Harney County Community Center, 484 N. Broadway, Burns (9 – 11 a.m., April 10)
  • The Dalles Civic Auditorium Fireside Room, 323 E. Fourth St. The Dalles (10 a.m. – noon, April 15)
  • Historic Downtown City Hall, 20 S. Bonanza St., Echo (3 – 5 p.m., April 15)
  • F. Maxine and Thomas W. Cook Memorial Library Community Room, 2006 4th St., La Grande (11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., April 16).

For further information, and to register, visit the Conversation with Funders page on the Oregon Cultural Trust’s web site.

Folklife Project Receives the Oregon Heritage Excellence Award

Oregon Heritage Commission has bestowed an Oregon Heritage Excellence Award to a collaborative project between Oregon Folklife Network (OFN), Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS), and University of Oregon Libraries (UO).

The CTWS Culture & Heritage Language Department initiated the audio preservation project by asking James Fox, Head of UO Libraries Special Collection and University Archives, for assistance in preserving and improving access to its audio archives. With funding from an Oregon Heritage Commission grant, CTWS Culture and Heritage Language Dept. director, Valerie Switzler and archivist Dallas Winishut prioritized the open reel sound recordings materials as most in danger of degradation, and also most valuable to the tribe’s current cultural programming. UO Librarian Nathan Georgitis chose and installed the equipment needed for the preservation workstation, and trained Switzler, Winishut, and tribal volunteer Greg Arquette in best practices for sound preservation. OFN program manager, Emily West Afanador, performed video documentation of the project with interviews provided by both Switzler and Winishut, for a forthcoming documentary short to educate the broader Oregon public about the importance of preserving cultural sound recordings, and the challenges and rewards of partnerships.

The Oregon Heritage Excellence Awards recognize individuals, organizations, and projects for outstanding efforts in heritage preservation. The award honors those that make the most of available resources and develop innovative approaches. The collaborators will receive this honor during the Oregon Heritage Conference, April 23-25, in Albany, Oregon.

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!

Mark Ross Remembers Pete Seeger

Pete was a giant. He taught us to sing, play the 5 string banjo, and
12 string guitar, started a movement that cleaned up the Hudson River,
stood up to the witch hunters in Congress, wrote songs that will live
forever, marched with Dr. King, popularized the song WE SHALL
OVERCOME, sang for peace, built his own log cabin, nurtured songsters
and pickers, was blacklisted, damned, picketed by the John Birch
Society, cut his firewood until shortly before he died at the age of
94, was married to a marvelous woman for close to 70 years, rode the
freights with Woody Guthrie, sang on picket lines, just about invented
the profession of modern day folksinger, the list could go on forever.
He was rightly called "America's tuning fork", and he could get all
of us singing together at the drop of a flatpick.  His actions and his
words matched up a thousand percent.

I only spent any time with him on a handful of occasions, Resurrection
City in 1968, when the sloop the Clearwater would come sailing to New
York City. and the last time I saw him was when Utah Phillips invited
me to the Joe Hill Memorial in Salt Lake City in 1990. Pete, Earl
Robinson, Utah, Faith Petric, and Joe Glazer were there. They were
putting everybody up in the Hotel Perry which Utah remembered as a
Skid Road flophouse that he used to haul drunks out of when he was
working with Ammon Hennacy at Joe Hill House. In the ensuing years it
had been gentrified and turned into a posh upscale hostelry. At the
close of the weekend the Committee who had staged this memorial
invited us all down to dinner in the fancy restaurant off the lobby.
We walked in without a reservation of course, and asked for a table
for 18 (could have been more, I don't recall exactly). The staff
immediately starting putting tables together and setting them for this
unexpected influx. There was a large space cleared in the center where
they placed the chairs out of the way while they rearranged everything.
Pete immediately lined up the chairs and started to whistle POP GOES
THE WEASEL leading our dinner party around in a game of musical
chairs, Pete skipping with his hands behind his back.

I have been listening to him since I was 7 years old, and I will be
listening till the day I die.
We will never see his like again.

Folksinger Mark Ross was a 2012 TAAP awardee. He resides in Eugene, OR.

Apply for the 2014 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (TAAP)

OFN is now accepting applications for our Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (TAAP) through March 3, 2014. Traditional artists of exceptional merit qualify for $3,000 grants, which enable them to pass their expertise on to someone of great promise within their same cultural community. The mentoring artist and his or her apprentice apply together as a team and must demonstrate how traditional their art form is, how significant it is to the community they share, how strong their ties are to that cultural community, and the excellence of the quality of their work based on work samples, like images, videos, support letters, and press.
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More Results in for Folk & Traditional Arts Survey in Southeastern Oregon

Contract folklorist Douglas Manger has been researching folk and traditional artists in southeastern Oregon for the Oregon Folklife Network’s field survey. Later this spring, Manger will be in Malheur and Harney counties to document a wide variety of occupational, craft, music, dance, and leisure traditions to do with ranching, whip braiding, saddle making, fly fishing, storytelling, cooking, community celebrations, and more.

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