WEEKEND: Fisher-poets sail in to salt poetry, music in Port Hadlock

PORT HADLOCK — There’s a particular breed of traveler called the fisher-poet.

They’re commercial fishers, hearty women and men. They live as if salt water runs in their veins. They love the oceans, music and good company.

For years, these fisher-poets have held a late-winter gathering in Astoria, Ore., where travelers from the Gulf of Mexico to Bristol Bay meet in venues all around the mist-veiled town.

15th anniversary

This month, to celebrate their event’s 15th anniversary, the fisher-poets are taking the show on the road to the Ajax Cafe, 21 N. Water St. in Port Hadlock. It’ll be a farther-north version of Astoria’s gathering at 8 p.m. Saturday, with free admission.

This first fisher-poets party at the Ajax will include dramatic readings, music and plenty of salty poetry, promised Jon Broderick, a fisher and writer who hails from Astoria.

He’ll be reading Saturday night along with fellow Astorian Jay Speakman, Moe Bowstern of Portland, Ore., and a couple of Port Townsend residents: Erin Fristad and Dennis McGuire.

Fristad first arrived in Port Townsend in the mid-1990s on the back of a fishing boat; she continued fishing in Alaska until 2006.

Now director of the Goddard College site at Fort Worden State Park, Fristad has kept up her writing and performing with other fisher-poets.

On Saturday night, she’ll arrive with a handful of work and test the tide before choosing what to read.

“I’ve been writing as a salmon and as a 69-year-old wooden purse seiner,” Fristad said earlier this week.

“Of course, I’ll also bring the standard woman surviving — no, thriving — in a man’s world.”

Those who have never been to a gathering like this will be “pleasantly surprised,” she said.

A fisher-poets reading “is not what you expect. At least, that’s what I always hear from new audience members. I guess people don’t realize how much time we spend thinking out on the ocean.”

‘Ethereal’ event

Broderick, for his part, calls the gathering “sort of an ethereal, mostly oral” event that’s always held at the end of February, during the darkest, wettest days of the year.

Saturday, the Ajax will be open for dinner beforehand, and food and drink will be available for purchase during the show. Listeners who want to ensure a good seat at the reading are urged to arrive early.

The gathering at the Ajax is a kind of prelude to the big Astoria get-together from Feb. 24-26. After that, “we will go our ways back to Arcata or Victoria, Kauai or Kodiak,” Broderick said.

“For those who find it impossible to work on the water without writing about it, the fisher-poets gathering has become an important event in our annual lives,” he added.

The seasoned fisher-poet, in inviting newcomers to taste this particular kind of poem, said simply: “Enjoy them like we do. Aloud, with friends.”


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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