By Georgeanna Heaverly
I haven’t been a fisherpoet for long, but upon diving into this creative world that seems to go hand in hand with ripping fish out of the ocean to feed the world – I felt a perfect fit. Being out on the water and connecting with the salmon brings out an intense inspiration that I believe you cannot find anywhere else. As I was given the opportunity to share my work with this growing community of rhyme-spouting fisherpeople, I gained an enriching experience that I will truly never forget.
For 21 years the Fisherpoets Gathering has been held in Astoria, Oregon. Each year the number of participants and audience members grows, and this year was the largest yet. Each poet received fifteen minutes to present their material. As there were over 110 poets at the event, seven different venues were used to accommodate everyone. On the opening night I was to perform in a showroom at a local brewery. I was one of the first to present but was glad for this as I could enjoy the rest of my evening having gotten the butterflies out of my stomach. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the other poets, but needless to say I was absolutely blown away. I laughed and I wept as I listened to poets from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and even Maine share their experiences out on the water. There were poems and prose to be heard, stories to be shared, and some even played their guitars and sang.
Throughout the weekend there were opportunities to participate in poetry workshops, go on tours of the local canneries and museums, and peruse the “Gearshack,” where poets and artists could sell their work. I sold most of the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Almanacs that I had brought with me and received a lot of positive feedback on the book. I was able to tour the Columbia River Maritime Museum and upon doing so, learned about the history of Oregon fisheries and how extremely dangerous it is for vessels to cross the treacherous bar where the River meets the Pacific Ocean. I also participated in a workshop for the organization, “The Strength of the Tides,” whose mission is empowering and protecting young women in commercial fisheries.
I would recommend attending this event to everyone, both fishermen and fishing appreciators. I sincerely hope I have the opportunity to go again. The inspiration I gained at the Fisherpoets Gathering in Astoria will fuel even more poetry I will write, waiting to be shared with the salty storytellers of the fishing community.