Like the better-known cowboy poetry genre, fisher poetry is a celebration of work. The cross-section of participating poets cuts from lifelong commercial fishermen to folks who run tiny sustainable seafood operations; for one weekend, they take over downtown Astoria to share poems, stories, and songs about what they do for a living. There's bawdy sea shanties, earnest environmental pleas, and heartfelt odes to the fickle, dangerous seas—all of shared in front of jovial, buzzed, supportive crowds. Last year, over Bloody Marys and breakfast tacos at the inimitable Columbian Café, I met a nice old guy who'd traveled across the country for the festival; he went every year, he said, to read his poetry and connect with old friends. It's kind of the best thing. Just writing about it makes me mad that I'm not going. Anyone got a couch in Astoria I can crash on for a night? (It's a very non-Portlandy event, which is part of its appeal—so, you know, if you go, try not to be an asshole.)
If you're not up for a trip to the coast this weekend, though, you've got two chances to catch the flavor of the festival here in town: Poet Moe Bernstein has put together two lineups of fisher-poets at the Jack London Bar*, one tonight and on Monday. They are, appropriately, called the "Flood Tide Set" (tonight at 7 pm) and the "Ebb Tide Set" (Monday Feb 24, 7 pm). Participating poets have traveled from as far away as Hawaii and Rhode Island; the founder of the Fisher Poets gathering, Jon Broderick, will be on hand at Monday's show.
(*Full disclosure: My sister runs the Jack London and is the very reason I am so enthralled with this festival. Having cool big sisters really never stops paying off.)