The fisher poets, then and now

“On the boat, I don’t have a TV,” he said. “We just read.”

So it has been for hundreds of years.

fisherpoetA recent New York Times article about the Fisher Poets Weekend (which was held this past weekend in Astoria, Oregon) introduces several of the seafaring poets who gather once a year to share verse inspired by their working lives.

Life on the sea means a lot of quiet alone time – a setting just right for a good read. There’s actually a long history of salts and words. In her award-winning book The View from the Masthead: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives, Hester Blum explores the literary culture of seamen in the nineteenth century.

With long spells at sea between ports, sailors found that books made good company. And when you work, eat, sleep, and live on the only dry spot in sight for days, weeks at a time, reading and writing can be a rich source of conversation. Blum focuses on these sailing wordsmiths and gives us new perspective on the more well-known sea narratives of Herman Melville, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, and Richard Henry Dana.

Tolerating long periods of silence and solitude is one qualification for the seafaring life I think I could meet with no problem – say I, without having really been tested on the limits of that tolerance. But as someone who, in her personal life, chronically procrastinates and makes excuses for why she is not writing, I think I may have stumbled upon an excuse that could carry me quite a while: “But I don’t have a boat!”

happy sailing, all,


p.s. boat donations are welcome, but only if accompanied by regular maintenance, storage, and seafaring expertise. kthx.