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Wesley 'Geno' Leech at Wet Dog Café, Astronia, OR, February 1999
Wesley "Geno" Leech at Wet Dog Café, Astronia, OR. Photo: Jens Lund, February 26, 1999

Astoria Fisher Poets Gathering

Modeled after the popular and successful Cowboy Poets Gathering in Elko, Nevada, the Fisher Poets Gathering provides a venue for the artistic and literary expressions of members of the West Coast fishing community. Notices published in Alaska Fishermen's Journal and Pacific Fishing magazine drew responses throughout the Pacific Coast and as far away as the Midwest. More than 250 people bought festival buttons at $5 apiece to attend the first gathering, organized by volunteers, in 1998.

The event's inspiration comes from the long-held tradition of communication by radio among fisher folk of the Pacific region. Poems, stories, songs, and instrumental music are shared through this medium during the often lonely hours spent on the water. Themes range from sea stories to the endangered Columbia River salmon and other environmental issues. Not limited to poets, participation extends to anyone with a connection to maritime activity. Poets come from Alaska, British Columbia, the West and the Midwest, adding to the strong contingent from the Columbia Pacific region of Oregon and Washington.

Astoria, founded in 1811, is believed to be the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies. With the development of the salmon canning industry during the 1860s, Astoria soon became known as the "Salmon Canning Capital of the World." Although the creation of the federal hydropower system on the Columbia River has led to a virtual elimination of the salmon fishery, Astoria is still a fishing town in many respects. The Fisher Poets Gathering takes place on the working waterfront of Astoria, which was once lined with canneries, receiving stations, net lofts, and fleets of gillnet boats tied up with pulleys to decks that are outfitted with net-racks. For the past several years, the town has emerged as a cultural destination for tourists. A riverfront walk connects museums with packing houses. Along that riverfront walkway, directly across from offloading fishing boats, is the Wet Dog Café, Astoria's first brewpub and the principal venue for the Fisher Poets Gathering.

Documentation includes a text report; 15 photographs; brochures; an audiocassette; newspaper articles; and an anthology of poems, Salt in Our Veins, from the first gathering.

Originally submitted by: David Wu, Representative.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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