Astoria mini-conference report – Music and poetry

Music and poetry capture local history

Kate Downing and Nathan Moore of the Low Tide Drifters.

Kate Downing and Nathan Moore of the Low Tide Drifters.

Local history and low-wage concerns at the March 14, 2015, PNLHA mini-conference in Astoria, Oregon, gave way to a lunchtime musical interlude that included fisher poetry, banjo playing, and songs of working people.

Kate Downing and Nathan Moore, a PNLHA member, brought their blend of labor and social issue music to the event. The husband and wife songwriting duo perform with the Low Tide Drifters, a Eugene-based band specializing in “roots-based songs that reflect the struggles and stories of everyday people in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.” Learn more at http://lowtidedrifters.wordpress.com/ . A favourite at the conference was longshore troubadour Harry Stamper’s We Just Come To Work Here, We don’t Come to Die.

Joe Seamons and Mary Garvey perform at lunchtime session.

Joe Seamons and Mary Garvey perform at lunchtime session.

Mary Garvey, a Washington State poet, sang and recited several songs and poems. Though she grew up on the Columbia River, she was never a fisher but her work reflects much of the life of fishers in the region. She has written songs with maritime and fishing themes and she has produced a CD that is a tribute to cannery and other fishery workers. For more go to http://www.inthetote.com/mary-garvey.html .

Joe Seamons impressed the lunchtime crowd with the kind of banjo playing he practices with Renegade Stringband.Joe, a Seattle-based folklorist, vocalist, and banjo player, plays with Timberbound, a band specializing in Pacific Northwest folk songs about loggers, sawmill workers and workers in the fishing industry. He also performs as part of the noted folk-blues duo Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons. Hear more about Joe at http://www.reverbnation.com/musician/joeseamons1 .

Fisher poet Hobe Kytr performed some of his works during lunchtime.

Fisher poet Hobe Kytr performed some of his works during lunchtime.

Surprise performances came from local fisher poet Hobe Kytr, a salmon fisher advocate and educator (http://www.salmonforall.org/), and local historian Irene Martin. They added their voices to the fisher poetry content of the mini-conference with Irene reading her poem about a fishing marriage.

I learned to fish when I became a bride.

Not from desire, but because we needed crew.

A slippery union, when salmon and love collide.

 

The first night out, I felt the bowpicker glide

Through choppy waves. This waterscape was new!

I learned to fish when I became a bride.

 

I worried over every knot I tied.

I learned new skills by imitating you.

A slippery union when salmon and love collide.

 

We visited haunts where fishermen had died.

I steered the boat, read charts and radar too.

I learned to fish when I became a bride.

 

Now boats have come and gone. We no longer ride

The “Floozie,” “Dorleen,” “Blue Mist,” or the “Pen 2.”

A slippery union when salmon and love collide.

 

But still we fish together, side by side.

Older, closer through the years we grew.

I learned to fish when I became a bride:

A slippery union when salmon and love collide.

From The Family that Never Threw Anything Away, imartin@iinet.com, $8.95.

Watch for the first edition of “PNLHA Labor History Online,” a podcast that provides more details on mini-conference discussions, songs, and poems.