Beadnell poet visits Oregon to make BBC Radio 4 show

Beadnell poet Katrina Porteous

Beadnell poet Katrina Porteous

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A programme about Katrina Porteous’ recent visit to see the work and lives of fishermen in the USA will be broadcast on Radio 4 on Sunday.

The Beadnell poet travelled to Astoria in Oregon in February, alongside radio producer Julian Mey, to take part in the 17th Fisher Poets’ Gathering.

The Gathering takes place annually over three days, bringing together about 80 commercial fishermen and women from all over the USA, to perform their own poetry, songs and stories about the fishing life.

The audience totals around 1,000 and many more listen on local community radio.

Katrina said: ‘The Gathering was tremendous. Most of the fishermen work around Alaska catching salmon and crab, but some were from as far afield as the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii and the East Coast.

“In the Western USA it’s not uncommon for women to work as commercial fishermen, and it was great to see so many women among the Fisher Poets.

“The poetry and songs, most of them specially written for the Gathering, were all about celebrating this tough, difficult, dangerous way of life, and the powerful love that it inspires.

“Fishermen often get a bad press. People hear about overfishing and disasters like the closure of the Grand Banks cod fishery. TV programmes like The Deadliest Catch depict fishermen as warriors battling against nature.

“Of course fishermen want to make money; but this Gathering is great because it shows fishing as a way of life. Small scale, community-based fishermen know more about their own area of the sea than anyone, and care about its preservation and future.

“The Fisher Poets’ Gathering is about commercial fishermen celebrating a sense of identity, that places human beings at the heart of nature, not at odds with it.”

The Fisher Poets’ Gathering was not Katrina’s first poetic exchange with the States. In 1999 she accompanied Coquetdale poet Allan Wood and singer Graham Dick to the Cowboy Poetry Festival in Elko, Nevada. After that event, the Mid-Northumberland Arts Group and the UK Poetry Society sponsored one of the Cowboy Poets, Joel Nelson, to visit Coquetdale for a month. Katrina hopes that it might eventually be possible to arrange a similar exchange between the American Fisher Poets and fishing communities on the Northumberland coast.

Katrina’s programme, The Fisher Poets’ Gathering, can be heard at 4.30pm, repeated on May 10 at 11.30pm.

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