Olympia writer returns to FisherPoets Gathering | coastal life

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In the darkest depths of a cold Alaskan night, after a series of unfathomable blunders, the steel hull of the Exxon Valdez came to rest on the rocky shoulders of Bligh Reef. The grounding of the ship triggered a swath of destruction. More than 10 million gallons of oil covered the biological and economic riches of Prince William Sound.

The sinking also sparked a creative fire in the heart of fisherman and poet Patrick Dixon.

“Besides the outrageous environmental damage and monumental loss of life in a beautiful, pristine place, I thought about what was being taken away from me by the oil heading into Cook Inlet. I wasn’t going to live through the adventure of my life at sea – for who knew how long? Says Dixon. Shortly after the disaster, Dixon’s reflections led him to write ‘Middle Rip’ and ‘Fallout’, his first forays into the poetic genre. maritime.

An Indiana boy driven north by curiosity, Dixon stayed in Alaska for more than 20 years. He fished salmon in the summer and taught photography in the off season. The desire to be closer to his family prompted him to move to Washington in 1989. “That first year here was very difficult,” Dixon said. “I felt like I lost my identity and went into a pretty serious depression.”

That’s when a close friend and fellow fisherman took Dixon to the second FisherPoets Gathering. “When I sat in the Wet Dog lounge and saw guys walking around in stormy sea jackets, deck slippers and wellies, and then heard the stories, the poems and the songs they were performing, I immediately felt like I had found the community I left behind in Alaska,” Dixon said. Moved by the evening’s performances, Dixon left the bar, took his diary to a back room and wrote down his feelings. “I read it on open mic the next night, was asked to come back for the next gathering as a reader, and I was hooked,” Dixon said.

Returning virtually this year, the FisherPoet Gathering is once again poised to present audiences with a glimpse into the intricately intertwined relationship between maritime and artist life.

“I think the biggest commonality for me is that when I write, I immerse myself in the story. I believe those details help bring the experience closer to the audience,” Dixon said. “When I launches into a reading, the experience can be similar – almost visceral. I’ve seen other exceptional readers get so carried away that they end up crying after reading articles they’ve read dozens of times. I did this thing myself. Audiences always appreciate a real, honest and vulnerable performance.

Over the years, Dixon continued to refine his photographic pursuits. His decision to do so was, in part, inspired by a workshop in 1979. Led by the late Ansel Adams and his carefully selected group of expert teachers, the seminar was a self-proclaimed lifeline for Dixon. “At the end of that week, I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life,” Dixon wrote in his memoir, “Waiting to Deliver: From greenhorn to skipper, an Alaska commercial fishing memoir.” Dixon is keenly aware that photography and poetry share a similar ability to capture both a moment and the unique perspectives of those present at the time. “Both choose what they focus on, what it means, how to render it,” Dixon said. “I have participated in dozens of photo workshops and poetry workshops, and in each of them I have experienced the same thing over and over again: no two people experience identical realities.”

As a longtime resident of the FisherPoet Gathering, Dixon has some pretty straightforward advice for those new to the scene. “Sit down, have a beer and listen. There’s a wide variety of talent standing up there, but whether polished or not, each one is a gem. You never know who will talk to you. And hang on. Some readers will blow your mind! And while the virtual gathering is good, once the air clears and we can all get together again, the in-person gathering is one of the best ways to spend a February weekend that I know,” Dixon said.

For those who want to know more about Dixon, his memoir should be released ahead of the rally.

Dixon is due to read at 8 p.m. Friday. The reading, like all 2022 performances, can be viewed online at www.fisherpoets.org.

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