I follow the PEN America Center on Facebook and the organization posted this great quote last week:
“To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.”
― Galway Kinnell
Poetry gets a bad rap for being soft, or whatever, but it stuck for me in college because of a professor I had named Peter Balakian who was such a cool cat in that he liked watching the NY Giants and fishing for fluke and was friends with Ginsburg and Derek Walcott and showed there’s no one way or the other you have to be. Plus he touted Bob Dylan as a great American poet.
On that note: He’s talking about songwriting, but this quote from Steve Earle in the Nashville episode of Sonic Highways struck too in how words can work in the way Kinnell expressed it. Earle said,
“The only part of your experience that anybody gives a shit about, is the experience that they go, ‘Oh, yeah, that happened to me and that sucked..or, that happened to me and it was great.”
With that in mind here’s a couple links to some people putting it down about fishing. A couple are not poems in the technical sense but to me they read like poetry:
The fish on the edge
of the weeds
is not thinking about me
in the same way
that I am about it.
Unless it felt the vibration
of my footsteps
on the bank
it is not thinking about me
There is no apotheosis
in making the loop
unfurl over the surface
of the water.
But I like the spike
that shoots through the back
of my head
in the instant between
when the fish meets the fly.
And I like the kinetic energy
in the high modulus carbon fiber
when the line comes tight
in my hand.
The reasons for this
lie encoded deep inside
double helix patterns
assembled in strands
born of ancestors
from before the era
of recorded history.
The fish has it, too,
which is exactly why
it explodes in ambush
on my mimic that twitches
And why, after,
it uses every cell
in its body
to move fast away
It was an overshoot, a lousy cast, and it scattered the fish but they quickly regrouped and the guide told me to keep stripping the fly and two started competing for it and one beat out the other and then I had to clear my line.
I remember that moment in Andros South because, like a lot of my fishing, it was mechanically less than perfect but the connection still packed a physiological charge, like lightning seeking a path to ground. And because, for whatever reason, it was the last time I felt and saw a bonefish eat a fly.
That happened about five years ago. Before I caught my first bonefish, in 2005, it seemed like such an important thing to be doing, to need to have done, that now it seems odd that it took someone else’s recent post about Andros South to realize that somewhere along the way, fishing for bonefish transitioned from something I do to something I did.
There are plenty of things I used to do, like play ice hockey or drive stick shift, but fly fishing is something I still do, and probably the thing I have done for the longest amount of time. But what to make of the parts of it stuck in the past tense?
Maybe it circles back to what it all is to you in relation to everything else. Is fishing linear, a list of accomplishments to check off in succession? (That’s a hard thing to quantify anyway–in 1999 I caught a blue marlin in Hawaii but that qualifies as an experience rather than an achievement.) Or is it more of a fluid thing with ebbs and flows or does it evolve into Wordsworthian spots of time?
Either way it’s not like “did” in this case has complete finality because there’s still the attainable possibility of “will do.” I don’t know when or where yet, but one day a bonefish will swim onto a flat, unaware that it is moments from mistaking my fly for a fleeing shrimp. When that happens, I’ll ride that lightning.
I had heard and read that Stu Apte was a pilot, first for the Navy and then for the old Pan American airlines, and when I interviewed him for a Midcurrent.com article about the late George Hommell, I remember thinking, “That’s the kind of voice I’d want to hear over the intercom at 35,000 feet.”
He sounded confident and direct over the phone, with a hint of military cadence, and when he started telling stories about his pioneering fishing experiences in the Florida Keys, I just shut up and listened.
That’s the same way I felt reading through Apte’s new book My Life In Fishing, ($29.95, Stone Fly Press). It’s a collection of 38 short essays where Apte tells anecdotes collected during his life chasing fish.
There are stories of Apte fishing for snook with Ted Williams, traveling to Costa Rica with Curt Gowdy, and hosting the ex-president Harry S. Truman on a bonefishing trip that also involved the former first lady, a full bladder and an open livewell lid.
There’s the story of a chance encounter with Ernest Hemingway in Cuba that led to mojitos, of being pulled into the water by Joe Brooks’ record tarpon, of wade fishing for largemouth bass in the Everglades….The whole collection is fun to read.
The best thing about the book is the brevity of each individual story. You could imagine Apte in his guiding days, entertaining clients with such stories while poling around for a shot at a big tarpon.
On that note, I always love hearing the stories of these early anglers figuring out the tackle and techniques to land big silver on a fly rod . In one chapter, highlighted in a pull quote, Apte says, “I am never happier than when I’m prospecting the Florida Keys flats for tarpon, fly rod in hand.”
Although I must admit when I read that quote it reminded me of an episode of Andy Mill’s “Sportsman’s Journal” show from the old Outdoor Life Network. I remember Apte fighting a tarpon from the bow of the boat and Mill asking something along the lines of, “Is there any better feeling in the world?”
“Yes,” Apte deadpanned. “Sex.”
You could say Apte was right on both counts.
This is maybe the best accidental find in the history of procrastination by means of diving into internet wormholes.
It all starts at the 1:50 mark.
That break sounds like the drum track of seemingly every early rap song I remember coming out. It seems like it’s part of just about everything and it gets embedded into your brain.
It’s the pattern I subconsciously finger-tap on the desk or the steering wheel in moments of boredom.
(Check out this list of people who sampled Funky Drummer.)