Folk Forward

John Branshaw

John comes from a family of crab fishermen, and their shared lifeways inspire narratives about the often-complex truths about their work.

In these stories, crabbers’ love for the sea is often juxtaposed with the danger that is inherent in their occupation. John attends the annual FisherPoets gathering, the sole representative of both his family and his town to do so; at the gathering, fisher poets like John weave narratives of work, play, loss, and togetherness.

Listen as John reads original poems about bait, driving “the cat-food express”, and his father’s retirement from crab fishing at the age of 80. He recounts tales of falling overboard on his first day on the job, his first forays into writing twenty years ago, and his everyday experiences as a crab fisherman on deck with his family. Mostly, John tells listeners about his life, and what it means to fish for crab in the frigid Alaskan waters. “I chopped bait, I sorted crab, I cooked,” he says, “and I listened, and I watched.”