Friday, December 11, 2015

Moving On

When I was on my first trip to Alaska in 1974, I pulled my 1966 Ford Falcon window van of the SE ferry into a little waterside hamlet called Haines, where we bought some groceries and sandwiches for lunch. Now before I go on, please understand that up until that point, I was an Indiana-born-and-raised landlubber. I was infatuated with boats from an early age - particularly power boats. When I was 12, Dad took me to the north woods near Sioux Lookout, Ontario to fish for walleye and northern pike. When he asked me, "Wanna steer?" the 25-horse Evinrude, I was hooked. What was it Toad said in Wind in the Willows"There is nothing--absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." That has been my philosophy ever since. 

So back to Haines. I had heard of commercial fishing, but thought that enterprise died out with the steam engine. I had no idea of or connection to the rich history of the west coast commercial fisheries, and was stunned when after asking a local what all the rusty, beat-up looking boats were about, I was told,"That's the commercial fishing fleet." I had seen yachts and sailboats. Never had I seen work boats. I immediately began walking the docks looking for a job. Dressed in my farmer/hippie coveralls, camera over my shoulder and my shoulder-length red hair and scraggly beard advertising my political leanings, I never had a chance. Not one skipper looked at me twice. It was the first of two times Haines would turn me down for a job. More on that later. In my wanderings, though, I snapped a slide of Snuffy abandoned on the gravel beach near the harbor, a favorite of mine ever since. 

Time moves fast when you're not paying attention. After that trip, I went back to the midwest for one more winter. I ended up moving to Kenai, Alaska in the summer of '75, after being offered the "possibility" of a job as a reading teacher in Haines over the phone if the person they offered the position to didn't take it. I was living in Lanesville, Indiana and working across the Ohio River in Louisville as a Special Ed. teacher at the time. The spot we were in was idyllic - a three-story farmhouse on 25 acres bordering a reservoir, with chickens, garden, the whole works. It was a tough decision, but I finally decided that I "couldn't not go," if the position was offered. It wasn't, but when Kenai called to offer a job three weeks later, the decision was clear. I was moving north. Just for a little while, to check it out.

I stayed 23 years. Divorced, remarried (it stuck this time), raised two kids, became a commercial fisherman, taught Special Ed, English, journalism, yearbook, photography, drama. Left. All in the blink of an eye.

Another two blinks and I'm here, in Olympia, retired, writing, still photographing, living on the periphery of the fishing industry, spending time remembering and writing about things like that day in Haines. Writing this blog. All this is to say, things change. Sometimes they change right in front of you, while you watch. Day-by-day Snuffy rotted, broke apart, maybe someone came and chainsawed off her cabin as a playhouse for their kids, the kids grew up and left, and one day the last plank slipped off the beach with the outgoing tide. You passed it each day, never noticing, or maybe every now and then wondering when it got to the point it was until it was gone, never thinking about it again until someone posted a photo on Facebook and you nodded your head, saying, "I knew that boat." And the twenty or thirty or fuck me, forty  years that are behind you feel suddenly like they are sitting right there next to you, just out of reach.

Like this blog. It feels like an old friend I don't want to leave behind. But Gillet Dreams is just migrating to a new rendition. Fiberglass instead of a wood hull. Maybe I'll return and poke around here again. For now, look for me to write on Gillnet Dreams version two. If you're subscriber to this one, you can sign up on the RSS Feed to be notified of my posts and follow me over there. Or you can just follow me on FB or Twitter, and you'll be notified every time I post, which isn't really all that much (though I do sometimes challenge myself to a poem-a-day for a month). I look forward to seeing you on that new beach.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

On Submitting Your Work for Publication - Dealing with Rejection

KB Imle, a friend of mine on Facebook and a wonderful poet, PM'ed me today to ask advice on getting published. About halfway through the reply, the thought came to me that this might be a good blog post, so here it is:

Hi KB. You really should try to send your stuff off and get it published. I'm happy to give advice and suggestions, but please don't think of me as an expert. My rejections outnumber my acceptances easily 5 to 1. You need to know that you can have the best piece ever, and it won't be right for what an editor you send it to is looking for at any given time. Not taking rejection personally is the biggest obstacle I face each time a "No" clatters into my inbox. So thicken your skin, and most of all, believe in the work. You're good, KB. Very good, and you WILL find a home for your work.

So here goes: First of all, get a small, trusted group of writers you know to read your work. Preferably folks who won't placate you about when a piece (or part of one) needs work or deletion. Are you a member of a writer's group? I highly recommend trying one or two. Mine have helped me immensely. Does Austin have a Poetry Society, Club, Group? Go to their meetings, meet folks who do what you like. Ask if they're in a group...yadayadayada. Then take them the good as well the questionable stuff and get feedback. Practice mics, etc. See how the work lands. Join this group for opportunities on fiction, nonfiction, poetry: They send daily lists in your email that have contests and calls for presentation. Most accept work online, either though email or submission services like Submittable.

Whew. Ok. Just getting started here. As for individual, finished pieces, triple-check for spelling errors that aren't deliberate (you ARE a poet, after all. Some things you can stretch.). Make sure you read every guideline the editors have there - more than once. Get it all right. Don't double-space if they want single, etc. Write a Bio that speaks to your accomplishments -  where you've been published, etc. Keep it under 100 words. I'll post mine for you.

Patrick Dixon is a retired teacher and commercial fisherman who has been published in Oregon Coast, The Journal of Family Life, National Fisherman, Cirque, Oberon and others. Mr. Dixon has been a featured reader at the FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon for 18 years. He recently edited the seven-book anthology of fisherpoetry, Anchored in Deep Water. His work may be seen at and

Cover letter is no more than "Hello. Please find attached the piece "Sea Wolf" for consideration in your contest/issue on Sea Stories. Thanks for taking a look." Many publishers these days don't want your name attached, unless it's specified on the name of the file. Sometime not there either, but attached to the form in a separate document. Many contests are read blind, meaning they don't know until after the jurying, who the author is. All this is to say that I'd work at getting individual pieces published as stepping stones to putting together a collection. Once you’re out there, there’s no looking back. I think for many people, the fear is in knowing you’re going to get rejected. That doesn’t translate into “The work isn’t good enough.” That’s the hard part when you’ve put heart and soul into the work, you know it’s publishable – that it NEEDS to be out there, and you’re SURE this particular publication will love it…and they don’t. No lies here: that stings. It sucks that they don’t get it or want it, but it also can rattle the cage you’re in so you don’t want to try again. Don’t go there. If you believe in it, then keep trying. Get more critiques, work it over again, or don’t. If it’s where you want it to be, turn around and find another place to send it. Do your research: read pieces in the publication – often found online – and see how you fit their style. If you’re not sure, send it anyway. If the publication accepts simultaneous submissions, send it out to several.  Just be sure to notify the other publications when it gets published elsewhere.

KB's poetry (on her blog) can be found at

Next Installment: collections of work.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Earth Day 2015 – the coming years

My writers' group yesterday discussed an article in The Guardian about the choices made by the Oxford Children's Dictionary editors that set me off, so I wrote this today.

Formosan Clouded Leopard

Earth Day 2015 – the coming years

The Oxford Children’s  Dictionary
edited out words like acorn, otter,
blossom and walnut from the most
recent edition – in the editors’
esteemed wisdom these words were
no longer relevant to today’s children.
Instead words added included celebrity,
broadband, database. Database this
for relevance: remove northern white
rhinoceros from the lexicon – do it soon –
there’s only one breeding male left.
Erase mountain gorilla, predicted
to disappear this year. We are on the edge
of a mass extinction event say the experts.
For the clouded leopard, it’s already
too late. Wipe its name from the slate.
Delete, delete, delete: Hawaiian crow,
last seen in 1999; Pyrenean Ibex, 2000;
spotted green pigeon, 2008. Never say
their names. They deserve better than
to be categorized by the species that
supervised their destruction. Remove
them from the discussion. Other names
rise to  the top of the list, replace what
was lost, next to be forgotten.  Keep
the newly added word, endangered.
We’ll need it in the coming years.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Eleven Days

Eleven Days

clock ticks,
sun rises, crosses
sky, sets. i used to
call your name each
day: here. we promise
to visit: let me know. we
never do. not once.
no big deal. we were busy.
until today. i was told 
the crash was eleven
days ago. in my mind you
were still alive, smiling,
eleven days longer.
somehow i missed 
the news, missed the 
service, miss you. wish
we had kept that promise.
sun sets, crosses 
sky, rises. clock ticks.
i call your name.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Forecast Redacted

This is my first ever "Erasure Poem." Find some text, then erase words until you have something else. More concerned with form than message, I decided to have fun with a local forecast. Tomorrow I may try some political piece.

Forecast redacted:

Maximum umbrella usage,
the real rains may knock off
most of remaining cherry blossoms.
April showers keep flower power. Gusting
lets us know a wedge of cool,
but likely result is Confidence Clouds
in the evening stray breezes die.
Likely to wait until well after midnight
when chances rise just enough to make
pavements slick. Break up in the pop up,
mainly south of the city.
Remain light thanks to intervals.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

fill the gap

sleepy tonight,
have been all day.
lids droop, leaves without water;
limbs sag, stick,
thoughts pummel me to bed,
drop me on the couch,
pin me to the chair.
take the easy way out:
close the eyes
fill the gap.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Writing with a Migraine

Writing with a Migraine

is an exercise in willpower.
Sunglare wince.
I must get this down
before pain,
confusion hits.
Before eyes
can’t  distinguish
one key from another,
see past the sparkle,
the visual aura –
the first warning.
Slow keystrokes,
deliberate, pull
muddled thought
down the arms, out
reluctant fingers; 
stunned, heavy eyes. 
Done then?
A nap to wash away
pain. Hide under
pillow, something soft
to sooth. Clouds move in.
Rain taps the roof.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Seven is the number of forgetting.

Seven is the number of forgetting.

I had to be there at seven, and the date
escaped me. At nine, when I slammed the trunk,
I remembered, tried driving fast enough to turn
back time. Didn’t work.

Tonight I was sure I needed to be there
     at seven.
Showed up 15 minutes early, to an empty,
dark house. No cars in the drive. Checked my
email from last week. Appointment was seven
…hours ago.  Seven.  The number of forgetting.

Monday, April 6, 2015

After the Storm

Again, a late night, another late post of a poem. The prompt was in the title.

After the Storm

When the wind takes a breath,
stops shaking the trees in a tantrum,
when clouds seize opportunity, scatter,
swirl and part, and the sun turns water
to steam on the rooftop, you step out
the door, tentative like tulips pounded
by the rain, lift your head, send brightness
back to the sun, to the sky.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hide the Knives

A recent prompt in my writers' group was to write about things we keep in the kitchen drawer. Not sure how it turned into this, but here's today's Napowrimo poem, Day # 4:

Hide the Knives

We don’t keep the sharp knives in a drawer,
so accessible, they jump at your fingers
too easily, rest on their backs, claws out.
Like you, even with eyes closed, seeming
passive, angelic look on your face; anything
but benign, sharp edges hidden, ready to pounce.
No time to withdraw, seek safe refuge.

Too late. Drops of blood drip on the silverware.
I can’t keep anything nice. Sting. Run water over it.
Wash it off with clenched teeth: Stitches?
Not this time. No doctor, nurse necessary. Slap
Bandaid on the wound, a little Neosporin will take 
care of that. If you shed a tear, I’ll give you something 
to cry about.  Clean the knife when you’re done.
Put it away. It might hurt someone.

Like Trees

Napowrimo Day Three. In bed at 11:30. Shit! No poem today!  Half hour later, this.

Like Trees

the water changes daily–
gray, green, blue, white,
black, glassy, ripples, rollers,
whitecaps, mountains. Fish
jump everywhere you look one day.
The next is blank, featureless ocean.
I remember walking a park on the hill
in Louisville after a tornado:  hardwoods
snapped like children’s toys, six-ton Pick Up
Stix, strewn on top of one another. Hours
before, we walked the trail for the hundredth,
two-hundredth time. After the storm, we got
lost in the jumble. the water is like that. easy
to lose yourself. never the same. never anchored.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Day two of Napowrimo. Been a rough couple of days around here. Somehow, I have been lucky enough to be with this woman.


Only here can
I find someone
to listen, not bark
at shadows, run
for cover.
I unveil darkness,
you lean close;
I stumble,
you reach out.
You sort me
like the cherry
sorts blossoms,
like the sky
catalogues clouds.
Only here have
I found someone.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Jessica on April First

It's been a couple of years since I tried NapoWrimo, the poem-a-day challenge for April, National Poetry month. Last year I was battling back and eye problems, and working hard on the FisherPoets anthology I edited. This year I am healthier and have far less on my plate, so I'm giving it a shot again. This morning I had a visit right before I woke from a former student and friend who was killed in a car crash three years ago. Been thinking about her all day. It would be just like her to pull a stunt like this on April Fool's.

Jessica on April First

Before I awoke this morning
I opened a bathroom door,
and walked in on you. You stood,
ducked your head, and closed
the door again. Realizing
my mistake, I laughed, turned
away, and waited. I had to go,
and hadn’t known you were in there.
You opened the door and came out,
smiling as we both apologized. Before
I realized in my dream who I was
talking with, before I remembered
you are three years dead, I closed
the door a second time. When I opened
my eyes you were gone. After I awoke
and took care of my need, all I wanted
was to go back to sleep and talk
some more. Just a few more moments
with you, smiling, ducking your head,
before I awake.

Before I awake with you, smile,
duck your head, just a few more
moments, all I want is to talk, go
back to sleep. I open my eyes, you
are gone. A door closes a second time.
I recall You are three years dead. Who
am I talking with? A door opens, you
come out, smiling. I didn’t know you were
there. Didn’t realize my mistake. Turn

away, wait again. Before I awake, this.