Saturday, April 21, 2007

Surviving the Abalone Hunt, or It Takes Spine to Hunt the Spineless

After three days of vowing to get up early in search of abalone, I finally succeeded today, probably because the height of the minus tide (forgive the oxymoron) occurred at 9:30 AM, a more civilized hour for a nocturnally tippling artist.

Unlike the other abalone pickers and divers, sheathed in wet suits, I went in some tropical L. L. Bean pants and old tennis shoes, a short-sleeved shirt and nylon shell. I had to walk to the cliffs them scramble down to a cove at Glass Beach, my chosen hunting ground.
Glass Beach used to be a dump but was washed clean by the waves. One unexpected effect of this process is that the beach gravel, in some places, is nearly fifty percent polished beach glass. I've blogged about my history of collecting beach glass and how discovering the riches at Glass Beach cheapened my hard-won collection from down south. (See "Beach Glass and Glass Beach" in the archives for March 2006.)

On to the story...

After passing the glittering gravel of the cove, I scrambled over rocks and slippery seaweed, and through pools as deep as my thighs in search of the elusive red abalone. Right away I slipped and fell twice on some particularly slimy rocks, wetting my ass in the process. Given the condition of my back, this was hardly propitious, but I knew the pain wouldn't hit me massively until later, so I continued on without falling another time, keeping my feet in the pools and channels rather than risking the rocks. If the rocks had to be negotiated I found the sea grass offered the best footing.

I found four abalone in hidden clefts, often shared by a large invertebrate with a leathery orange hide, rectangular, maybe three by eight inches. I don't know what it was, but it seemed a marker for abalone.

Unfortunately, none of the abalone I found were a legal seven inches; the closest was six-and-a-half. But unlike my last depressive scramble through the scrotum-shrinking water and fatal slime, this was a definite moral victory, if not one for the dinner table. I found abalone and from now on I know what to look for!

What most amazed me in this whole process was how time warped. The intensity of concentration required to keep my balance in my old Nikes through and over the rough, slick terrain, compressed time, for when I returned to the car, I thought two hours must have passed; instead, less than an hour had. I couldn't believe it; I thought I'd bumped my watch on the rocks somehow, but the car clock confirmed it. I conclude that extreme concentration a survival situation requires tends to lengthen time, just as in a car accident when time seems suspended.

When I returned to Kathleen like a wharf rat washed up on a piling, I brought her a copy of today's paper, whose front page story detailed the deaths of three abalone hunters on our local coast in the last week. "I'm glad I read this after you returned," she said. Per usual, given my reckless history, I violated the very first safety rule for abalone hunting: never go alone. Obviously I need more invertebrate-seeking friends. But where shall I find them? It takes spine to hunt the spineless.

My string of poetry rejections continues; I recently heard from Ploughshares that I didn't make the grade. They've rejected me before. There must be a better verb than "reject." To pass over? Not to include? Regretfully return? (Actually I prefer "rejection." Why sugar-coat failure?)

Meanwhile I am happy to report than another former student of mine, Teresa White, has a new book of poems out, with an endorsement from no less than Billy Collins. I just got my copy today, Gardenias for a Beast. The link above lists the book.

This is the fourth student of mine who's published a book after taking my poetry course, though Teresa was the only one to have published a book before the course as well.

Perhaps I am a better teacher than a poet. Still, with regard to my present shunning by poetry editors, I really think it is more a matter of style. I don't write many open inductive poems. (See "Inductive, Deductive, Open and Closed Poetics" in the March 2007 archives.) My poems, however concrete, tend ultimately toward the philosophical, a not very popular direction in these times. I nevertheless continue to send out submissions. Poetry may give up on me but I can't give up on poetry.

As for my mood, I continue to have a low-level depression beneath my facade of activity and participation in life. Thus in current clinical parlance, my depression is not in remission but only partially treated. Still that's a hell of a lot better than being seriously depressed.

Thine at 1 Kilorat,



  1. Anonymous1:42 PM PDT

    Don't give up on poetry submissions. I've gotten about 50 rejections this year, and only one acceptance. I even get rejections from editors who've solicited my work. My style just isn't too popular these days. It's plain and overtly personal and non-intellectual. But I can't change that; I write what comes.

    I found your blog because I was feeling disheartened and searched "poetry rejections" in Google. Your words were consoling. Thanks.

    Bill Fogarty, Brooklyn, NY

  2. Bill, thanks for your encouragement. I googled your name but couldn't find any poems, though there was mention of you in a poetic context. Some expert on machines dominated your name category, along with a pathologist. By the way, if you go to a more recent post, I did recently get an acceptance from a paying magazine, Byline. Wish you the same luck.


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