Why We Fished has received the UK Poetry Book Award’s silver medal for 2023. Loderstedt’s recent writings have been featured in Muleskinner Journal, the NC Literary Review, Bangalore Review, and Musepaper. He received a 2020 Ohio Arts Council Fellowship in Literature for his memoir manuscript, The Yellowhammer’s Cross.
Michael Loderstedt’s first book of poems, Why We Fished, published by Redhawk Publications, is partly inspired by his upbringing on the barrier island of Bogue Banks, NC. Escaping a failed marriage, his mother moved the family to the island in 1965 to live with his grandparents, who’d built a beach house in Emerald Isle. It was remote then, accessible only by car ferry, much covered in dense forest and sand roads. Many of these poems explore themes of island life—resiliency, self-reliance born of isolation, and countless days spent fishing.
In praise of Why We Fished
There’s a Chinese proverb, “The pen of the tongue should be dipped in the ink of the heart.” Michael Loderstedt’s Why We Fished plumbs the truths of childhood, family, and our relationship to nature. What he pulls from those depths—a Spanish Mackerel, a colander, a raccoon skull, a rubber snake—each offers a redemptive balm to the questions of being.
—Ray McNiece, author of nine books of poetry, including the recent Love Song for Cleveland, & Breath Burns Away, New Haiku. McNiece received the Cleveland Arts Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2021.
I appreciate Why We Fished’s specificity about concrete details—the shapes and stamps of the sinkers, the names of the lures, the cast net in the plastic bucket—and its understanding of what less tangible things are being fished for. I loved how the poem ended with the word “lot” and its rich ambiguity and biblical echoes. This struck me as a poem in the vein of Philip Levine’s work on work, using exact particulars to create a long, desperate struggle “to be / away . . . for something larger than / this place, this lot.”
—Catherine Clark, author of Larvae of the Nearest Stars, The Swamp Monster at Home & The Memory of Gills. Clark is a Professor of English at Western Carolina University and Interim Editor of Cider Press Review.
Michael Loderstedt’s poems and the accompanying photographs draw the shifting heritages, dangers, and joys that come with life on the coast of North Carolina. Mockingbirds, a household colander, a veritable catalog of lures, the death of a parent, and humans’ native fear of snakes are all examined and raised to the light like a fisherman inspecting his catch. “We fished because we had to,” Loderstedt writes in the book’s title poem. Like all good poems, these poems arise from the sense that they had to be made.
—Al Maginnes, author of Ghost Alphabet, Film History, The Light In Our Houses and Taking Up Our Daily Tools. He teaches writing and literature
at Wake Technical Community College.
About the Author
Michael Loderstedt’s recent writings have been featured in Muleskinner Journal, the NC Literary Review, Bangalore Review, and Musepaper. He received a 2020 Ohio Arts Council Fellowship in Literature for his memoir manuscript, The Yellowhammer’s Cross. His visual art can also be found in the public collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Progressive Insurance, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Summa Health Center, the Akron Art Museum, and the Kupferstiche Kabinett in Dresden, Germany. He is a Professor Emeritus at Kent State University’s School of Art, where he taught printmaking and photography. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio, near the shore of Lake Erie with his wife Lori and son Ethan.
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