Folklorist Jens Lund recently gave the 2016 Fife Honor Lecture at USU, presented by the USU Folklore Program and USU Department of English. His lecture was titled “‘I Done What I Could’: Occupational Folk Poetry in the Pacific Northwest.” The Fife Honor Lecture is an honorary lecture given every year in honor of Austin and Alta Fife, folklorists, documentarians, and founders of the Fife Folklore archives.
Lund says that the dangers and difficulties of certain occupations are sometimes expressed in the tradition of composing and reciting poems, often in the traditional ballad-form of rhymed couplets. This tradition, best-known in the cowboy poetry of the American West, also occurs among such groups as fishermen and loggers and seems to have survived to a greater extent in the Pacific Northwest. We’ll explore the tradition of fishing and logging poetry and hear some poems. We’ll talk about poetry and masculinity. And we’ll review some of the history of poetry gatherings. Jens Lund was there at the beginning of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko Nevada.
Jens Lund was born in Denmark and grew up in suburban Stamford, Connecticut. He holds a Ph.D. in folklore and American Studies from Indiana University, an M.A. in American Studies from Bowling Green State University, and has worked as a freelance field researcher in folklore and oral history in twenty-three states. Lund has taught at five universities, was director of the Washington State Folklife Council, and developed and managed Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission’s Folk and Traditional Arts in the Parks Program, from which he retired in 2014. He is the author of “Folk Arts of Washington State” (1989), “Flatheads and Spooneys” (1995) and numerous articles and reviews. Lund has worked extensively in cultural tourism and developed Washington’s first highway audio heritage tours. He is the recipient of the Benjamin J. Botkin Prize for significant lifetime achievement in public folklore and the Ethnic Heritage Council of the Pacific Northwest’s Spirit of Liberty Award, for naturalized citizens who have made significant contributions to ethnic heritage and the community at large. Jens Lund lives in Olympia, Washington.