May 24, 2010

Elizabeth Bishop, "The Fish"

The video at the bottom is under three minutes and might make you smile (or wince).

In Bishop's poem, I like the overall pattern and direction, the movement toward the conclusion, but the whole seems somewhat overpacked with details. Could maybe 30% of these words be cut with no loss of power in the last line? Or, to appreciate the fish, do we need to be made aware of so many component parts?

The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop

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Brenda's Arizona said...

From the minute I started reading this poem, I worried about the fish. I skimmed the way too many words until I got to the part of the other hooks and lines stuck through his lip.. and I worried more. I flew to the final sentence to see what she was going to do. Now that I know what she did, I have no need to go back and read the 'skimmed' words.

Maybe 50% of the poem could go.

Or maybe she could just say she caught a fish, looked at its life via its face, and she decided to let it live another day.

'Nuff said from me, too.

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, I think you make a great point. Details that are part of the rising action need to have their own importance in some way, or they become mere obstacles on the way to what matters.

And that's perilously close to saying the only thing that matters in a poem is its final line(s) of Truth. And that in turn is perilously close to inviting grandiose, aphoristic, platitudinous closures. Bishop at least seems to avoid that, although letting the fish go might be a bit of a moralistic closure.

Anonymous said...

THANK GOD she let it go, or I would have been depressed all morning. And I read it the same way as Brenda. I knew from the start whose side we were supposed to be on, so I just had to know who won.

I think you can have all those lines and details only if the reader starts in the dark and slowly things come into focus.

Lovers' Lane