Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish”

September 2, 2010

The fish has caught the speaker.     No, Really:  The fish has CAUGHT the speaker.    This is the shocked impression that I was left with after the last stunning line of Bishop’s “The Fish.”

As the speaker cradles the impressive weight, and recognizes each detailed wound – the speaker is left in a paralyzed, appreciative vacuum:  the only thing they can manage to do is to gaze, memorize.  Every inch of The Fish is a full narrative.  A Fish is worth a thousand words.

At the climax, there is no loss of victory by releasing The Fish; nothing is forfeited.  The Fish has left his impression: the five hooks in his lip, his white sea lice, his sea weed.  The Fish leaves with a surreal purposefulness.

The Fish has caught the speaker.

A quick thought concerning “The Man-Moth,”  why was “The Fish” larger, clearer and more emotionally personified than the Man-Moth, a creature that is half human? What does this imply about the regal-ness of the natural world?

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