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November 12, 2007

Gone Fishing

I chose to specifically look at lines 34-40, of Elizabeth Bishop's poem The Fish, which corresponds to the description of the eyes of the fish. In the original presentation of the poem, it read:

I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.

When I read and try to analyze this section of the poem, I notice that at least for myself, the emphasis of each line is at the end of the line. The poem is describing the eyes, how they're larger than the writers (mine), shallower and yellowed, with tinfoil, seen through lenses of scratched isinglass. It is interesting to note that when I read it, I don't feel there is an emphasis on the irises, even though this is what is specifically being described in the subsequent lines, because of the location of the word and how I read the poem. What I take away when I read, is that the important part of each line is built around what it is describing at the end of the line.

When I look at the corresponding lines of the poem in the reconfiguration, my understanding of this allness becomes drastically different.

The emphasis on the first line remains the same, since the first line in the reconfiguration remains unchanged. But this is where the similarities end. When I read the next line, 'which were far', more emphasis is placed on far with the spacing creating a sort of, drop off, something of an apprehension of what will come next. 'larger than mine' still carries the same context, but the spacing serves to exaggerate (or possibly more accurately describe?) the size difference, how far larger the fish's eyes are. The same effect is created in the same line with the pauses after shallower and yellower, the spacing serves to specific and distinguish each word and each description. The irises in the reconfiguration stands out, and is related more, in my opinion, to shallower and yellower than to backed and packed, which was the intent with the original poem. The spacing after backed and packed puts more emphasis on the with tarnished tinfoil, better describing what is seen through the lenses. The last line, and its placing is interesting. When I read it, even after several times, its hard to describe the connection it has with the rest of the reconfiguration. It does not start at the beginning of the line, and could also be seen as misplaced. Its presented in such a way that one needs to go back to the previous lines to understand how the line fits in and what it is supposed to be interpreted as.

Overall, the reconfiguration conveys The Fish much differently than the original poem. Its interesting to see the effect that changing the spacing can have on a poem. In the first poem it was written and presented in such a way as to emphasize certain words and objects that were being describe. With the addition of a few tabs and extra spaces, the meaning of certain parts of the poem, like the one I described above, can be completely changed.

Posted by ndjames at November 12, 2007 02:29 PM


A stunning assessment and reassessment of the eye and the associated reconfigured parameters!

Posted by: thyliasm at December 22, 2007 03:51 AM

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