A Fish and A Skunk

The subject-matter from Monday’s poems ranged greatly. While reading these poems, I was fascinated by the way that each poet transforms every day scenarios into something beyond what I may have written.

For example, “the Skunk” by Seamus Heaney uses the metaphor of the skunk to talk about his wife. In line 10, Heaney writes “Love-letters again, broaching the word “wife” / Like a stored cask, as if its slender vowel” and constantly uses the feminine pronoun “she” when referring to the skunk. The unconventional images of the skunk and wife made me laugh and ultimately I wondered if Heaney was being serious.

As for Elizabeth Bishop, the subject matter of her poem reminded me greatly of the “Red Wheelbarrow” by Williams Carlos Williams, in the sense that both poems seemed to look at the simplicity of objects for their writing. However, Bishop with “The Fish” tackles a singular moment. The effectiveness of her poem comes from how extensively she uses imagery to describe this moment. In effect, she envelops the reader into the scene thus connects the experience of the speaker to the reader. For this poem, what also struck me the most was the final lines of the poem:

“where oil had spread a rainbow / around the rusted engine / to the bailer rusted orange / the sun-cracked thwarts, / the oarlocks on their strings, / the gunnels – until everything / was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! / And I let the fish go”

I found this section particularly comedic. I believe that with the help of her enjambments and the repetition of the word rainbow, the last lines become a crescendo in tonality until the last line.


One comment

  • Thoughtful post, Isai! I’m glad you saw some of the humor in these poems. While they can be read as totally straight-faced, I can’t help but read Heaney’s use of the skunk comparison as at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I wonder how we might think about the balance between humor and earnestness in these poems?

Leave a Reply