“The Fish” has been a popular poem ever since its publication. Biographer Charles Molesworth notes in his book Marianne Moore: A Literary Life that early responders to the poem such as Moore’s good friend Winifred Ellerman (also known as Bryher) considered it an example of Moore’s “otherworldliness.” Molesworth writes,
Moore’s poetry was increasingly to concern itself with . . . the struggles of perdurability. This subject is part of her interest in museums, in the forms of animal life, and in the intersections of nature and culture.
Critic Laurence Stapleton, writing in his book Marianne Moore: The Poet’s Advance, makes a connection between the poem and Moore’s interest in art. According to Stapleton, “The Fish” is notable “for intensity in the use of color.” Stapleton, however, insists that it cannot be considered a “complex” poem. Bernard Engel locates the otherworldliness of the poem in the image of the cliff, which he claims represents “an ideal . . . the capacity of the courageous in spirit to triumph.” George Nitchie finds the poem difficult, however, noting: “a rich and controlled confusion characterizes both the poem and the method.” Writing in 1977, Pamela White Hadas remains fascinated by Moore’s poem, calling it “immensely powerful and bitter.” More recently, Cristanne Miller praises the poem for its formal qualities, its “ability to lace...
(The entire section is 253 words.)
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