What is the purpose of using nonce form in "The Fish " by Marianne Moore?Why did Moore feeel it was important to devse a new form for "The Fish"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "The Fish" by Marianne Moore has the sea as the overriding background and poetic conceit, with two direct mentions of the sea: "the turquoise sea," "The sea grows old in it." The sea rushes in and out and undulates with high tides and low tides. So does Moore's poetic structure.

Nonce poetic form refers to specially invented, presumably one-time-only, poetic form. The etymology of "nonce" per Random House Dictionary on Dictionary.com begins in 1150 AD to 1200 AD in Middle English and is a variation of "ones" (once) used in the ME phrase for then ones. Therefore nonce poetic form is a form used for then once.

Moore's nonce form imitates the in and out motion of the sea as it washes in and out of the shore. It also imitates the rise and fall of the tide line resulting from high and low tides. For example the second lines are three syllables while the third lines are nine syllables. Each stanza moves from a one-syllable beginning line through the swelling of the stanza at line three and a shortening in lines four and five. The stanzas then return, except in the final stanza, to the single-syllable line that opens the next stanza.

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The Fish

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