Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore Correspondence on "The Fish"

1. Elizabeth Bishop to Marianne Moore: January 14, 1939

The other day I caught a parrot fish, almost by accident. They are ravishing fish – all iridescent, with a silver edge to each scale, and a real bill-like mouth just like turquoise; the eye is very big and wild, and the eyeball is turquoise too – they are very humorous-looking fish. A man on the dock immediately scraped off three scales, then threw him back; he was sure it wouldn’t hurt him. I’m enclosing one [scale], if I can find it. …

From One Art: Letters of Elizabeth Bishop, Ed. Robert Giroux (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994), 79.

2. Elizabeth Bishop to Marianne Moore: February 5, 1940

I have one Key West story that I must tell you. It is more like the place than anything I can think of. The other day I went to the china closet to get a little white bowl to put some flowers in and when I was rinsing it I noticed some little black specks. I said to Mrs. Almyda, "I think we must have mice" – but she took the bowl over to the light and studied it and after a while she said, "No, them’s lizard." …

I am so much longing to see some of your new poems. I am sending you a real "trifle" ["the Fish"]. I’m afraid it is very bad and, if not like Robert Frost, perhaps like Ernest Hemingway! I left the last line on so it wouldn’t be, but I don’t know …

From One Art: Letters of Elizabeth Bishop, Ed. Robert Giroux (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994), 87.

3. Marianne Moore to Louise Crane: February 14, 1940

[Bishop was romantically involved with Louise Crane and shared a house with her at Key West.]

I had a letter from Elizabeth a day or two ago, which I am thinking of having tattooed on me – in which she tells of Mrs. Almeyda’s identifying certain little specks in a white bowl, as "Them’s lizard." And she enclosed a very valorous and concentrated poem about a fish. I thought of your somewhat pensive statement, "Elizabeth is writing some poems: she is working hard and will have more things" – when we were pondering the probability of enough to make a book; I wondered where th fish had begun to be written, and if I have missed any companion piece to it.

From The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore, Ed. Bonnie Costello; Assoc. Eds. Celeste Goodridge and Cristanne Miller (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 397.

4. Elizabeth Bishop to Marianne Moore: February 19, 1940

I have been reading and rereading your letter ever since it came … And thank you for the marvelous postcard, and the very helpful comments on "the Fish." I did as you suggested about everything except "breathing in" (if you can remember that), which I decided to leave as it was. "Lousy" is now "infested" and "gunwales" (which I meant to be pronounced "gunn’ls" ) is "gunnels," which is also correct according to the dictionary, and makes it plainer. I left off the outline of capitals [for the first word of each line], too, and feel very ADVANCED.

From One Art: Letters of Elizabeth Bishop, Ed. Robert Giroux (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994), 87-88.

5. Marianne Moore to Elizabeth Bishop: March 17, 1940

I am glad the Partisan Review wants the article, and since the canoe trip gives a picture of Florida, you could surely send it. And if you ask if I "could bear" to see it again and if I "have the time" to read it, I’ll tell you a fib and say when I said I liked "The Fish" that I meant merely the title, not the poem itself. I don’t feel I am any real help to you and should so like to be. But in anxiety to protect the work I scrutinize every detail.

From The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore, Ed. Bonnie Costello; Assoc. Eds. Celeste Goodridge and Cristanne Miller (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 398.

6. Elizabeth Bishop to Marianne Moore: March 14, 1940

Partisan Review has asked me to write a "Florida Letter." … They are printing "The Fish" this month, I think.

From One Art: Letters of Elizabeth Bishop, Ed. Robert Giroux (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994), 89

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Criticism Overview
Title Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore Correspondence on "The Fish" Type of Content Other Writing by Poets
Criticism Author Elizabeth Bishop Criticism Target Elizabeth Bishop
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 06 Jan 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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