Daniel Tiffany: On "The Fish"
marks of abuse are present on this
all the physical features of
of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
hatchet strokes, these things stand
out on it; the chasm-side is
evidence has proved that it can live
on what can not revive
("The Fish" 32-33)
Two things about this passage (aside from its great beauty) are significant: first, the reader is deprived of any reference indicating that the phenomenon described so vividly and concretely is an animal, much less a fish. The virtuosity of Moore's observation decomposes the intuitive coherence of objects. Second, like Schrodinger's cat—though much more explicitly—the "defiant edifice," whose mesmerizing facade defies the reader's comprehension, swims in the element of adversity, thereby betraying a world of mortal danger: the animal is, to be more precise, a picture of "accident" and "abuse"—a ruin. Indeed, half of it is gone ("the chasm-side is dead"), though "it can live" on other living things. Again, like Schrodinger's cat, the creature in this traumatic (though somehow neutral) milieu is both dead and alive, "mixed or smeared out in equal parts."
Despite the wealth of visual and sensory evidence, Moore's poem does not represent a fish-object; instead, it depicts a "blurred reality," or complementary aspects of it, that resist integration into a coherent or determinate picture of physical reality. The ruined creature of Moore's virtuosity is poised between the visible and the invisible, a picture of ephemerality; yet it is also a cipher, a corporeal anagram combining social, imaginative, and material realities. In all of Moore's fables, however, the animal-cipher is born from the meticulous observations of the naturalist. . . .
From Toy Medium: Materialism and Modern Lyric. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. Copyright © by the Regents of the University of California.
|Title||Daniel Tiffany: On "The Fish"||Type of Content||Criticism|
|Criticism Author||Daniel Tiffany||Criticism Target||Marianne Moore|
|Criticism Type||Poet||Originally Posted||19 Oct 2015|
|Publication Status||Excerpted Criticism||Publication||No Data|
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