Elizabeth Bishop–“At the Fishhouses” | American Literature

Throughout her work, she subverts the conventional Romantic trope of world-as-woman byinsisting upon the indeterminate nature of nature--now female, now male, now ungenderedother. And, as we might expect, Bishop is most subversive at her most Wordsworthianmoments. In "The Fish," for example--strikingly Wordsworthian in its evocationof almost religious awe and joy in the presence of embodied nature--Bishop refigures theusual Romantic figure, making us see nature as a "He," a sort of finny five-stargeneral:

While Bishop examines the fish, she also begins to enter the body of figurativelanguage:

Transferring the catchwas an incredibly dangerous job as hundreds of men were seriouslyinjured, maimed for life or drowned whilst ferrying fish in choppy orstormy seas.


At the Fishhouses by Elizabeth Bishop | Poetry Foundation

Not content with the longhours of fishing, the crews also faced an assortment of other evilsat sea.

The first objection, which Richard Moore touches upon en passant in an essay publishedtwenty-five years ago, is the easiest to deal with. Noticing the lack of fight in the hugefish, Moore flirts with the notion that must occur to many sophisticated readers of poetryupon encountering this poem: "perhaps the fish seems so realistic and factual becauseit is not a 'real' fish at all. Moore adds, parenthetically, that "indeed, the readernever learns what species of fish it is." Of course some will immediately argue thatthe species of fish, whether identifiable or not, is irrelevant to the meaning of thepoem; but it seems to me that considering Elizabeth Bishop's close associations with thesea (she had moved to Key West in 1938 after a childhood spent in a fishing village inNova Scotia and in Boston), the fish might be supposed to be representative of an actualspecies.


Fish Elizabeth Bishop is on Facebook

Fleeting was never popular with the crews; they weresometimes at sea for more than six weeks, catching and gutting fishon tumbling decks around the clock in all winds and weathers, beforeit was their turn to return to their home port to re-provision .

Sep 03, 2014 · 1

At theend of the day’s fishing every vessel boxed up its catch offish and these boxes were then transferred, by rowing boats to a fastcutter which headed off to the fish markets.

But will inspiration come when I call it

A large number of fishermen and ancillary workers, togetherwith their families, were lured to both ports from all over thecountry to seek a livelihood, either directly or indirectly, from thetreacherous sea.

No peace in this world for the poet!

In the 1871 Census Arthur was the “thirdhand apprentice” aboard the MOSQUITO (a fishing vessel withcaptain, mate, and two other apprentices), then in the 1881 Censustaken at Great Grimsby, Arthur was Master of the fishing vesselEUROPE, with a crew of mate, two fishermen and an apprentice.

Collection Highlights | National Museum of Women in …

I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
[. . . ] until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.