Elizabeth Bishop: Poems

Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop: Two Small Fish in a Big Sea College

It is no secret that Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop were close friends. Although written decades apart, poems titled “The Fish” were created by both authors. Upon reading Bishop’s poem against Moore’s, we can see that both of the poems deal with themes of endurance against a greater force and of the unpredictability of life. The poems are not entirely alike, of course, with differences in form, speaker, and subject matter. Important to fully examining Bishop’s “The Fish,” she and Moore’s correspondence was well-documented, including letters on Bishop’s “The Fish.” Their back-and-forth letters reveal the influence Moore had on Bishop’s poetry, as well as instances in which Bishop stood up for the more independent choices in her writing.

While Bishop’s “The Fish” can easily stand alone as a magnificent poem, analyzing it with Moore in mind leads readers to underlying themes that one might not pick up on alone. The two poets met through a mutual friend in the mid-1930s and instantly became friends, corresponding via letters. As Lynn Keller notes, “The care Bishop apparently took composing her early letters and the descriptions they contain reflects, then, not only her desire to share with Moore intriguing or delightful...

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