'Dogfish' by Mary Oliver
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Dream Work1986Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman's boot,
with a white belly.If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.And you know
what a smile means,
don't you?*I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,whoever I was, I wasalive
for a little while.*It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don't know what they were,
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.*Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don't we?Slowly*the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.*You don't want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don't want to tell it, I want to listento the enormous waterfalls of the sun.And anyway it's the same old story - - -
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
for a simple reason.And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.*And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.*And probably,
if they don't waste time
looking for an easier world,they can do it.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Mystical Powers of Mary Oliver's "Dogfish"
If you're a lover of poetry, then you must have come across Mary Oliver's work at some point. The American poet is known for her beautiful depictions of nature and spirituality, but one of her most captivating pieces is "Dogfish."
In this poem, Oliver takes us on a journey of exploration, diving deep into the ocean to encounter a creature that is both mysterious and fearsome. Over the course of 25 lines, she manages to capture the essence of this animal, while also weaving in themes of mortality and the search for meaning in life.
An Overview of "Dogfish"
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of this poem, let's take a moment to read through it in its entirety:
Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing kept flickering in with the tide and looking around.
Black as a fisherman's boot, with a white belly. If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin, which was rough as a thousand sharpened nails.
And you know what a smile means, don't you?
So we'd look and look at this unbelievably wonderful thing, and the dogfish would grin and turn away, and swim back down, and into the black tunnel, tail first, and you'd watch his tail till it was gone.
You'd seem to hear hands praying underwater and maybe that's what the strange music was, or maybe the sounds of the sea as it rattled in and out of the crab traps, their drags mutely gaping and closing like the jaws of the dead.
At first glance, "Dogfish" seems like a simple description of an encounter with a strange fish. However, as we dive deeper into the poem, we start to uncover the layers of meaning that Oliver has imbued into her words.
Exploring the Themes of "Dogfish"
One of the most striking aspects of "Dogfish" is the way that Oliver manages to use this encounter with a creature of the sea to explore some of life's biggest questions. The dogfish, with its mysterious smile and powerful presence, becomes a symbol for our own search for meaning and purpose.
The poem begins by describing the dogfish as "some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing," which immediately sets a peaceful tone. However, as we move into the next stanza, we start to see the darker side of this animal. Its black exterior and rough chin point to a more fearsome side, one that is not immediately apparent on the surface.
This dichotomy between beauty and danger is a theme that runs throughout the poem. The dogfish is simultaneously alluring and frightening, and we can't help but be drawn in by its mysterious presence.
Oliver also uses the encounter with the dogfish to comment on mortality and the fleeting nature of life. The fish "swim[s] back down, / and into the black tunnel, / tail first" - a clear indication of its eventual demise. The hands praying underwater represent the idea of a funeral or mourning ceremony, further emphasizing the idea of death.
However, even in the face of this mortality, there is a sense of wonder and awe at the beauty of the world around us. The "strange music" of the sea and the "rattling" of the crab traps are both reminders of the power and majesty of nature.
The Power of Language in "Dogfish"
One of the things that makes "Dogfish" such an exquisite poem is the way that Oliver uses language to create a vivid and sensory experience for the reader. Her descriptions of the fish - "rough / as a thousand sharpened nails" - are both evocative and precise.
She also uses repetition to great effect, with the phrase "and you know / what a smile means, / don't you?" appearing twice in the poem. This repetition creates a sense of intimacy between the reader and the speaker, as if we are being invited into a personal conversation.
Conclusion: The Magic of "Dogfish"
There is something truly magical about Mary Oliver's "Dogfish." The way that she is able to use a seemingly simple encounter with a fish to explore such profound themes is a testament to her skill as a poet.
Whether you're a fan of poetry or not, "Dogfish" is a poem that is sure to leave an impression. It reminds us of the beauty and mystery of the world around us, and the importance of finding meaning in our own lives.
So the next time you find yourself by the sea, take a moment to look out at the water and see if you can catch a glimpse of the dogfish. Who knows - you might just find a little bit of magic for yourself.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Dogfish: A Masterpiece of Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, has left an indelible mark on the world of poetry with her unique style and profound insights. Her poem, "Poetry Dogfish," is a masterpiece that captures the essence of poetry and the creative process. In this article, we will delve into the poem's meaning, structure, and themes, and explore why it has become a classic in the world of poetry.
The poem begins with the speaker encountering a dogfish on the beach. The dogfish is a small shark that is often caught by fishermen and used as bait. The speaker observes the dogfish and notes its beauty and grace, despite its reputation as a lowly creature. The dogfish becomes a metaphor for poetry, which is often overlooked and undervalued in society.
The poem's structure is simple and straightforward, with short lines and stanzas that create a sense of urgency and immediacy. The poem is written in free verse, which allows Oliver to experiment with form and structure. The lack of rhyme and meter gives the poem a natural, conversational tone that draws the reader in.
The poem's themes are universal and timeless. It explores the power of poetry to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, to elevate the mundane to the sublime. The poem celebrates the beauty of nature and the importance of paying attention to the world around us. It also speaks to the creative process and the struggle to find inspiration and meaning in our lives.
One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of imagery. Oliver's descriptions of the dogfish are vivid and evocative, painting a picture of a creature that is both fierce and delicate. The dogfish's "brown skin hung in strips / like ancient wallpaper" and its "eyes the color of petroleum" create a sense of otherworldliness and mystery. The speaker's observation that the dogfish "wasn't worth a bullet" highlights the contrast between the dogfish's beauty and its perceived value.
The poem's central metaphor, comparing poetry to a dogfish, is both unexpected and powerful. The dogfish is a creature that is often overlooked and undervalued, much like poetry. The speaker's observation that "the world / is full of paper. / Write to me" suggests that poetry has the power to cut through the noise and connect us to something deeper and more meaningful.
The poem's final lines, "and I wanted / the past to go away, I wanted / to leave it, like another country; I wanted / my life to close, and open / like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song / where it falls / down over the rocks: / an explosion, a discovery; / I wanted / to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know, / whoever I was, I was / alive / for a little while," capture the essence of the creative process. The speaker longs to break free from the constraints of the past and embrace the present moment. The poem ends with a sense of urgency and possibility, as the speaker embraces the work of their life and the discovery that comes with it.
In conclusion, "Poetry Dogfish" is a masterpiece of poetry that captures the essence of the creative process and the power of poetry to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Mary Oliver's use of imagery, metaphor, and structure create a sense of urgency and immediacy that draws the reader in and leaves a lasting impression. The poem's themes of nature, creativity, and the struggle to find meaning in our lives are universal and timeless. "Poetry Dogfish" is a classic in the world of poetry and a testament to Mary Oliver's talent and vision.
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