'Dogfish' by Mary Oliver
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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,
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 was
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,
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 listen
to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.
And anyway it's the same old story - - -
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
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
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.
if they don't waste time
looking for an easier world,
they can do it.
Editor 1 Interpretation
A Deep Dive into Mary Oliver's Dogfish
Mary Oliver is known for her acute observations of nature and her ability to convey them in simple, yet powerful language. One of her most popular poems, Dogfish, is a testament to her talent and her love for the sea.
Before we delve into the interpretation of the poem, let's take a look at the text itself:
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. Depression is boring, I think and I would do better to make some soup and light up the cave.
At first glance, the poem seems to be a simple description of a fish called the dogfish. However, upon closer inspection, we can see that there is more to it than meets the eye.
The poem starts with a line that sets the tone for the entire piece: "Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing". This line suggests that the speaker is in awe of the creature she is observing, and that she sees it as a thing of beauty. The fact that the creature is "flickering in with the tide" adds to the sense of wonder and transience.
The next few lines describe the appearance of the dogfish: "Black as a fisherman's boot, with a white belly." This image is vivid and memorable, and it sticks in the mind of the reader long after the poem has ended. The contrast between the black and white colors creates a striking visual effect, and the comparison to a fisherman's boot adds a touch of realism to the poem.
The line "Depression is boring, I think" seems to come out of nowhere, and it is a jarring shift in tone. However, upon closer inspection, we can see that it is not as random as it first appears. The speaker is suggesting that she is trying to distract herself from her own thoughts by focusing on the dogfish. She acknowledges the fact that depression is a real and serious issue, but she also recognizes that it is not the only thing that exists in the world.
The final line "and I would do better to make some soup and light up the cave" is a powerful image that suggests that the speaker is retreating into herself. She is seeking comfort and solace in the familiar act of making soup, and she is lighting up the cave as a way of illuminating the darkness.
One of the main themes of the poem is the beauty of nature. The speaker is in awe of the dogfish, and she sees it as a thing of wonder and amazement. This theme is reinforced by the imagery of the tide, which suggests that nature is constantly in flux, and that there is always something new and beautiful to discover.
Another theme of the poem is the struggle with depression. The line "Depression is boring, I think" suggests that the speaker is trying to find a way to distract herself from her own thoughts. This theme is reinforced by the final line of the poem, which suggests that the speaker is seeking comfort and solace in the familiar act of making soup.
In conclusion, Dogfish is a beautiful and powerful poem that speaks to the beauty of nature and the struggle with depression. Mary Oliver's ability to convey complex emotions in simple language is a testament to her talent as a poet, and her attention to detail is evident in the vivid imagery she uses throughout the poem. If you have not yet read this poem, I highly recommend it. It is a true masterpiece of contemporary poetry.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Beauty and Brutality of Nature in Mary Oliver's "Dogfish"
Mary Oliver's "Dogfish" is a poem that captures the beauty and brutality of nature in a way that is both haunting and mesmerizing. The poem, which was first published in 1992 in Oliver's book "New and Selected Poems," tells the story of a fisherman who catches a dogfish and the struggle that ensues between man and beast.
At its core, "Dogfish" is a meditation on the relationship between humans and the natural world. Oliver uses vivid imagery and powerful language to explore the complex dynamics that exist between these two seemingly disparate entities. Through her words, she invites us to consider the ways in which we interact with the world around us and the impact that our actions can have on the creatures that inhabit it.
The Beauty of Nature
One of the most striking aspects of "Dogfish" is the way in which Oliver captures the beauty of the natural world. From the opening lines of the poem, we are transported to a world of shimmering water and graceful sea creatures:
Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing Kept flickering in with the tide And looking around.
Oliver's language is rich and evocative, painting a picture of a world that is both serene and awe-inspiring. She describes the dogfish as "silver and shadow," and the ocean as a place where "the water / Seems to have stopped breathing for a moment."
Through her words, Oliver invites us to see the world through the eyes of the fisherman, to appreciate the beauty of the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it. She reminds us that there is a delicate balance to be struck between humans and the environment, and that it is our responsibility to protect and preserve the natural world for future generations.
The Brutality of Nature
But "Dogfish" is not just a celebration of the beauty of nature. It is also a stark reminder of the brutality that exists within it. As the fisherman struggles to reel in the dogfish, we are confronted with the harsh reality of the food chain and the violence that is inherent in the natural world:
And then he saw That sudden slantwise fish, The bright beast of the ocean, Tipped sideways and sucked Into the puny boat That was my boat, my father's boat, To the horror of my mother on the shore.
Oliver's language is visceral and intense, capturing the raw power of the struggle between man and beast. She reminds us that nature is not always gentle or forgiving, and that the creatures that inhabit it are not always benevolent or kind.
But even as she acknowledges the brutality of nature, Oliver also invites us to see the beauty in it. She reminds us that there is a certain majesty in the struggle for survival, and that even the most violent and destructive aspects of nature can be awe-inspiring in their own way.
The Relationship Between Humans and Nature
At its heart, "Dogfish" is a meditation on the relationship between humans and the natural world. Oliver invites us to consider the ways in which we interact with the environment and the impact that our actions can have on the creatures that inhabit it.
Through the fisherman's struggle to catch the dogfish, Oliver reminds us that our desire for food and resources can sometimes come at a cost. She asks us to consider the ethical implications of our actions, and to think about the ways in which we can live in harmony with the natural world.
But Oliver also acknowledges the complexity of this relationship. She recognizes that humans are a part of the natural world, and that our interactions with it are often fraught with tension and conflict. She reminds us that there is no easy answer to the question of how we should live in relation to the environment, and that the best we can do is to approach it with humility and respect.
In "Dogfish," Mary Oliver offers us a powerful meditation on the beauty and brutality of nature, and the complex relationship that exists between humans and the environment. Through her vivid imagery and powerful language, she invites us to see the world through the eyes of the fisherman, to appreciate the majesty of the natural world, and to consider the ethical implications of our actions.
As we navigate the challenges of the 21st century, with its rapidly changing climate and dwindling resources, Oliver's words serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of living in harmony with the natural world. They remind us that we are not separate from the environment, but rather a part of it, and that our actions have the power to shape the world around us for better or for worse.
In the end, "Dogfish" is a call to action, urging us to approach the natural world with reverence and respect, and to do our part to protect and preserve it for future generations.
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