Selected by Carolyn Guinzio
National Poetry Month 2016
Letter from the Editors
Our thanks to Carolyn Guinzio for today's Poet's Pick!
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Thank you so much for your support! Enjoy today's special poem and commentary!
Don Selby & Diane Boller
Carolyn Guinzio's Poetry Month Pick, April 12, 2016
by Marianne Moore (1887-1972)
through black jade,
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash-heaps;
opening and shutting itself like
The barnacles which encrust the side
of the wave, cannot hide
there for the submerged shafts of the
split like spun
glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
into the crevices—
in and out, illuminating
of bodies. The water drives a wedge
of iron through the iron edge
of the cliff, whereupon the stars,
bespattered jelly-fish, crabs like green
lilies, and submarine
toadstools, slide each on the other.
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
its youth. The sea grows old in it.
Carolyn Guinzio Comments:
I’ve carried my copy of the delightfully slender The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore through so many states and sun-filled homes that the text has faded entirely from the spine. When I look for it now, I look for “the book with the blank spine.” And when I take it off the shelf, it so often falls open to the page of “The Fish.”
The first thing to love about “The Fish” is how it looks. It’s like a visual version of the setting “Ocean” on a meditation sound machine, arriving and retreating at shortening intervals with a moment of silence between. There’s a reason so many of us long to stand in the sea with our eyes closed, feeling where we are in the world. But Moore has caught us, and now the universe into which we’re plunged is beautiful, yes, but violent and terrifying, too.
That visual pattern we notice first is quickly mimicked aurally—the wade and the jade slap at you once and then twice, the same and different. And by the time you hit the word jade, you’re there with her.
Written nearly a hundred years ago, “The Fish” feels current and timeless at once. Despite its formal constructs and conventions, there’s nothing stuffy or dusty about it—not its language nor its concerns and ideas. So much is contained in an injured fan, the iron in the water, the submarine toadstools—the things of industry and warfare in nature, and nature in the things of industry—tensions and inversions presented in a thrillingly inventive and mysterious way.It’s almost shocking, the inversion that occurs in the final line. It does not grow old in the sea, you see—the sea grows old in it. As much as the world may make us old, we make the world old.
Carolyn Guinzio is the author of four collections, SPINE (Free Verse Editions, Parlor Press, 2016), Spoke & Dark (Red Hen, 2012) winner of the To The Lighthouse/A Room Of Her Own Prize, Quarry (Parlor, 2008), and West Pullman, (Bordighera, 2005) winner of the Bordighera Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Harvard Review, Agni, The Boston Review, Bomb, and many other journals. She is the text editor of YEW: A Journal of Innovative Writing & Images By Women.
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