2021 Reading Challenge – Weeks 20 & 21

Although I didn’t write about it last week, I actually did manage to finish reading a novel! And I even finished one this week, too. That puts me at 24 books this year! Last week, I read Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, and I’ve literally just now finished reading Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook: a Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry. As for next week’s books… we’ll see🤷‍♀️


I got angry today. The specifics of it aren’t really all that important. But I got angry, and then I got angry at myself for getting angry!

F**k!” I thought to myself. “I’ve worked so hard on my anger problems, just for them to come back?!”

And after wondering about that, I realized just how incredibly silly it all was. Getting angry is healthy. Feeling angry is especially healthy after being disrespected. And disrespected I was.

Anger is natural and healthy and justified and beautiful and I’m tired of pretending that it’s not!

Anyways, there was a poem included in Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook that I found particularly striking; The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop.

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Was the fish angry the first 5 times it was hooked? Or was it scared? I like to think that it was mad. Furious, even. Maybe it was justified rage and youthful zeal that gave the fish the strength to break free those first times.

In college, my friend used to tell me never to go with the flow.

Always swim upstream, Nance! Do you know why? It’s the dead fishes that let themselves get carried downstream.”


Thank you so much for reading! 🎣

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