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Fishing in the Susquehanna

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Fishing in the Susquehanna in July is a poem written by Billy Collins in 1998. At first glance a reader might expect it to be about his experience of fishing in the Susquehanna, but however in the second stanza he mentions that he has never been fishing. It is mainly because of the title that the reader tends to get this false expectation. The poem depicts a scene where the speaker is standing in front of a painting observing it and trying to find a deeper meaning in it.

The poem is written in first person point of view, doesn't necessarily have to be the poet who is speaking. The poem is divided into 13 stanzas each stanza having three lines. The poem can be divided into four main sections, the first one, from line 1-6, where he talks about fishing in the susquehanna, the second part, from line 7-12, where describes the painting by listing everything displayed on the painting, the third part, from line 16-21, he goes back to talking about fishing again and the last part, from line 22 onwards, through which he illustrates the importance of the painting furthermore.

Through the first two stanzas the poet shows the irony in the title by illustrating how insignificant the whole idea of fishing is in this poem. In these two stanzas the tone is very relaxed and sarcastic, this can be seen through the usage of phrases such as “to be perfectly honest”. The poet uses the literary device, caesura, by putting a punctuation in the middle of a verse causing the reader to pause in between. In the third stanza the reader gets an idea of the setting of the museum in which the speaker is in. Then he lists a few things which are visible the painting of a woman.

As the poem progresses the tone becomes more contemplative, even though in the beginning he had said that he had never had the pleasure of fishing if it is a pleasure in the fourth stanza trying to manufacture this feeling of fishing. All this irony and contrast in tone adds to the complexity of emotion in the poem. In the 7th and 8th stanza we see the speaker looking at the painting while trying to manufacture the feeling of fishing. The poet has used the literary device, enjambment, by not adding a punctuation at the end of each verse. This is to emphasize the idea of water flowing through the river without any interruption.

The poet starts the 9th stanza with an imagery, “under a blue cloud-ruffled sky dense trees along the bank, and a fellow with a red bandana.” Later on he uses a bit alliteration and assonance throughout the poem to emphasize the main themes which are the power of art and fishing. He has also used a very powerful diction to further help him focus attention on the main themes. The poem has a very calm atmosphere as all events in the poem are taking place in a very quiet room in a gallery.



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