1. Elizabeth Bishop to Marianne Moore: January 14, 1939
The other day I caught a parrot fish, almost by accident. They are ravishing fish – all iridescent, with a silver edge to each scale, and a real bill-like mouth just like turquoise; the eye is very big and wild, and the eyeball is turquoise too – they are very humorous-looking fish. A man on the dock immediately scraped off three scales, then threw him back; he was sure it wouldn’t hurt him. I’m enclosing one [scale], if I can find it. …
From One Art: Letters of Elizabeth Bishop, Ed. Robert Giroux (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994), 79.
2. Elizabeth Bishop to Marianne Moore: February 5, 1940
I have one Key West story that I must tell you. It is more like the place than anything I can think of. The other day I went to the china closet to get a little white bowl to put some flowers in and when I was rinsing it I noticed some little black specks. I said to Mrs. Almyda, "I think we must have mice" – but she took the bowl over to the light and studied it and after a while she said, "No, them’s lizard." …
I am so much longing to see some of your new poems. I am sending you a real "trifle" ["the Fish"]. I’m afraid it is very bad and, if not like Robert Frost, perhaps like Ernest Hemingway! I left the last line on so it wouldn’t be, but I don’t know …
From One Art: Letters of Elizabeth Bishop, Ed. Robert Giroux (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994), 87.
3. Marianne Moore to Louise Crane: February 14, 1940
[Bishop was romantically involved with Louise Crane and shared a house with her at Key West.]
I had a letter from Elizabeth a day or two ago, which I am thinking of having tattooed on me – in which she tells of Mrs. Almeyda’s identifying certain little specks in a white bowl, as "Them’s lizard." And she enclosed a very valorous and concentrated poem about a fish. I thought of your somewhat pensive statement, "Elizabeth is writing some poems: she is working hard and will have more things" – when we were pondering the probability of enough to make a book; I wondered where th fish had begun to be written, and if I have missed any companion piece to it.
From The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore, Ed. Bonnie Costello; Assoc. Eds. Celeste Goodridge and Cristanne Miller (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 397.
4. Elizabeth Bishop to Marianne Moore: February 19, 1940
I have been reading and rereading your letter ever since it came … And thank you for the marvelous postcard, and the very helpful comments on "the Fish." I did as you suggested about everything except "breathing in" (if you can remember that), which I decided to leave as it was. "Lousy" is now "infested" and "gunwales" (which I meant to be pronounced "gunn’ls" ) is "gunnels," which is also correct according to the dictionary, and makes it plainer. I left off the outline of capitals [for the first word of each line], too, and feel very ADVANCED.
From One Art: Letters of Elizabeth Bishop, Ed. Robert Giroux (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994), 87-88.
5. Marianne Moore to Elizabeth Bishop: March 17, 1940
I am glad the Partisan Review wants the article, and since the canoe trip gives a picture of Florida, you could surely send it. And if you ask if I "could bear" to see it again and if I "have the time" to read it, I’ll tell you a fib and say when I said I liked "The Fish" that I meant merely the title, not the poem itself. I don’t feel I am any real help to you and should so like to be. But in anxiety to protect the work I scrutinize every detail.
From The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore, Ed. Bonnie Costello; Assoc. Eds. Celeste Goodridge and Cristanne Miller (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 398.
6. Elizabeth Bishop to Marianne Moore: March 14, 1940
Partisan Review has asked me to write a "Florida Letter." … They are printing "The Fish" this month, I think.
From One Art: Letters of Elizabeth Bishop, Ed. Robert Giroux (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994), 89