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The "superior objectivist poem," her "An Egyptian Pulled Glass Bottle in the Shape of a Fish," is a poem appreciating art itself according to criteria that can be applied easily to her own poetry. Uncharacteristically, she begins not with the physical details of the fish-bottle but with the practical and moral situation that led to its making. Her poem is tracing the process of creation itself, so that it leads to the presence of the bottle as its conclusion. "Here we have," she begins, observing the bottle, "thirst," "patience," then "art": "as in a wave held up for us to see / in its essential perpendicularity." Art is thus the result of physical need and the skill of the artist to create what is needed: "So art is but

an expression of our needs," she writes in her essay "Feeling and Precision"; "is feeling, modified by the writer's moral and technological insights." Art demands appreciation, so the poem's first stanza concludes. Then the second and final stanza goes on to appreciate that which the artist has created:

not brittle but

intense—the spectrum, that

    spectacular and nimble animal the fish,

    whose scales turn aside the sun's sword by their polish.

The work of art, to paraphrase, is not false but real; "genuine" is her term in another poem of definition, "Poetry." This bottle is more than something that aids in the alleviation of thirst, it is a fish—a fish created more intensely, more perfectly, more essentially than its living model because it is glass, Perfected by art, this fish is eternal and cannot be destroyed by time: its scales turn aside the sun's sword by their polish. Likewise, the perfect poem is a reflecting and protecting surface.


From Naked and Fiery Forms: Modern American Poetry by Women, A New Tradition. New York: Octagon Books, 1976. Copyright © 1976.