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The Milkfish Gatherers Essay

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Erica Smith is a writer and editor. In the following essay, she examines James Fenton's "The Milkfish Gatherers" from his 1994 volume Out of Danger. Smith discusses how the poem's speaker brings forth images of violence that illustrate the dangers present in the Phillipines.

The poem opens with a meditation on the sea: "The sea sounds insincere / Giving and taking with one hand." The speaker seems to be accusing the sea. Furthermore, in the following lines the speaker describes how the sea closed up a river the month before, "filling its mouth with sand." The brutality of this image intimates that the speaker's world is hazardous.

The speaker then turns his attention to those who are gathering the milkfish fry (young fish). He describes the tiny fish as "two eyes on a glass noodle, nothing more." The description is at once endearing and strange. The reader may be reminded...

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This section contains 1,564 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
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Poetry for Students
The Milkfish Gatherers from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.