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Posted on May 17th, 2012, by

I’ve chosen the poem called Taking Panfish by Norman Williams from his second book One Unblinking Eye. But let me tell several words about the author first. Norman Williams is a successful attorney who lives in Burlington Vermont, where he also owns a fashionable old farmhouse in the Vermont countryside. But expect his prosperous career he’s been writing poems during almost all his life. It took him fifteen years to write his last book One Unblinking Eye but it was worth it. This collection of poems gives a picture of life made of small glimpses which are put together in the strange kaleidoscope of author’s perception. There is definitely something that makes him put aside his ordinary life and seek for rhymes as a way to find the answers to the eternal questions of life. He doesn’t write to earn living as he has enough for life. There are much deeper reasons that make him complete his so simple from the first look and so deep on analyzing verses.

In the poem Taking Panfish a small and not very remarkable for an indifferent observer event such as fishing together with the father is described from the point of view of the author. The feelings of the small boy are mixed with the memories of the grown-up person burdened with life experience. Norman describes his own life and the place Cedar Lake, Indiana. Pointing it in the beginning of the poem makes it more personal and gives us a thought that the true event and true place are described. Like most poems written by Williams do. The poem describes our times and the event took place several years ago. The life of the well-done family is reflected in the peaceful scene of the father retired who spends idle time together with his son. Idleness has its rewards.

The fish caught during a fishing with his father gives us insight into the world of thoughts and feelings of the author used to be many years ago and the way the outer events refract in his conscious. Being a child Williams was very attached to his father and this attitude fills the entire poem. A young boy seeking for approval by any means:

My father leaps up, yanks the rod

And grabs the fish up by the tail.

Beauty! he beams. And I thank God,

Who has, for once, not let me fail.

The happiness of the catch is quickly changed with the pain caused by seeing the suffering of the fish dying. We can see the agony of the fish but what is more important we can feel this agony through the eyes of the author but after several seconds of reading we forget that who is the author and become the participants of the scene.  Detailed and realistic description replaces us to another reality the reality of the author, his thoughts and feelings. We don’t read the poem we see the picture and feel the reality.

All day,

As the fish grows slowly stiff and curled,

It fixes one unblinking eye

On me, as though I made this world.

I think it’s a mastery to draw us a picture of the world through the scene of the peaceful morning which becomes a background for the fish agony. The poem strikes us with the thought how close beauty and death can be and how thin can be that verge which separates them. The reality of the picture and the feelings it evokes in the reader’s heart could be achieved only by the describing of the individual experience of the author and deeply internalized. The eternal questions of being and sense of life penetrate to everything created by Williams, and everything he creates he creates to find the answers to these questions.

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