Essay Preview: Mackerel
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Jack Handy
Mr. Sharon
English IV, AP
22 February 2006
Mark Doty is standing in the fish section of a Stop n shop in Orleans, Massachusetts, he is frozen in his path by a display of mackerel, struck numb by the beautiful, gleaming array of fish, the shimmering black bands against the white ice. The dark scales and flat eyes were speaking to him. He is not stopped by their beauty though, because as he once said there is too much beauty in the world to be inspired by beauty alone. No, there was something in their identical-ness that caught him.

Doty began this poem with ram imagery, putting the picture he had glued in his mind on paper. “I almost always begin with description, as a way of focusing on that compelling image” (Doty 1). He is helping us understand what he is seeing. A perfect example of this would be the first two stanzas. This is the icebreaker that will lead us to the metaphor soon to come.

We dont have to wait long before we are stuck with a line of power and depth. This is one of my favorite lines because it says so much in so little words, and its in the fifth stanza: “Splendor, and splendor/ and not a one in any way/ distinguished from the other…” The poem begins taking form and it is telling us that yes, those fish are beautiful, but they all look the same. He is almost glorifying their interchangeability. This concept is easily adapted to humans; the school of fish is obviously representing human kind. The common-ness, the inability to be distinguished one from another, and whether it in fact would matter if you could. Because Dotys long time partner had recently died when he wrote this poem he was in a very theological sate of mind, he was questioning a lot of things. “…the question arose (“Suppose we could iridesce…”)…the notion of losing oneself entirely in the universe/ of shimmer…” (Doty 1.) He was lost in the idea of being someone or no one and the fine like between them. What was the point of being an individual if you were just going to be lost on the pack at the end? Could we be happy like the fish to just be one of the many? Is the concept of being a self even real? I think its against human nature to be content with being the same as the guy next to us.

Write Tim Dean feels that the poem is about being impersonal, the “incompatibility between beauty and identity…” (Dean 1.) I disagree with him. I went with Dotys theory and adapted it into my own. The poem, to me, is completely

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Dotys Long Time Partner And Fish Section Of A Stop N. (June 14, 2021). Retrieved from