Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet Amy Lowell (1874-1925) was practically forgotten for most of the second half of the twentieth century. Her poetry was considered either too controversial–many of her poems are love poems addressed to a woman–or simply outdated. Lowell was a devotee of the imagist aesthetic, roughly the idea that direct description and natural rhythm could be more ‘true’ to a moment or a scene than the more regimented and elaborate approach of Victorian poetry. She helped support and publish poets such as H.D., Richard Aldington, and D.H. Lawrence, among others, editing a series of anthologies and acting as their publicist. She was also a biographer of Keats. This poem, ‘The Pike’ is a fine example of Lowell’s economy in description, capturing perfectly the summer light on water and the movement and drama of the mysterious fish.
In the brown water,
Thick and silver-sheened in the sunshine,
Liquid and cool in the shade of the reeds,
A pike dozed.
Lost among the shadows of stems
He lay unnoticed.
Suddenly he flicked his tail,
And a green-and-copper brightness
Ran under the water.
Out from under the reeds
Came the olive-green light,
And orange flashed up
Through the sun-thickened water.
So the fish passed across the pool,
Green and copper,
A darkness and a gleam,
And the blurred reflections of the willows on the opposite bank