This poem is narrated in first person, focusing on the imaginations and the power of the imagination from an art painting called “Fishing on the Susquehanna”. The reader seems to be more focused on delivering his message describing how he has never had any experience of fishing on a river, but carries on to explain about his imaginations by looking at it. He uses the power of art to describe experience and emotions to the readers. The poem is structured in 13 stanzas, each with three lines. This keeps a constant pace in the poem. There is no rhyme scheme in the poem.
The use of first person, the narrators allows readers to see the events through the narrator’s perspective understanding his imaginations. The title of the poem “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July”, seems to be ironic. When the title is first read by the readers, leads to expect the poem to be sharing the experience of fishing. However the narrator establishes this as untrue as he says “I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna or on any other river for that matter”. The title itself gives an opportunity to the reader to question it as the title is completely different from the subject of the poem.
The narrator then states the ignorance of fishing when he says” have I had the pleasure-if it is one” in line 5. The narrator makes the reader feel the presence in the environment in which he prefers being in than fishing on a river, as indicated in lines 8 and 9 “I am more likely to be found in a quiet room like this”. He tells us that it is more convenient for him to look at “a painting of a woman on the wall/ a bowl of tangerines on the table”. In lines 9 and 10, than actually going out and fishing. The readers are able to feel a bit of appreciation of the Art piece on the wall from the narrator.
The narrator continues repeating “fishing on the Susquehanna” to engrave his point and emphasising on how much, he dislikes fishing and at the same time his mildly amusing the other people who like fishing or who go fishing on the Susquehanna. The narrator continues to describe the experience of which his trying to manufacture by looking at the painting about fishing and uses enjambment in lines 15 and 16 to combine his ideas, “Fishing on the Susquehanna, rowing upstream in a wooden boat”. He is even reflects fragments and the process of imagination by describing in depth the pleasure and the joy “sliding the oars under the water”.
He goes on and says” then rising them to drip in the light”. This imagery allows the reader to visualise the rays of the light sparkling and shinning on the water coming off the oars. This shows us the strength of the power of the art from which the narrator is able to imagine and describe the painting. From the seventh stanza the narrator brings himself in the light and answers all the reader’s questions which were unsolved, “the nearest I have ever come to fishing on the Susquehanna” this instantly tells the reader that he has never been fishing or even given it a second thought for fishing on the Susquehanna.
“Was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia” the narrator illustrates the power of art to reader as he could successfully manufacture the sensation and the collect the experience of “fishing on the Susquehanna” with his imaginations just by creating his presence in the painting he was looking at in the museum of Philadelphia. The narrator says,” When I balanced a little egg of time/in front of the painting”.
This metaphorical time indicates the reader of how fragile and delicate the imaginations are, as they rush in our minds in small bits and pieces and if we aren’t careful then they might just disappear and never come back once they are gone. And clearly this event is very important to the narrator as from the poem. The narrator takes a step forward in describe the painting, “in which that river curled around the bend” this may send a message to the readers saying that imaginations are not always linear or just about one thing but they tend to change very quickly from one direction to the other.
The eighth and ninth stanza describes the nature and tells us that a large magnitude of information can be stored in one small piece of art. The reader is enabled to see the importance and how valuable art is to humans as it can store many memories and emotions and experience such as fishing which can be derived just by looking at the picture and without actually going fishing. The narrator continues describing the picture and then, concludes “That is something I am unlikely/ ever to do” this tells us that the narrator is not interested at all in fishing.
His lifestyle is totally different from the people who go fishing on the Susquehanna, still he is able to get the experience and the touch of emotions through the power of art. I think the narrator message from this stanza is that art can break all the barrier, even when he doesn’t enjoy fishing and never has been fish he is able to acquire all the emotions and sensations through imaginations and art. In line 34 the narrator says, “Then I blinked and moved on/to other American scenes”.
The reader can see that it wasn’t only the painting of “Fishing on the Susquehanna” but there is a variety of other pictures in which the power art can be used for expressing the emotions and the feelings from. We readers have an extraordinary ability of getting the true effects or feelings from a picture by imagining. “I imagined him springing right out of the frame” in line 39, tells the reader more about how our imaginations are linked to our surroundings, what we see is what we think about.
Things like paintings or pictures can recall our emotions and experience which we had at that particular moment in our life. The poem “Fishing on the Susquehanna” by billy Collins is focused on our imaginations and the power of art to convey to the experiences and emotions to the readers. This poem reflects the pictures to the reality and the importance of imaginations in our daily life.