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The Devoted Angler

The river follows on its winding way,
And in the angler’s camp above the bank
Lilt murmurings arise to greet the day,
Appearing now between the rushes rank
As rays backlighting flower spikes to grey,
And silver flecks in ripples making play
Wherever waters lap and currents stray.

He wakes to reel in weighted lines which sank
Along with falling light the day before,
Revealing fish ashimmer head to tail
From sunlight casting higher scale by scale.
The angler stuns and bleeds with movements sure
Each fish he lays with reverence on ice—
Full knowing we’re sustained through sacrifice.

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David Watt is a writer from Canberra, the “Bush Capital” of Australia. He has contributed regularly to Collections of Poetry and Prose by Robin Barratt. When not working for IP (Intellectual Property) Australia, he finds time to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of traditional rhyming poetry.


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19 Responses

  1. jd

    “Intrinsic” beauty in your poem, David, which paints
    a lovely picture. I love the final twist from fish to man. I do have a question about “lilt” in line three,
    never before having seen it used as an adjective.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you very much jd. Yes, lilting would be the usual adjective, but the use of lilt in this instance seemed suitably descriptive.

      Reply
  2. Sally Cook

    Such a graceful poem — each line comprarble to fishing line, drifting. And I am glad you acknowledge the sacrifice of the fish. When reading, I thought of some Oriental watercolors I’ve seen and admired.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Sally, I am delighted that you find my poem graceful. I am also a fan of Oriental watercolors, so thanks for the thoughtful connection.

      Reply
  3. Satyananda Sarangi

    The beauty of these lines is immaculate – it’s going to be in my memory for a long time now.
    Thanks for letting us read it.

    Reply
  4. John E. Norvell

    Lovely poem David. Strongly vivid descriptions with enough emotion to capture the feel of the scene. Great job

    Reply
  5. Jeff Eardley

    David, this is a most evocative piece. Superbly constructed and a beauty to read. I can almost hear a harp playing to accompany your most enjoyable words today. Thank you.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you Satyananda, John, and Jeff for your most positive comments.
      I can’t claim that my own fishing lines have always been full of shimmering fish, but at least half the enjoyment is found in the outdoor experience.

      Reply
  6. Yael

    When I first began reading this I didn’t think I was going to like a fishing poem, probably because the anglers I’ve known were not interesting conversation partners and I’m not into angling. But I really do like your poem. It has great economy of words, as it packs a lot of imagery into only 2 stanzas or 14 lines. The scenes and actions described therein sound so vivid, beautiful and interesting, it makes the angler’s activity seem good and desirable. Definitely not boring, great job!

    Reply
  7. Yael

    I forgot to mention, the luminist painting is really awesome too!

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Evan has indeed chosen a beautifully atmospheric painting to accompany my poem. It is true Yael that fishing can sometimes be seen as a boring exercise.
      Fortunately, there are no end of attractive fishing images available for description.

      Reply
  8. Margaret Coats

    A most interesting formal arrangement of the poem, which leads to surprises regarding the topic. It looks like two stanzas: dawn landscape and fisherman activity, with “He wakes” marking the transition. But the lovely dawn description continues (maybe there wasn’t a real transition?) until line 12 becomes the unique line set apart as further transition, because it describes the uglier part of fishing. After that, a summary couplet where the fish are fresh food we might find at the market, showing the practical purpose of any fishing that is not mainly recreational.

    My fishing has never been “devoted.” I don’t make camp, leave lines out when I’m not paying attention, or rise early. I rarely kill fish, and wouldn’t know how to do it in a way that makes them attractive “whole and fresh” items for sale or freezer. In fact, I don’t put fish on ice because I always clean and cook the catch immediately. So you’ve reminded of my half-day, partly recreational fishing, by contrast with your detailed and beautiful picture of “The Devoted Angler.” Very nice work, David.

    Please change the semicolon ending line 3 to a comma! Lines 1-3 form a complete sentence, but 4-8 do not, and they are too strictly separated from the “day” they describe. Or fix the problem by beginning line 5 with, “Are rays . . .”

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      Sorry, I meant to say that lines 4-7 are not a complete sentence.

      Reply
  9. David Watt

    Hello Margaret, thanks for your detailed comments, and helpful suggestion for line 3. I have requested that the change from a semicolon to a comma be made.
    In writing “Full knowing we’re sustained by sacrifice” I was also alluding to the fisherman’s Christian faith influencing his attitude to the process of fishing. Therefore, the devotion can be seen as both a devotion to fishing and the result of his own faith.

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      Thanks for making that clear! There is a subtle vocabulary connection between “devoted” in the title, and “sacrifice” in the final line. Some critics would deny that your poem can be interpreted as you say, but who are they to say so? I am glad to see an author assert the accuracy of a reading based on a whispered suggestion–because a reader can find such a thing even when the author doesn’t intend it. And in readings like that, the author cannot criticize the reader any more than the critic can. A poem is made of vastly meaningful words, from language larger than our individual minds! Thanks for giving me another understanding of your poem, as well as a validation of my critical premise.

      Reply
  10. Brian Yapko

    David, this is quite a wonderful poem with a fascinating rhyme scheme and a satisfying richness — almost chewiness (if that makes sense) — of language which I appreciated even more when I read this out loud. The sentiments expressed are deep and unexpected. Thank you for this.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you Brian for your appreciation. I didn’t set out to have this exact rhyme scheme, but that is how it developed.

      Reply
  11. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    David, this poem speaks to me. I love the intrigue of the form, the musicality and the message – intriguing rhyme scheme, alliteration, and internal rhyme always appeal… this poem says so much in its brevity and has touched my heart. It’s a beauty. Thank you!

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you very much Susan. I am a great admirer of your internal skills, so your comment is greatly appreciated.

      Reply

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