final day of Poem-a-Day Month: “On Fishing” and “These Heroics”

at a fish market near Cape Town

In this post two very different poets (both from Knopf’s Poem-a-Day), one who wrote about fishing almost five hundred years ago in Korea, and a Canadian, who turned his poems into songs.

A good poem doesn’t have to be hard to understand or to memorize,  have to rhyme, or be of the “I wandered lonely as a cloud” variety many of us hated learning at school,  with a few skillfully chosen words a good poet can explain the deep mysteries of life.

Two Poems On Fishing by Kwon Homun (1532-1587)
translated from Korean by Jaihiun Kim

Should I go drinking and wenching?
Oh, no. It isn’t proper for the poet that I am.
Shall I go hunting wealth and honor?
I am not inclined that way either.
Well, let me be a fisherman or shepherd
and enjoy myself on the reedy shore.


When it stops raining at the fishing site
I will use green-moss for bait.
With no idea of catching the fish
I will enjoy watching them at play.
A slice of moon passes as it casts a silver line
onto the green stream below.



from the Pocket Poets collection, The Art of Angling, edited by Henry Hughes.

“Fishing has always inspired a wealth of poetry and the collection in this book includes Tang Dynasty meditations, Japanese haiku, medieval rhymes, classic verses by Homer and Shakespeare, poems by Donne, Goethe, Tennyson, and Yeats, as well as modern works by Federico García Lorca, Elizabeth Bishop, Ted Hughes, Robert Lowell, Raymond Carver, Atwood, Audre Lorde, Richard Hugo, and Derek Walcott.


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
[the more things change, the more they stay the same]
500 years later over here in North America Mr F’s preferred form of fishing is ‘catch-and-release‘ (though who knows how long there’ll still be fish to catch if we still use pesticides like atrazine).


The next poet doesn’t really need an introduction: Leonard Cohen (born 1934) a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet and novelist.

Some of his songs are like poems, and some of his poems are like songs; his rebellious, tender, sardonic voice inheres throughout.

These Heroics by Leonard Cohen

If I had a shining head
and people turned to stare at me
in the streetcars;
and I could stretch my body
through the bright water
and keep abreast of fish and water snakes;
if I could ruin my feathers
in flight before the sun;
do you think that I would remain in this room,
reciting poems to you,
and making outrageous dreams
with the smallest movements of your mouth?

                  – from Poems and Songs an Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets edition


About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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4 Responses to final day of Poem-a-Day Month: “On Fishing” and “These Heroics”

  1. souldipper says:

    I loved this, WR! Once I explored the internet and wallowed in ancient Japanese and Chinese poetry. Very eye opening for me.

    And as for my fellow countryman…well, let’s just say he’s the reason I am not in a relationship with another man. Leonard had the nerve to go into a monastery for years and come out celibate!

    Of course, Susanne played as I read and commented – thank you!

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you for writing souldipper. I’m really glad to know that you enjoyed the poems and the music.
      The Monastery where Leonard Cohen lived was on Mt Baldy which I can see from the Museum 🙂

  2. Barbara Rodgers says:

    Oh my, I haven’t listened to “Suzanne” in years…
    “A slice of moon passes as it casts a silver line” – what a beautiful line from the second Kwon Homun poem. When you think about it, fishing does serve as great inspiration for poetic metaphors. I enjoyed your selections…

    • dearrosie says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed listening to Leonard Cohen singing “Suzanne”,
      and also that you liked the poetry I chose. Thanks for writing to tell me Barbara.

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