Diane Durant, “The Fish”

The Fish, in full.

Detail from the end of the piece, showing wooden box.

Detail from the beginning of the piece.

Detail of front cover and backside of the book.

Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset
Detail of hand lettering and paper.


Diane Durant(Fort Worth, Texas)

The Fish
Found wooden box, ink on Rives BFK/Hand lettering, handmade flag book
Unique work
9 5/8 x 18 x 7″

This piece started as a poem — a poem about a fish, about letting go. And it became an exchange, not only between the fisherwoman and the trout, but also an exchange between reader and storyteller, between the fiction of the poem and the reality of the book object. Perhaps it’s better stated that this piece started as an experience, and by giving the words an even more physical form, the viewer/reader is allowed to re-­experience it, the movement (the pull and sway, pull and sway, pull and sway), and the choice: keeping a fish hooked to the line, to me (and you), and finally letting it go. Unlike reading text on a flattened page, here the viewer sways from tab to tab across the accordion folds, rhythmically mimicking the act of the fish fighting against the water, against the storyteller. The text itself is comprehensible, but the order of the phrases does challenge the reader to pay attention and recognize that the middle row of tabs consists of the words or lines from the poem that slice and move and carry one through the experience (of the book and of fishing), rather than directly reproducing the original line breaks. But the “original” poem doesn’t exist in any accessible form, so the reader is left alone to address any complications or uncertainty regarding how to read the book and simply go with the flow (or the pull and sway, and perhaps eventually, ultimately, let it go.

As a part of my 2015 solo exhibition entitled The silent air of ruin is fragile, which was a documentary response to John Graves’ Goodbye to A River and creative commentary on the ecology of drought along the Brazos River (and my childhood landscape), The Fish addressed the more emotional and psychological experience of catch and release. The full text of the original poem is below. (The full text of the original experience is mine…)

The Fish
Carving through green water
like a trailing point blade through flesh,
a nondescript trout fish knifes its way upstream,
unhindered by the hook and line
tethering us together.
Monofilament laced between my fingers,
I join in his cadenced
    and sway
    and sway
    and sway
and I wish for another Elizabeth Bishop poem
where letting him go isn’t heroic
but a necessity —
to set my own limbs free.