Consider the title and first two lines of Marianne Moore's "The Fish" (1921):
The FishThe first line of the poem performs two kinds of magic: it reveals what seemed to be a singular noun as a plural, and it gives these fish legs. To wade: "to step in or through a medium (as water) offering more resistance than air" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary). The second line adds another bit of magic, transforming the fishes' medium into one that offers more resistance than water. The water turns to stone via a metaphor whose visual accuracy is surprising: luminous, milky-black water does indeed look like black jade.
through black jade.
Another kind of magic: Moore's idiosyncratic sense of poetic form helps to slow down the movement that the sentence tracks. Compare:
The fish wade through black jade.And
The FISHThe short lines and extreme enjambment enact a deliberate, stubborn progress, four stresses in six syllables.
through BLACK JADE.
These strategies of metaphor, sound, and form return again and again in a poem that turns out to be not about the fish but about movement, difficulty, color, light, water, rock, survival, and time.
I never read Marianne Moore as a student: her poems must have seemed slight to an academic community caught up in Yeats' mythic self-absorption and Eliot's mythic impersonality. Now I'm catching up. You can read the poem via the link, Until the Real Thing Comes Along:
The Fish (via Google Book Search)
Q and A (What's in Moore's handbag?)