Thursday, September 01, 2005

Rereading Moore

Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
-------all this fiddle.
---Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
-------discovers in
--- it after all, a place for the genuine.
-------Hands that can grasp, eyes
-------that can dilate, hair that can rise
---------- if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
-------they are
--- useful. When they become so derivative as to become
--- the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
------- do not admire what
------- we cannot understand: the bat
-----------holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
--------wolf under
--- a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse
--------that feels a flea, the base-
---ball fan, the statistician--
--------nor is it valid
------------to discriminate against "business documents and

school-books"; all these phenomena are important. One must make
-------a distinction
---however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
-------result is not poetry,
--- nor till the poets among us can be
-------"literalists of
-------the imagination"--above
------------insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, "imaginary gardens with real toads in them,"
--------shall we have
---it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
---the raw material of poetry in
--------all its rawness and
--------that which is on the other hand
------------genuine, you are interested in poetry.


Hannah Craig said...


How interesting. I've just started my own Moore-undertaking, striving to really read through it all and get a good compression of the work into my head. Have three big old collected/selecteds and a book of her letters for this Labor Day weekend. So far, interesting and slightly intense reading.


feminine expressions said...

your poetry...must be even more incredible read aloud...

Nick said...


I prefer this version of the poem that originally appeared in her "Selected Poems" published in 1935 and the "Collected Poems" of 1951 over the other two incarnations: the original thirteen lines printed in Observations and the last version, appearing in the "Complete Poems" of 1967 in which the pome had been whittled down to 4 lines.

I believe the latter version invites misinterpretation. The longer version (38 lines)denigrates the kind of poetry where intellectualization has led to incomprehensibility, while simultaneously seeking to define what poetry ought to be. A mean feat to be sure.

Nick said...

Feminine Expressions,

I'm not sure to whom the "your" refers to:

i) If to Marianne Moore - unequivocally

ii) If to Hannah Craig - indubitably

ii) If to me - unassured(ly)

Hannah Craig said...

She's a fantastic editor. I have a few of the Selected/Collecteds, but right now I'm finishing up the one edited by Grace Schulman. Her forward opens with the story of Moore telling Schulman that she'd just reduced this poem (Poetry) to three lines, which she then prolonged to six lines.

"Delivering each word slowly and deliberately, as she did in her late years, she said that Edwin Kennebeck, her editor at Viking, feared that the editor in chief, Marshall Best, would fall dead when he saw it. 'But,' she recounted having said to Kennebeck, 'the rest of it seemed to be padding.'"

Nick said...

Great line: "the rest of it seemed to be padding."....hmmmm!