April 11, 2011

Poet for April 11, 2011 - Marianne Moore

On  the road again and tired and exhausted but here's a poem for today: After T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, I wondered which modernist poet I should feature today. I haven't read much Ezra Pound (too dense and difficult for me to understand any of it!) and haven't read any H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) either. But I have read and enjoyed a few poems by Marianne Moore and so, sharing a poem by her today.

Marianne Moore (Born: November 15 1887, ten months before T. S. Eliot was born in the same city - St. Louis, MO - Died: February 5 1972, NYC, NY)

by 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.
More about this poem here, here and here. Also, read this delightful interview with her in the Paris Review, interviewed by a then young Donald Hall.

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