During one of my sessions at Murray for my MFA, I had the pleasure of taking a genre seminar over Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop. I love Bishop. I loved her from the moment I read “At the Fishhouses,” and this seminar reaffirmed my admiration for her. However, I also walked away from this seminar with a new found respect for Marianne Moore. I think that Moore is overlooked or over simplified because of the poems that editors choose to anthologize. Moore was brilliant, sharp, and wonderfully creative. She was also diverse. This afternoon my colleague mentioned how Moore translated La Fontaine, which she is teaching in her World Lit class. We discussed Moore for a bit, the conversation ending when we both mentioned the poem shown below:
I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
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
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
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
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
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.
The part about the toads is my favorite. I even managed to work it into my preface for my MA.