BibliographyEssay: Critique of “Poetry”
Recenttimes have seen a widespread acknowledgement and recognition of thefundamental role that literary works play in the growth anddevelopment of societies particularly in the contemporary humansociety. This may particularly have emanated from the fact thatliterary works are primarily based on the experiences of theirauthors in the societies within which they live and, besidesentertaining and educating, are aimed at criticism the ills of thatsociety, as well as imbuing in the readers the idea that they couldstrive for a better way of living. Unfortunately, it is not alwaysthat literary works can be easily comprehended particularly in thecase of poetry, which usually has hidden meanings andincomprehensible sentences. In essence, it is common for poems to beanalyzed by other scholars and critiqued so as to bring out thehidden meaning or explain the message of the poet or poetess. This isthe case for Marianne Moore’s poem “Poetry”.
Inthis poem, Moore explains the ideas pertaining to the poetry that sheadmires and repudiates. She registers her dislike for poetry that shesees as “fiddle” poetry, which is written pertaining tostereotypical subjects like nature”. She states that such works areso abstract that it would be difficult for the readers to comprehendtheir meaning or message that the poet aims at putting across. Moorefeels that the poets who write in this manner are half-ports whooften take opinions as truths before covering them up with overlyintellectual or pretty language. This activity results in theobscuring of the genuine, or “truth” if at all it existed in thefirst place.
Asexpected, Moore’s poem has attracted quite an immense amount ofcriticism and analysis. This is especially as a result of herthoughts and the manner in which she has chosen to express them. Incritiquing “Poetry”, Jeanne Heuving noted that the impliedaudience of Moore varies from individuals who are rightfully supposedto dislike poetry to the category of people who are interested inpoetry. Indeed, the first line “I too dislike it” is anunsuccessful attempt by Moore to offer a definition of poetry that isnot entrapped in the negative. Heuving notes that Moore is caughtbetween conflicting impulses where she needs to engage theirreducible expressions and issues while still desiring to come upwith a general and universal definition of poetry (Heuving 49).However, Heuving stated that in the case of Moore, the genuine comesas an inexpressible quality as seen in the statement “amagnetism, an ardor, a refusal to be false”that can never be translated directly into written word or art. As aconsequence, the poem has regularly been interpreted as an effort tocreate what cannot be created or realize what cannot be realized. Onthe same note, she sees the poem as falling in the category ofearlier poems by Moore where she adamantly refuses to be in line withother poets and instead makes a virtue of her isolation (Heuving 52).However, this may underline the fact that the desire by Moore tostamp her independence may actually be her desire to assert hervariation from the conventions and language of poetry that she feelsare not representative of her ideals. Indeed, it may be difficult forMoore to attain the “genuine” in her poetry as she is outside thecentral vision or spectrum of masculinist “universal” poeticsthat could afford her a semblance of the “unmediated” real.Heuving also notes that as much as Moore desperately strives todefine poetry that she has always dedicated herself to, each of herassertions is covered or confused by subsequent assertions thusmaking it extremely difficult to determine what her recommendationspertaining to poetry are (Heuving 53). It is worth noting that Mooreoutlines her definitions pertaining to poetry primarily by outliningthe manner in which individuals do not experience poetry, since sheprogressively leaves behind the examples and definitions that shemade earlier. This makes it difficult for the reader to tell therecommendations that Moore is making but also there is a frequentshifting of the perspectives or view from which a particular aspectof this poem may be considered (Heuving 54). It is noteworthy, forinstance, that after Moore praises poetry as a “placefor the genuine”she goes ahead to outline bodily functions that are emblematic of,response to, or even stimulus for the genuine and possibly all three.
CharlesAltieri is similarly in the dark pertaining to the real meaning ofthe poem and the perspective from which Moore writes it.Nevertheless, he acknowledges that the poem does not revolve aroundthe genuine so much as it comes off as the literal action that triesto locate what the poet persistently calls “it” in the one waythat would provide “it” with significant content (Altieri 43). Henotes that instead of proliferating names for this pronoun, it isimperative that readers allow it to read them to self reflection onthe forces gathered within the poem. Altieri, however, notes that theplay of virtual identifications and forces has not been provided witha specific context. This, nevertheless, does not negate the fact thatit plays the important role of showing the thoroughness by whichcertain active forces in her poems would resonate alongside qualitiesthat may be marked as gendered by some situations (Altieri 46). Inessence, it is imperative that readers see the manner in which Mooreconcentrates her attention to these characteristics. This can only bedone in the most effective way by shifting from the things that Mooreshares through non-iconic painterly strategies to the aspect ofdeparting from its natural concerns. Further, Moore underlines theimportance of instincts and physical responses in the comprehensionof poetry. Indeed, she takes note of "eyes/ that can dilate, hair that can rise / if it must",which are human reactions to external stimuli. Charles agrees that itis imperative that poetry functions in more or less the same way.Indeed, he opines that poetry should not be so difficult and complexthat the readers would only relate with it on an intellectual levelrather it should also have the capacity to stimulate the readers viatheir physical senses. In instances when it is too abstract, theaudience would be lost particularly because it would be difficult forindividuals to admire things that they never comprehend. This,however, does not negate the importance of hidden meanings. Indeed,in spite of the readers’ inability to comprehend phenomena, it isimperative that they repeatedly explore it and follow the humaninstinct to not only investigate but also describe its inner meaning.Moore, in fact, states that abstract poetry would still be worth thereaders’ attention since it is no more difficult to comprehend thaneverything else that they come across in their lives.
However,other scholars have underlined the fact that it would be difficult tocomprehend “Poetry” by examining it in isolation. Indeed, Shankarnotes that the poem’s argument is persistently an interplay betweenitself and the notes. Shankar also states that along the citationsmade from Tolstoy, two other phrases that are in quotation marks inthe poem may be comprehended to remark the quotation technique of thepoetess. For instance, the sentence “Imaginarygardens with real toads in them”,whose original has never been found, can be read as a metaphor forthe poetess’ quotation-studded poetry in instances where thequotations would be perceived as toads, while the poems incorporatingthem are the gardens. This is also the case for the phrase“literalist of the imagination” which would be a fair descriptionfor Moore who is known to incorporate literal borrowings in her poemsinstead of figurative and allusive borrowings (Shankar 147). Tounderline the fact that the poem’s argument is an interplay betweenthe notes and the poem itself, Gregory comes up with varied examplesof borrowed phrases that have been slightly changed or modified.Gregory notes that the phrases are not derived from secondary sourcesrather they come from attempts made by established literaryauthorities such as Yeats and Tolstoy to come up with a definition ofpoetry. Of particular note is the fact that Moore borrows from themso as to disagree. The use of this turnabout particularly whenarguing with such authorities is aimed at claiming authority for theauthoritative, which would be a complicated move that is aimed atmaneuvering her to an authoritative position. On the same note, thisaction subvert or undermines the likelihood of the conventionalauthority through eliminating its basis in familiar and stableorders, as well as redefining authority as flux.
Similarsentiments are expressed by Lloyd Frankenberg who notes that One ofthe ways in which the interrogation of authority has been manifestedin “Poetry” was in the varied revisions that Moore developed ofthe poem over the years (Frankenberg 174). It is noteworthy that thepoem was quite known and well liked even in all of its subversiveplayfulness. However, its fundamental argument generated somechallenges for the poet. Indeed, it is noted that if the firstpublication was “genuine”, it lost some aspects of itsgenuineness through its own lights after it became well known.Frankenberg also notes that through relegating the popular longerversions to the periphery of endnotes, the poetess essentiallychallenged the poem’s and any other poem’s claim to authority andstability (Frankenberg 176). Of course, it is well noted that Moorerevised this poem considerably and was even able to eliminate some ofthe familiarity in the later publications. However, even as Mooredemoted the longer versions, she essentially recreated them as someform of guarantor that has authority on the basis of priority, thathas the capacity to support the shorter and newer version. On thesame note, Moore generates some sense of alienation for the poetess’audience or readers, who have no knowledge pertaining to the mannerin which a poem can be exiled to the notes. Frankenberg notes thatthis element of unfamiliarity would create the possibility forprerequisite genuineness, although it would not ensure it.
Altieri,Charles. PainterlyAbstraction in Modernist American Poetry: The Contemporaneity ofModernism.Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 2010. Print
Frankenberg,Lloyd. "The Imaginary Garden." QuarterlyReview of Literature 4(2010): 173-77.
Heuving,Jeanne. OmissionsAre Not Accidents: Gender in the Art of Marianne Moore.New York: Wayne State UP. 2012. Print
Shankar,D. A. "The Poetry of Marianne Moore." TheLiterary Criterion 5(Winter 2012): 147. Print