Wednesday, August 10, 2011

`An Impulse to Bring Glad Tidings'

How good of Nige to remind us of Marianne Moore’s goodness (and The Dabbler’s):

“Moore is to me one of those poets who seem to fill the world, and the business of living, with so many more possibilities and so much less ponderous necessity.”

Those aren’t the only reasons to read poetry, but try thinking of a poet who doesn’t “dwell in Possibilities” whose work you actually look forward to reading. I remember sitting on a school bus, against the window, reading Moore’s Collected Poems – a brand-new book in 1967. I already knew her “Poetry,” the earlier thirty-eight-line version, probably from an Oscar Williams anthology. In its Collected incarnation, the poem looks vandalized:

“I, too, dislike it.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
it, after all, a place for the genuine.”

I read the freeze-dried version as a rare ungenerous gesture by Moore, hacked out of the “real” poem in a fit of petulance, and still do. Too much stress on “dislike” and “contempt.” Good poetry feels abundant, even when laconic, at once dense and nimble.

Gender politics aside, most of our (American) best poets have been women – Dickinson, Moore, Bogan, Lewis, Bishop, Pinkerton, Ryan (sounds like a Boston law firm). I don’t know what to make of this but it makes me happy, and Moore’s poems are a reliable antidote to life’s blues – and poetry’s. In 1966, in a letter to Writer’s Digest, Moore quotes John Cheever approvingly, as I quote her:

“I have an impulse to bring glad tidings. My sense of literature is one of giving, not diminishing.”

1 comment:

Ron Slate said...

"Simultaneously dense and nimble" -- unanticipated yet inevitable. It's good to be reminded of Moore -- and just at that moment when I was heading off to find something on the shelf for the next hour, waiting for the plumber to get here. Thank you, Patrick.