Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Marianne Moore

I’m not quite sure what to do with Ms. Moore. She was a plain, sharp, prickly little woman, and she’s a prickly poet, all brittle edges and acerbic burrs. It took me a long time to warm up to her, but being so warmed, I find myself a bit of an acolyte.

Her poetry is not, however, a quick romp through emotional peaks and valleys. She is not the poet to turn to for rapturous exultations on the glories of dew-kissed spring morns or gold-and-umber autumn leaves. She's not the poet for fits of anything, except perhaps pique. I would have hated her had I read her as a teenager. Her work is suited for moments of quiet, irritated contemplation – those moments when you can’t altogether relax, when the radiators are making clanging noises that intrude on your reverie and remind you that it is brutally cold, unforgiving,and unwelcoming outside. And that’s fine. That’s exactly how it ought to be. One had never expected things to be otherwise.

That probably hasn’t clarified things, so here’s a poem.


My father used to say,
"Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow's grave
nor the glass flowers at Harvard.
Self reliant like the cat --
that takes its prey to privacy,
the mouse's limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth --
they sometimes enjoy solitude,
and can be robbed of speech
by speech which has delighted them.
The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
not in silence, but restraint."
Nor was he insincere in saying, "`Make my house your inn'."
Inns are not residences.

Later today or tomorrow, I will share with you the delight that is Parisian Gnocchi.

Marianne Moore on Wikipedia

Marianne Moore on

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