Poetry

2    Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers that there is in
3    it after all, a place for the genuine.
5        that can dilate, hair that can rise
6            if it must, these things are important not because a
7high sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are
8    useful; when they become so derivative as to become unintelligible,
9    the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
10        do not admire what
11        we cannot understand: the bat,
12            holding on upside down or in quest of something to
14    a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base­
15    ball fan, the statistician --
16        nor is it valid
18school-books": all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
19    however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry,
20    nor till the poets among us can be
22        the imagination" -- above
23            insolence and triviality and can present
25    it. In the meantime, if you demand on one hand,
26    the raw material of poetry in
27        all its rawness and
28        that which is on the other hand
29            genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

Notes

1] Later Moore cut the poem to only three lines:
I, too, dislike it.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
it, after all, a place for the genuine.
fiddle: "fussy trifling" (OED sb 6). Back to Line
4] dilate: widen (said of the pupils of the eye, in response to a loss of light). Back to Line
13] taking a roll: rolling in the dust, as to get rid of lice (OED "roll," sb 2, 1b "go and have a roll"; see 1820 citation). Back to Line
17] "Diary of Tolstoy; Dutton, p. 84: `Where the boundary between prose and poetry lies, I shall never be able to understand. The question is raised in manuals of style, yet the answer to it lies beyond me. Poetry is verse: prose is not verse. Or else poetry is everything with the exception of business documents and school books.'" Moore's note, p. 96, refers to Leo Tolstoy's Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, trans. C. J. Hogarth (New York:Dutton, 1912); PG 3366 .D5 St. Michael's College Library. Back to Line
21] "`literalists of the imagination': Yeats; Ideas of Good and Evil, 1903; William Blake and his Illustrations to The Divine Comedy; p. 182; `The limitation of his view was from the very intensity of his vision; he was a too literal realist of imagination, as others are of nature; and because he believed that the figures seen by the mind's eye, when exalted by inspiration were `eternal existences,' symbols of divine essences, he hated every grace of style that might obscure their lineaments.'" Moore's note, p. 96, refers to W. B. Yeats' Ideas of Good and Evil (London: A.H. Bullen, 1903); del Y439 I33 1903a Fisher Rare Book Library. Back to Line
24] imaginary gardens with real toads in them: in some editions, Moore places quotation marks around these words, but their sourceis unknown. Possibly Moore had in mind "the garden front of Toad Hall"in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (New York: C. Scribner's sons, 1907; 1913 copy at del F Fisher Rare Book Library), a children's book with real poems in it. Cf. Grahame's account of Toad of Toad Hall: "During luncheon -- which was excellent, of course, as everything at Toad Hall always was -- the Toad simply let himself go. Disregarding the Rat, he proceeded to play upon the inexperienced Mole as on a harp. Naturally a voluble animal, and always mastered by his imagination, hepainted the prospects of the trip and the joys of the open life and the roadside in such glowing colours that the Mole could hardly sit in his chair for excitement" (Gutenberg text). Back to Line
Original Text: 
Marianne Moore, Observations (New York: The Dial Press, 1924): 30-31. PS 3525 O5616 O28 1924 Robarts Library. [Reprint of Poems (London: The Egoist Press, 1921), with some additions]
Publication Start Year: 
1919
Publication Notes: 
Others 5 (July 1919): 5.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.
Rhyme: