Monday, April 07, 2008

Poem of the Day - April 5

The following poem was written by the American Modernist poet, Marianne Moore, in 1935. It has long been one of my favorites and is a wonderful manifesto on what poetry should be and do in the modern world.

by Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
        all this fiddle.
    Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
        discovers in
    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
        they are
    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
        wolf under
    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
        a distinction
    however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
        result is not poetry,
    nor till the poets among us can be
        "literalists of
        the imagination"--above
            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.

From The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. Copyright © 1961 Marianne Moore, © renewed 1989 by Lawrence E. Brinn and Louise Crane, executors of the Estate of Marianne Moore.

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