A Famous Poet’s Poem About Poetry

Happy Birthday to Marianne Moore!

Marianne Moore (1887-1972) was born on November 15, 1887, in Kirkwood, Missouri; influential American poet, critic, editor, and translator. In 1952, her book, Collected Poems, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the National Book Award for Poetry. Her many poetry collections include The Pangolin and Other Verse, What Are Years, and O to Be a Dragon. She died at age 84 in 1972, after a series of strokes.

Marianne Moore was a true original – she was so original that critics and academics are still arguing about what some of her poems really mean!

In her poem called “Poetry” she begins by admitting to disliking poetry! – But then she goes on to explain what she means.

To read Marianne Moore’s “Poetry” click:


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 that there is 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 unintelligible, 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 twinkling his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base—
   ball fan, the statistician—case after case
      could be cited did
      one wish it; 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 autocrats 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, in defiance of their opinion—
   the raw material of poetry in
      all its rawness, and
      that which is on the other hand,
         genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

“Poetry” (from Others for 1919: An Anthology of the New Verse) is in the public domain.

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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2 Responses to A Famous Poet’s Poem About Poetry

  1. wordcloud9 says:

    You’re very welcome – thank you for reading it

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