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
useful; when they become so derivative as to become
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
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
on wish it; nor is it valid
to discriminate against “business documents and
school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must make
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the autocrats among us can be
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, you are interested in poetry.
This poem is in the public domain.
About This Poem
“Poetry” was published in Others for 1919: An Anthology of the New Verse (Nicholas L. Brown, 1920), edited by Alfred Kreymborg.
Marianne Moore was born on November 15, 1887, near St. Louis, Missouri. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry including Observations (The Dial Press, 1924), What Are Years? (Macmillan, 1941), and Collected Poems (Macmillan, 1951), which won the Pulitzer Prize. She died on February 5, 1972.
Photo credit: George Platt Lynes