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Poetry (by Moore)

Poetry (by Moore)


by Marianne Moore

Analysis: Calling Card

Conciseness, Irony, Non-Poetic Quotations, Syllabic Form, Animal Behavior, Museum Objects, Baseball

Living up to its title, "Poetry" is a condensed, in-a-nutshell expression of Moore's broader poetic style. Moore begins her Complete Poems with the note, "Omissions are not accidents," and she really means it. She cuts down "Poetry" from 29 lines to just 3 but still includes the longer version in the endnotes, so we can know the full impact of her omissions.

The language in Moore's poems is always as precise and pared down as possible (you can almost imagine her as a carpenter, whittling words away), and maybe because of this, you'll never get extreme and romantic expressions of emotion from her. She often sounds like a slightly removed observer, always analytical and sometimes ironic.

Moore prefers to quote from newspapers and textbooks rather than Wordsworth or Shakespeare. In the longer version of "Poetry," she writes that a poet should not "discriminate against 'business documents and school-books.'" She frequently writes about subjects that aren't typically "poetic," which explains her many descriptions of animal behavior, curiosities found in museums, and even baseball games.

While Moore doesn't stick to conventional poetic forms, her poems often follow elaborate but consistent patterns in how many syllables appear in each line. The longer version of "Poetry" is an example of Moore's syllabic form, but this structure disappears from the pared-down version. Check out "Form and Meter" for more on the poem's revised form.

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