Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
I, too, dislike it.
- Our speaker informs us that she doesn't really like poetry either.
- We can't help but want to identify the speaker with the poet, at least slightly. From the title, we know that the speaker is going to talk about poetry and that what she says is going to appear in poetic form. The "I" here is clearly someone who thinks about poetry and knows something about it.
- The "too" implies that we, the readers, must share or agree with her judgment against poetry. She assumes that we, or at least some of us, dislike poetry.
- Hold on. The speaker doesn't say directly that she dislikes poetry. She says she dislikes "it." We assume that "it" refers back to the title, but it's interesting that she doesn't name poetry specifically. Why do you think she does this?
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
- Our speaker seems to be revising her statement from the first line by indicating that one can still find something in poetry, even if one reads it against one's will.
- "A perfect contempt" is pretty severe – more severe than simply "disliking" something. Is the speaker being so extreme because she really hates poetry, or so that her next statement, about what she still finds valuable in poetry, will seem more sincere?
- What do you think about the switch from "I" in the first line to "one" in the second line? Bonnie Costello, in her book Marianne Moore, Imaginary Possessions, writes, "Naturally both the general and the particular are complicated in this poem in which the speaker refuses to stand in one place, moving from 'I, too' to the impersonal 'one' in a defensive defense of poetry." In other words, Costello suggests that the speaker moves from a particular, individual position ("I") to a more general, impersonal position ("one") in order to build up and strengthen her defense of poetry. What do you think the speaker achieves by this change in pronouns?
- "In" is a strange place to break the line. The first line ends at the end of a complete phrase, so nothing appears amiss there, but breaking the second line after "one discovers in" seems a bit awkward, especially since the second line is so inexplicably long anyway.
it, after all, a place for the genuine.
- OK, that line break was totally awkward! Carrying over the phrase "one discovers in" from the second to the third lines (this "carrying over" is called "enjambment"), with just "it" leftover in the third line, is just bizarre. But it is also so strange that it must be deliberate. What is Moore trying to do here?
- Poetry is referred to, in the first line, as "it," and in the third line, poetry is a "place." If we picture poetry in our heads, we probably imagine some lines or maybe a book of poems. Would we ever think of these lines or this book as a place or location? How exactly is Moore defining poetry here?
- The speaker concludes that, after all, one can find something genuine in poetry. "Genuine" is an interesting word choice here. What do you think it means in this context? Compared to the pronoun "it," which Moore previously used to refer to poetry, the noun "the genuine" seems fairly specific ("it," on the other hand, could refer to anything). But how would we define "the genuine?"
- "Genuine" is a quality, a way of describing something, such as when we say, "That is the genuine article," or "I trust her; she seems really genuine." But it's not a concrete, independent object. Saying that we can find "the genuine" in poetry is not quite like saying we can find "oranges" or "fish" in poetry.