Study Guide

Poetry (by Moore) Quotes

By Marianne Moore

  • Empathy

    I, too, dislike it. (line 1)

    The "too" here suggests that the speaker empathizes with another person, or group of people, who dislike poetry. The speaker isn't just spontaneously declaring her own opinion; she is responding to a prevailing opinion or feeling.

    Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers (line 2)

    When the speaker began the first sentence with "I," she quickly added a "too" to indicate her membership in a larger group. In the second sentence, the speaker delays using any noun at all, leaving who is reading poetry and who has a perfect contempt for it ambiguous. When she finally introduces a noun, it is the impersonal and all-encompassing "one."

  • Dissatisfaction

    I, too, dislike it. (line 1)

    The speaker's sentiments here are pretty clear: she doesn't like poetry. However, she's not the only one; the inclusion of "too" suggests that disliking poetry is a shared feeling.

    with a perfect contempt for it (line 2)

    This phrase reconfirms the speaker's dislike of poetry, but it also suggests that the speaker looks down on it. She doesn't abhor or fear poetry, and she doesn't try to avoid it. She continues reading it, but with a certain disdain. Describing her contempt as "perfect" also implies that her reservations about poetry will be hard to overcome.

  • Transformation

    I, too, dislike it. (line 1)

    The speaker uses the pronoun "it" to refer to poetry, marking poetry's first transformation. Although this change in language (from "poetry" to "it") may seem trivial, notice that Moore never calls poetry by name in the body of the poem. She refers to poetry as "it" a number of times and then concludes by calling poetry "a place for the genuine." The changing names for poetry might actually indicate a broader transformation: a changing conception of poetry's definition.

    Reading it, however (line 2)

    From the first line, we can't know for sure why the speaker dislikes poetry and whether she dislikes specific poems, all poems, or just the idea of poetry in general. Does she dislike her own poems or other writers'? In the poem's second line, the speaker clarifies that she speaks from the perspective of a reader rather than a writer. She then throws in the word "however." We know from this word that her dislike is not so simple; we can guess that the speaker will backtrack on her initial statement and will, instead, offer a different or modified opinion about poetry.

    one discovers in
    it, after all (lines 2-3)

    As discussed under "Form and Meter" and in the "Detailed Summary" of lines 2 and 3, this line break is incredibly awkward. One explanation for it is that it's a remnant of the poem's previous syllabic form. When the poem was 29 lines long, this line break kept the syllable count of line 2 consistent with the syllable counts of the other stanzas' second lines. Once Moore took out her eraser and got rid of the other stanzas (and significant parts of this one), the line break stopped making sense. She left the line break in, though, possibly as a souvenir of the original poem.

  • Literature and Writing

    Poetry (title)

    This one-word title appears simple, but the rest of the poem makes us realize that it's actually a big mystery. How does the speaker define poetry? What specifically about poetry does she dislike? What does it mean for poetry to be "a place"? Is "the genuine" the defining characteristic of poetry, or is it something we only occasionally find in poetry? If you're interested in thinking more about this, check out "What's Up With the Title?"

    Reading it (line 2)

    In "Poetry," the speaker does not describe her own writing process, but rather her experience of reading poetry. She presents herself as a fellow reader, just like you and me. Nonetheless, we can still read her poem as a prescription for how poems should be written. She seems to be saying that the value of poetry lies in the reader's discovery of the genuine, and poets should consider how they might best produce this effect.