Monday, January 3, 2011

Marianne Moore

Modernist American poet Marianne Moore (1887–1972) was a devout Presbyterian all her life. She experimented with rhythm — using a syllabic count rather than traditional metre — and avoided traditional poetic allusions. She became extremely influential as editor of The Dial in the 1920s. Her poetry was promoted by such poets as H.D., William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot.

She demonstrates her honesty and humility in her poems by frequently using quotation marks. When Donald Hall asked her about this, in an interview, conducted for The Paris Review in 1960, she replied, “I was just trying to be honorable and not to steal things. I’ve always felt that if a thing had been said in the best way, how can you say it better? If I wanted to say something and somebody had said it ideally, then I’d take it but give the person credit for it.”

In her famous poem "Poetry" she says:
------“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 in
----------it after all, a place for the genuine...”

Her Collected Poems (1951) received the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the Bollingen Prize.


Beauty and Beauty's son and rosemary —
Venus and Love, her son, to speak plainly —
born of the sea supposedly,
at Christmas each, in company,
braids a garland of festivity.
------Not always rosemary —

since the flight to Egypt, blooming differently.
With lancelike leaf, green but silver underneath,
its flowers — white originally —
turned blue. The herb of memory,
imitating the blue robe of Mary,
------is not too legendary

to flower both as symbol and as pungency.
Springing from stones beside the sea,
the height of Christ when thirty-three,
it feeds on dew and to the bee
“hath a dumb language”; is in reality
------a kind of Christmas tree.

The above quotation is from Sir Thomas More. Marianne Moore’s own notes on the poem tell us of a Spanish legend in which Mary threw her cloak over a rosemary bush, while resting on the flight into Egypt, and the flowers turned blue; another source says that rosemary, after 33 years, will not grow further in height — “the height of Christ”.

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Marianne Moore: second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: