Marianne Moore

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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.

Marianne Moore (15 November 18875 February 1972) was a Modernist American poet and writer. Her work Collected Poems (1951) earned her the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Bollingen Prize.

Quotes[edit]

A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.
You are not male nor female, but a plan deep-set within the heart of man.
  • War is pillage versus resistance and if illusions of magnitude could be transmuted into ideals of magnanimity, peace might be realized.
    • "Comment" in The Dial, No. 86 (April 1929)
  • What I write could only be called poetry because there is no other category to put it.
    • Interview with Donald Hall in Paris Review (November 1960)
  • A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.
    • Interview in Writers at Work, Second Series, ed. George Plimpton (1963)
  • You are not male nor female, but a plan
    deep-set within the heart of man.
    • "Sun" from Tell Me, Tell Me (1966)
  • Consume hostility;
    employ your weapon in this meeting-place of surging enmity!
    Insurgent feet shall not outrun
    multiplied flames, O Sun.
    • "Sun" from Tell Me, Tell Me (1966)
  • Omissions are not accidents.
    • The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore (1967), Author's note, p. vi
  • A willingness to satisfy contradictory objections to one's manner of writing might turn one's work into the donkey that finally found itself being carried by its masters, since some readers suggest that quotation marks are disruptive of pleasant progress; others, that notes to what should be complete are a pedantry or evidence of an insufficiently realized task. But since in anything I have written, there have been lines in which the chief interest is borrowed, and I have not yet been able to outgrow this hybrid method of composition, acknowledgements seem only honest. Perhaps those who are annoyed by provisos, detainments, and postscripts could be persuaded to take probity on faith and disregard the notes.
    • The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore (1967), "A Note On The Notes", p. 262
  • Everything I have written is the result of reading or of interest in people.
    • As quoted in Marianne Moore, Poet of Affection (1977) by Pamela White Hadas, p. 6

Poetry (1919)[edit]

"Poetry", first published in Others : A Magazine of the New Verse (July 1919), later in Others for 1919: An Anthology of the New Verse (1920), edited by Alfred Kreymborg. This underwent many revisions in published and unpublished forms, the most controversial being in The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore (1967) where only the first 2 sentences are retained in the main presentation, and the rest of it is presented as "Original version" in the endnotes of the book.
  • 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.
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 they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become unintelligible,
the 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 wolf under
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician —
nor is it valid
to discriminate against “business documents and
school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
“literalists of
the imagination” — above
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,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

The Poems of Marianne Moore (2003)[edit]

That which is impossible to force, it is impossible to hinder.
So wary as to disappear for centuries and reappear but never caught, the unicorn has been preserved by an unmatched device wrought like the work of expert blacksmiths...
Though many of these are available in other volumes, these quotes are listed in the sequence in which they occur in The Poems of Marianne Moore (2003) edited by Grace Schulman, which arranges them in chronological sections. Dates provided are those of first publication, where known.
He's not out seeing a sight but the rock crystal thing to see...
Beauty is everlasting and dust is for a time.
Some speak of things we know, as new;
And you, of things unknown as things forgot.
Maine should be pleased that its animal is not a waverer, and rather than fight, lets the primed quill fall.
Staff and effigy of the animal which by shedding its skin is a sign of renewal — the symbol of medicine.
The Gordian knot need not be cut.
None can diverge from the ends which Heaven foreordained.
  • that which is impossible to force, it is impossible
    to hinder.
    • "Radical"
  • My father used to say "Superior people never make long visits."
    • "Silence"
  • The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
    not in silence, but restraint.
    • "Silence"
  • This is a strange fraternity — these sea lions and land lions,
    land unicorns and sea unicorns
    ;
    the lion civilly rampant,
    tame and concessive like the long-tailed bear of Ecuador —
    the lion standing up against this screen of woven air
    which is the forest:
    the unicorn also, on its hind legs in reciprocity.
    • "Sea Unicorns and Land Unicorns"
  • So wary as to disappear for centuries and reappear
    but never caught,
    the unicorn has been preserved
    by an unmatched device
    wrought like the work of expert blacksmiths ...
    • "Sea Unicorns and Land Unicorns"
  • He's not out
    seeing a sight but the rock
    crystal thing to see
    — the startling El Greco
    brimming with inner light — that
    covets nothing that it has let go. This then you may know
    as the hero.
    • "The Hero"
  • What is our innocence,
    what is our guilt? All are
    naked, none is safe.
    • "What Are Years?"
  • Beauty is everlasting
    and dust is for a time.
    • "In Distrust of Merits" (1944)
  • Some speak of things we know, as new;
    And you, of things unknown as things forgot.
    • "Quoting an Also Private Thought" (this poem is a very slight reworking of an earlier poem "As Has Been Said")
  • We Call Them the Brave
    who likely were reluctant to be brave.
    • "We Call Them the Brave" (the title of this poem is also obviously meant to be read as its first line, though set apart)
  • What of it? We call them brave
    perhaps? Yes; what if the time should come
    when no one will fight for anything
    and there's nothing of worth to save.
    • "We Call Them the Brave"
  • Maine should be pleased that its animal
    is not a waverer, and rather
    than fight, lets the primed quill fall.

    Shallow oppressor, intruder,
    insister, you have found a resister.
    • Of the porcupine, in "Apparition of Splendor"
  • A symbol from the first, of mastery,
    experiments such as Hippocrates made
    and substituted for vague
    speculation stayed
    the ravages of plague.
  • Staff and effigy of the animal
    which by shedding its skin
    is a sign of renewal —
    the symbol of medicine.
    • "The Staff of Aesculapius"
  • The problems is mastered — insupportably
    tiring when it was impending.
    Deliverance accounts for what sounds like axiom.

    The Gordian knot need not be cut.

    • "Charity Overcoming Envy"
  • Love, ah Love, when your slipknot's drawn,
    One can but say, "Farewell, good sense."
    • "The Lion in Love"
  • We are what we were at birth, and each trait has remained
    in conformity with earth's and with heaven's logic
    :
    Be the devil's tool, resort to black magic,
    None can diverge from the ends which Heaven foreordained.
    • "The Mouse Metamorphosed into a Maid"

External links[edit]

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