Sunday, March 05, 2006

See Moore

I’ve been thinking about Marianne Moore, and how she connects with some of the other poets we’re reading. This weekend I picked up Grace Shulman’s 2003 edition of Moore’s poems, the one that presents her work for the first time in chronological order, and includes all the pieces Moore chose to leave out of her Collected Poems (1951) and Complete Poems (1967).

In the intro, Shulman says something about Moore that reminds me of Stein’s emphasis on seeing objects clearly, or simply on attending to what’s in front of you (words as sounds, grammar as grammar, etc.), while also recalling Stevens’s fascination with perception in poems like “The Snow Man” or “Anecdote of the Jar”:

“’Art is exact perception’ is the opening line of Moore’s “Qui S’Excuse, S’Accuse,” first published in 1910, in the poet’s junior year at Bryn Mawr. The declaration is to become central, for seeing is at the heart of Moore’s poetry. Virtually all of Marianne Moore’s poems between January 1921 and June 1953 contain direct references to obtaining knowledge by sight. Hers is emphatically an art of exact perception: to feel deeply is to see clearly, to peer beyond surfaces, and to explore permanent truths. The poet amasses facts, remarks, observations, details from guidebooks and manuals, in pursuit of answers to the mysteries of modern love, of nobility, of timeless values that she probes and probes again.”

I wonder if this will be any help to us in thinking about Stevens.

Also can’t help including Moore’s first poem, written to Santa in 1895, when she was 8 (Warner is her brother). It’s already so Marianne Moore!

Dear St. Nicklus;

This Christmas morn
You do adorn
Bring Warner a horn
And me a doll
that is all.

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