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05 April 2009

A Sunday special

I thought I'd take a look at another American modernist, Marianne Moore. The wikipedia entry is quite funny. I would never have known that she had been asked to suggest a name for a new Ford model. Her suggestions included "Mongoose Civique", "Varsity Stroke", "Pastelogram" and "Andante con Moto". All rejected, funnily enough. And I bet her ghost was proud when in 1996 she was inducted into the St Louis Walk of Fame.

Choosing a short poem at almost random gets this, entitled "Voracities and verities sometimes are interacting"
  I don't like diamonds;
the emerald's "grass-lamp glow" is better;
and unobtrusiveness is dazzling,
upon occasion.
Some kinds of gratitude are trying.

Poets, don't make a fuss;
the elephant's "crooked trumpet" "doth write";
and to a tiger-book I am reading -
I think you know the one -
I am under obligation.

One may be pardoned, yes I know
one may, for love undying.
and a note says: "Tiger-book: Major James Corbett's Man-Eaters of Kumaan.

Formally, it's tight. The first two stanzas are syllabic, and require, for example, 'obligation' to be pronounced with five syllables. It's very precise. (That's why I've formatted it the way I have, it's clearly important.)

Like Ez, there are references to some other texts, and no clue of what they are. 'Crooked trumpet' might be findable, but 'doth write' is less distinctive (like 'those girls'). The 'tiger-book' references seem to be a joke.

Taken on its own, it's impossible to know what the poem 'means'. As I've sat and looked at it, I've come to change the stress pattern: One may be pardoned for love undying, but you shouldn't bet on it. 'Love undying' may refer to the love itself, or the use of the phrase: poets, don't make a fuss: a plainer expression may be better. So, one reading of this poem is that it is part of a textbook on writing poetry. But probably more than that: it celebrates the everyday, the unobtrusive, just like William Carlos Williams' wheelbarrow.

Maybe more of other poets' work will feature later, the more I find less in the Cantos. But for the next Canto, I'm hoping (at last) to use a punning title, "Ez said".

1 comment:

Brian said...

I don't think it makes any real difference, except to my sense of stupidity, but there are notes citing the references. No real difference, because it doesn't help.