Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Imaginary blogs with real poets in them." (Sunday's Poem 13)

by Marianne Moore

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
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.


I went looking for poems about baseball-- because of the Cubs thing, below, and instead, I found this poem. And I read it through to find out why it was listed under "Sports poems." Having read it, I don't think it's a sports poem at all -- does mentioning ' the baseball fan' make it a sports poem?

But, more to the point, I'm not sure, as I re-read it again, that I like the poet or the sentiment. "we do not admire what we cannot understand"? I'm not sure THAT's true. I don't understand how someone figured out how to build a computer, or launch a rocket to the moon, or take x-rays, but I admire all of those accomplishments. I admire the bee for flying even though it's not supposed to be
able to do so.

Then, the poet gets snobby at the end, placing demands on what
is or isn't poetry.

Also, I wondered about that quote:
"imaginary gardens with real toads in them." So I googled it, and it appears that Marianne Moore came up with that line. She was quoting herself. So why the quotes? Now, reading it, I imagine Marianne Moore doing air quotes as she spoke to William Carlos Williams or something.

I am, like Moore, a poetry snob. But I think I'm a cut above her because (a) I don't presume to tell people what poetry has to be about -- I just tell people what good poetry isn't, and (b) I don't use unnecessary quotes.

That is, I don't "use" "unnecessary" "quotes."


It's too late to read my essay "The Best Poem" online -- but you can still read it in book form by getting "Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?", a collection of essays on pop culture, entertainment, and things that really matter -- like why movie monsters need saber teeth to be cool. And, of course, "The Best Poet," my thoughts on what makes a poem good -- and what makes The Best Poem the Best. Click here to buy it for the low low price of whatever it's selling for right now!

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