Marianne Moore. A review of Poems and Marriage, by Marianne Moore
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[ 495 Marianne Moore A review of Poems, by Marianne Moore London: The Egoist Press, 1921. Pp. 24. Marriage, by Marianne Moore in Manikin, Number Three New York: Monroe Wheeler [1923]. Pp. [20]. The Dial, 75 (Dec 1923) [594]-97 Two years ago Miss Moore’s book of Poems – so far as I know her only book – was published in London by The Egoist Press; and I then undertook to review it for The Dial.1 This promise, for one reason after another, I never fulfilled. Now another poem has appeared, Marriage, published by Manikin, printedapparentlyinGermany,andwithaparentheticalintroductionbyMr. Glenway Wescott.2 Meanwhile I have read Miss Moore’s poems a good many times, and always with exactly the same pleasure, and satisfaction in something quite definite and solid. Because of a promise which, because of the long delay, may be considered as having been broken, and because I can only, at the moment, think of five contemporary poets – English, Irish, American, French,andGerman–whoseworkexcitesmeasmuchas,ormorethan,Miss Moore’s, I find myself compelled to say something about them. Not that there is much that is usefully said about any new work of art – I do not rate criticism so highly; but one ought, in honesty, to publish one’s beliefs. Mr. Wescott has, in fact, written a good introduction; I only think that his distinction between proletariat art and aristocratic art is an artificial and unimportant distinction with dangerous consequences.3 So far as a proletariat art is art at all, it is the same thing in essence as aristocratic art; but in general, and at the present time, the middle-class art (which is what I believe Mr. Wescott to have in mind when he speaks of proletariat art; the proletariat is middle class in America) is much more artificial than anything else; it plays with sham ideas, sham emotions, and even sham sensations . On the other hand a real aristocracy is essentially of the same blood as the people over whom it rules: a real aristocracy is not a Baltenland aristocracy of foreign race.4 This apparently purely political definition applies 1923 496 ] to art as well: fine art is the refinement not the antithesis of popular art. Miss Moore’s poetry may not seem to confirm this statement. I agree with Mr. Wescott that it is “aristocratic,” in that it can only please a very small number of people. But it is not, or not wholly, aristocratic in the Baltenland sense. I see in it at least three elements: a quite new rhythm, which I think is the most valuable thing; a peculiar and brilliant and rather satirical use of what is not, as material, an “aristocratic” language at all, but simply the curious jargon produced in America by universal university education – that jargon which makes it impossible for Americans to talk for half an hour without using the terms of psychoanalysis, and which has introduced “moron” as more forcible than “idiot”; and finally an almost primitive simplicity of phrase. There may be more. Up to the present time Miss Moore has concerned herself with practising and perfecting a given formation of elements; it will depend, I think, on her ability to shatter this formation and painfully reconstruct, whether Miss Moore makes another invention equal in merit to the first. Rhythm, of course, is a highly personal matter; it is not a verse-form. It is alwaystherealpatterninthecarpet,5 theschemeoforganizationofthought, feeling, and vocabulary, the way in which everything comes together. It is very uncommon. What is certain is that Miss Moore’s poems always read very well aloud. That quality is something which no system of scansion can define. It is not separable from the use of words, in Miss Moore’s case the conscious and complete appreciation of every word, and in relation to every other word, as it goes by. I think that “Those Various Scalpels” is an excellent example for study. Here the rhythm depends partly upon the transformation -changes from one image to another, so that the second image is superposedbeforethefirsthasquitefaded,anduponthedexterityofchange of vocabulary from one image to another. “Snow sown by tearing winds on the cordage of disabled ships:”6 has that Latin, epigrammatic succinctness, laconic austerity, which leaps out unexpectedly (altogether in “Talisman”). your raised hand, an ambiguous signature: is a distinct shift of manner; it is not an image, but the indication of a fulness of meaning which is unnecessary to pursue. blood on the stone floors of French châteaux, with regard to...