Sunday, January 08, 2006

Two Poems by Marianne Moore

As Has Been Said

before, some speak of things we know as new;
   and you, of things unknown as things forgot,

the calligraphic coral of fruit dyed
   inside as by infusion of the rind,

or the couplet, say, that chanced to be prose,
   compromises a natural signature--

a mathematician's parnethesis,
   or is it a phase of the autograph?

There is a dedication qualitied
   indeed; at the opposite pole from the miser's

escutcheon, three vises hard-screwed--
   intruding on the accident of pleasure,

known if at all to sensibility
   which would not for the world intrude.

[1909-1916, Rosenbach Museum, prev. unpubl.]

Holes Bored in a Workbag by the Scissors

A neat round hole in the bank of a creek
   means a rat;
      That is to say, craft, industry, resourcefulness:
These indicate the unfortunate, meek
      Of surgery thrust home to fabricate useless

[Bruno's Weekly 3 (December 30, 1916), prev. uncoll.]

Marianne Moorei've made various attempts at moore's poetry over the years, never very successful. i've always found her work to have pockets of striking verbal interest for me -- often precise descriptive compounds: "the screw-top / for this graft-grown briar-black bloom / on black-thorn pigeon's blood" ("Camellia Sabina") -- but beyond that a "proseyness" that never carried me too far beyond a few poems at a time. yesterday at bridge street i picked up a nice remaindered hardbound Poems of Marianne Moore (edited by Grace Shulman, Viking 2003), which apparently includes more than double the number of poems moore included in the "Complete Poems" she prepared for 1967 publication, and which contained the epigraph "Omissions are no accident." the two above were previously uncollected in her lifetime: might she rank along with oppen and bunting as one of the past century's most rigorously self-censoring poets?

"As Has Been Said" is indeed conversational, but it is far too artificed to be speech -- and an example perhaps of what ashbery admired in her work. there is an argument being made here too, but what exactly is being argued defies easy summation -- and belies the "clarity" for which the likes of robert pinksy champion her. "Holes" operates in similar fashion but is compressed to such as degree as to nearly make a black hole of argument.

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