Monday, 4 January 2010

Marianne Moore - Fun!

I don't know what it was with me and Marianne Moore. For years I kept meaning to read her 'properly'. I knew her from such gems as Poetry (who could resist that opening line?) and a few others, but I'd never looked further. I was daunted by the Collected Poems, which seemed too hefty a volume for such a springy and light-footed poet - so I was delighted recently to get my hands on the Faber Selected Poems (courtesy of the excellent AbeBooks), an elegant and beautifully designed little volume, which I am enjoying quite tremendously, loving particularly her deft illuminating way with the natural world. The selection opens with the wonderfully breezy The Steeple-Jack - after which what can you do but read on?... And this little volume has her Notes too, which are a joy in themselves: the notes to Tom Fool In Jamaica (Tom Fool was a famous racehorse) are a great deal longer than the poem, and contain another one, by Mme Boufflers, called Sentir avec Ardeur, which begins
Il faut dire en deux mots
Ce qu'on veut dire;
Les longs propos
Sont sots...
For all her apparent profligacy and luxuriance, Moore says it all en deux mots. Here's a wonderful short poem:
A Face
'I am not treacherous, callous, jealous, superstitious,
supercilious, venomous or absolutely hideous':
studying and studying its expression,
exasperated desperation
though at no real impasse,
would gladly break the glass;
when love of order, ardour, uncircuitous simplicity
with an expression of inquiry, are all one needs to be!
Certain faces, a few, one or two - or one
face photographed by recollection -
to my mind, to my sight,
must remain a delight.

Moore is to me one of those poets who seem to fill the world, and the business of living, with so many more possibilities and so much less ponderous necessity. Yes she is even (see photo).... fun!

1 comment:

  1. A cheering post since I have not so far got beyond "Poetry" and that well-worn line about imaginary gardens, the real toads being all too numerous around here at the moment. I need a toad-swatter, a real toad-swatter with which to swat imaginary toads.