Thursday, September 08, 2005

Half-way thru Marianne Moore

Now I can see why WCW was so enamoured of Moore's poetry. He raves about "the incomprehensibility of her poems," that it "is witness to at what cost (she cleaves herself away) as it is also to the distance which the most are from a comprehension of the purpose of composition."

This is entirely true. I found the early work from 1935 to be quite incomprehensible, but not necessarily in a bad way. As others have noted, I'm sure, the carefully engineered line breaks (and rhyme schemes) complicate the reader's progress and processes--they are designed to frustrate the experience of reading by offering alternative and complicating information, so that one might not take the most direct route to meaning and thereby have done with it, walk away feeling as though one had had a satisfying snack. We are stuck with the poem and its complexities do not let us off the hook readily.

That said, I did get bored with some of the longer pieces. Her structural method fascinated me--it is so capable and self-assured, but there were ways in which the language seemed to cease to really carry meaning at all. The longer pieces seemed to me to get bogged down by description at the expense of conveying much of anything of note--and I'm not a person who is especially entranced by extractable meaning. That is, meaning extracted like a nutmeat does not really interest me--reductive meaning--but expansive meaning fascinates me, the method by which units of language connect to each other, forming a net or umbrella over the work--a series of pathways which can be traversed for any length of time, or a poem to which you can return and take a different route through.

Perhaps I am not giving the longer pieces enough time. Am trying to make my way through the Complete Poems.

WCW also says of Moore: "Marianne Moore's words remain separate, each unwilling to group with the others except as they move in the one direction." He likes this. And Williams' comment is accurate. Her method of disjointing not only syntax, but the particulars of the interior of a phrase, is compelling, and does act in the fashion described. The words pool, but of course they move forward as you read. If you try to read back, the words only become all the more disjointed. It's fascinating, really. To watch language become unhinged. I am left floating in a sea of language, left to ponder sometimes just the sound of the words in their marvelousness as words placed next to each other.

Also worth noting, to be contemplated further: Moore has a very authoritative voice, much more so than Emily Dickinson. Dickinson's dashes diminish her authority, as does her ethereal voice (who the hell is speaking in those poems, anyway--someone disembodied). Moore is much more embodied as a speaker and voice. Her poems tend to cluster around aphorisms, which creates the illusion of self-assurance & authority. Propaganda, for example, uses aphorism all the time. Moore's speakers have much more of a personality, and a varied one, than Dickinson's.

Note: the quotations from WCW are from Spring and All, Williams' theoretical prose & poetry text. You can find it reprinted in Imaginations or in the Collected Poems, vol I.

1 comment:

Srijan said...

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