Posts Tagged ‘marianne moore’

mariannemooresplash-1Ellen’s friend and colleague Heather Cass White has come out with a new edition of poetry by Marianne Moore, the quirky inventor of “turtle top” for a car design, among other, more significant literary adventures.

I once had the pleasure of hearing Marianne Moore read at Bryn Mawr College. She looked so much like my grandmother. My parents encouraged me to read her books, providing O, To Be a Dragon! for example. Random lines stuck with me, like this statement on poetry: “I, too, dislike it.”

On the website “FSGWork in Progress,” White writes thoughtfully about the challenges presented by her subject.

“In trying to sum up the experience of having spent the last ten years editing the poetry of Marianne Moore, most recently in the New Collected Poems, I think of a recent classroom interaction I had. Toward the end of a course on twentieth-century poetry, one of my students, clearly at the end of her patience with me, demanded to know why I kept asking them, ‘But what is a poem?’ It’s probably a measure of how deeply I feel that question that I hadn’t noticed I’d asked it even once before she pointed it out.

“I do know why I am stuck on it, however. Editing Moore’s work will deprive anyone of their certainty about what a poem actually is. All poetry editing raises a fundamental issue: Is a poem a specific ordering of words on a page? And if so, which page? The one the poet originally wrote, whether by hand or type; or the one that was first published; or the one that was last published?

“If all of those arrangements of words are identical, one may duck the question, but they rarely are. Typesetters and proofreaders make mistakes, and they also make corrections which poets find agreeable. Poets change their minds. Conventions of spelling and punctuation vary from house to house, and change over time. There are competing theories about how to handle such issues, and consensus views to guide practitioners, but the questions must always be confronted.

“At the risk of seeming to brag, I will claim that confronting these questions in Moore’s work is unusually torturous. Someone had to, though, because the final record Moore left of her own work — and the standard Moore edition for several decades — has been her mendaciously titled Complete Poems (1967). …

“Creating one, however, is tricky. Her lifelong practices of revising, reordering, and redacting her poems make a special kind of hash out of any attempt to be definitive. Certainly her revisions are the most spectacular problem. Moore didn’t just write poems, she rewrote them, often completely, often more than once. …

“Moore deserves careful editorial attention because she is, by any measure, a major poet. She was and is revered by her poet peers for her inventiveness, her fierce intelligence, her wit, and her moral vision. Her work is original, with an original’s perennial newness. In editing the New Complete Poems, I have done what editors do: devised a working set of procedures to present the poet I know and value. I have not, because I cannot, settled any questions about what her poetry is or may become. Original things always exceed definitive presentation and containment. Long may her poems confound us.” More here.

In one of the ESL classes where I volunteer, we have been reading Emily Dickinson. Time to suggest Moore to the teacher, I think. Women poets don’t get nearly the respect they deserve: it pains me to recall that as much as my father wanted me to know the work of these women, he told me there were no great female poets.

Update 8/5/17: Moore editor Heather Cass White made an appearance at the Island Bound Bookstore tonight. Her talk was super. The book sounded very accessible as well as more authoritative than previous editions. Reader, I bought it.

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The poet Marianne Moore once helped to save a special tree by writing a poem about it, proving that art is more powerful than apathy.

Maria Popova writes at Brain Pickings, “In 1867, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, once an American Revolution battlefield, opened its gates to a community hungry for a peaceful respite of wilderness amid the urban bustle. So intense was public enthusiasm that local residents began donating a variety of wildlife to fill the 585-acre green expanse, from ducks to deer. But the most unusual and enduring gift turned out to be a tree, donated by a man named A.G. Burgess and planted in 1872.

“This was no ordinary tree. Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii,’ better-known as Camperdown Elm, is a species unlike regular trees in that it cannot reproduce from a seed. The rare elm carries its irregularity on the outside — its majestic, knobby branches grow almost parallel to the ground, ‘weeping’ down. To ameliorate its reproductive helplessness, the Camperdown Elm requires outside help — a sort of assisted grafting, be it by accident of nature or intentional human hand. …

“As excitement over the novelty of Prospect Park began dying down, the Camperdown Elm came to suffer years of neglect. …

“But then, in the 1960s, it was saved by a force even more miraculous than that by which its Scottish great-great-grandfather had been born — not by a botanist or a park commissioner or a policymaker, but by a poet fifteen years the tree’s junior.

“The poet was Marianne Moore (November 15, 1887–February 5, 1972), who had been elected president of New York’s Greensward Foundation — an advocacy group for public parks — in 1965. This brilliant and eccentric woman … created a citizen group called Friends of Prospect Park, aimed at protecting the Camperdown Elm and other endangered trees in the park.

“In 1967, eighty at the time and with a Pulitzer Prize under her belt, Moore penned ‘The Camperdown Elm’ — a beautiful ode to this unusual, dignified, yet surprisingly fragile life-form of which humans are the only bastions. …

“Moore’s poem mobilized the Friends of Prospect Park to envelop the Camperdown Elm in attentive and nurturing care, which ultimately saved it.”

Read the poem and the rest of the story here.

Come to think of it, the Camperdown Elm’s reliance on humans to do the right thing make it very little different from the rest of the natural world.

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The Telegraph notes how advertisers have been turning to classic poets to sell products.

Charlotte Runcie gives this example: “The new ad for the iPad Air features a voiceover from Robin Williams in his Whitman-toting Dead Poets Society incarnation. The Whitman extract in question is from Leaves of Grass:

“O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
“Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish

“… Answer.
“That you are here—that life exists and identity,
“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

Here’s another: “Levi’s chose an extract from A Midsummer Night’s Dream to reboot their advertising campaign for 501 jeans in 2005.

“The magical fairy forest became downtown LA, with Bottom – played by Joshua Alba – getting grabbed by a member of a nearby gang, who exclaims: ‘Oh Bottom, thou art changed! What do I see on thee?’ At this point in the play, Bottom has grown donkey ears. In the advert, he has bought new jeans.

“Then fairy queen Titania arrives, and says:

“Mine ear is much enamoured of thy note;
“So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape…

All good fun. But I think companies should reach out to contemporary poets the way Ford once reached out to poet Marianne Moore. It would be a good way for poets to earn a little money doing what they love. Then again, companies may prefer the “free” aspect of dead poets.

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The Poem-a-Day service of the Academy of American Poets featured two of my favorite poets this week. I love the personable vibes from these women, the particularity, the quirkiness.

My father got me interested in poetry, giving me a volume of Emily Dickinson and telling me I could “get started” on her, but he admitted that he didn’t think there were any “great” women poets. I think he was wrong about that. I don’t know if he ever changed his mind.

Dear March – Come in
by Emily Dickinson

Dear March – Come in –
How glad I am –
I hoped for you before –
Put down your Hat –
You must have walked –
How out of Breath you are –
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest –
Did you leave Nature well –
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –
I have so much to tell –

I got your Letter, and the Birds –
The Maples never knew that you were coming –
I declare – how Red their Faces grew –
But March, forgive me –
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue –
There was no Purple suitable –
You took it all with you –

Who knocks? That April –
Lock the Door –
I will not be pursued –
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied –
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come

That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame –


by Marianne Moore

My father used to say,
“Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow’s grave
or the glass flowers at Harvard.
Self-reliant like the cat—
that takes its prey to privacy,
the mouse’s limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth—
they sometimes enjoy solitude,
and can be robbed of speech
by speech which has delighted them.
The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
not in silence, but restraint.”
Nor was he insincere in saying, “Make my house your inn.”
Inns are not residences.

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An island neighbor has just published Criminal Ingenuity: Moore, Cornell, Ashbery, and the Struggle Between the Arts (Modernist Literature and Culture). Ellen has been studying poets Marianne Moore and John Ashbery, and artist Joseph Cornell for some years — first as a member of the faculty at Vanderbilt and now at Pratt. I don’t know much about Joseph Cornell, but I did hear novelist Jonathan Safran Foer give a lecture about how Cornell’s work inspired him to cut up Bruno Schulz’s “Street of Crocodiles” every which way from Sunday and make a kind of art book out of it.

A few poets read this blog from time to time, so you might want to take a look at Ellen’s book. If you read it, could you send me a short review to post?

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Suzanne began her retail career working summers just a few hours a week at a tiny toy store called Mouse House where her brother, John, had worked before. Between Mouse House and leaving college, there were at least two clothing stores and many restaurants. When she  graduated from college, she worked for a popular clothing manufacturer in New York, in the merchandising group. One of her tasks was to make up names for lingerie colors. A particular color she remembers was a shade of pink that she called “flirt.”

The NY Times just published an amusing article on the accelerating trend of naming colors to evoke an idea or a mood. There is an art to it.

“At Valspar, located in a Chicago high-rise near O’Hare airport, colorists can meet in ‘vignette’ rooms that encourage storytelling. One resembles an outside deck, replete with a porch chair and mural of Wrigley Field. Ms. Kim assigns the colorists homework, like browsing certain magazines and blogs. One, called colourlovers.com, allows users to create and share their own palettes; among more than one million offerings are I Feel Sorry for You and When Time Ran Out. They also watch movies and visit stores. And a few times a year, they head downtown for a big brainstorming session at a loft building called Catalyst Ranch and its brightly colored meeting spaces, which are intended to help employees think creatively. …

“Taryn Look, 25, an actress, who was checking out Home Depot’s Behr collection the other day, rolled her eyes at some of the names. ‘I wonder how much these people get paid,’ she mused, glancing at Genteel Lavender, a color
she said she would rebrand My Gay Best Friend. But she did pause at a color named Lightweight Beige, and soon she was telling a story about when her parents met. Her father told her mother that he liked her in beige, and so she swapped her once-colorful wardrobe for one that was all beige. Ms. Look said she would rename the color My Mother, After She Met My Dad.” Read more.

This reminds me of the poet Marianne Moore being asked to brainstorm names of cars. She came up with Turtle Top, but the idea was not adopted.

Use the comments feature to suggest a name for  a color? I’ll start. How about a sparkly blue called “Tanya Running through the Sprinkler”? Or a dark purple called “Black Fly Season.” Or a gold-orange called “At Last the Missing Manuscript.”

Not sure this will ever be my forte.

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What makes you happy? The bluebird of happiness brushed a little air current toward me today as I crossed over a bridge at lunch. So I can report that one thing that makes me happy is seeing the jellyfish arrive in Fort Point Channel on a sunny day in late June.
I remember being ridiculously happy at the sight of Fort Point Channel jellyfish some years ago on a Boston visit that broke up a three-year landlocked Minneapolis sojourn. Minneapolis had its points, but it didn’t have jellyfish. Jellyfish naturally lead to thoughts of 25 summers on Fire Island and going with my father at dusk to shine flashlights on glowing blobs in the water along the boat dock.
Two poets share many Fire Island memories with me. Poem 1 is by my sister Nell. Poem 2 is by Ronnie Hess, now based in landlocked Wisconsin. I offer the conclusion to Ronnie’s “Dinner at the Shish Cafe,” and you may read the whole poem here.
1. May 1986

Now the island belongs to the deer

And the birds and the wild bayberry flowers


And the workmen

Wearily riding the ferry,

To work on other people’s houses,

Carrying their tools home at night.


There’s no honeysuckle

Yet rimming the streets

And the crown-vetch sliding through

Rips in the concrete

Has no pink buds


And the rain is like tears

Over the fog-filled ocean.


What brush, what watery ink

Has painted this sky

The color of bruises?


2. My husband says listening to poetry is hard work. Poems are dense.
Sometimes, I let him read mine. He sits quietly. He studies them.
He edits in blue ink in the margins, he writes words like
Good, nice image, not quite right, and meaning unclear.
Those lines of Ronnie’s remind me of the ever ironic poet Marianne Moore, who wrote of her beloved art, “I, too, dislike it.” By which she meant, I think, that it was hard work.
More poetry by Ronnie is here and here.

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