Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore by Linda Leavell

Critics and Connoisseurs
Marianne Moore
There is a great amount of poetry in unconscious
    fastidiousness.  Certain Ming
        products, imperial floor coverings of coach-
    wheel yellow, are well enough in their way but I have seen something
            that I like better--a
                mere childish attempt to make an imperfectly bal-
                        lasted animal stand up,
                similar determination to make a pup
                    eat his meat from the plate.
I remember a swan under the willows of Oxford,
    with flamingo-colored, maple-
        leaflike feet.  It reconnoitered like a battle-
    ship.  Disbelief and conscious fastidiousness were
            ingredients in its
                disinclination to move.  Finally its hardihood was
                        not proof against its
                proclivity to more fully appreciate such bits
                    of food as the stream
bore counter to it; it made away with what I gave it
    to eat.  I have seen this swan and
        I have seen you; I have seen ambition without
    understanding it in a variety of forms.  Happening to stand
            by an ant-hill, I have
                seen a fastidious ant carrying a stick north, south,
                        east, west, till it turned on
                itself, struck out from the flower bed into the lawn,
                    and returned to the point
From which it had started.  Then abandoning the stick as
    useless and overtaxing its
        jaws with a particle of whitewash--pill-like but
    heavy--it again went throught the same course of procedure.
                        What is
            there in being able
                to say that one has dominated the stream in an attitude of
                        self-defense;
                in proving that one has had the experience
                    of carrying a stick?

1924

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