During the last week of April, I listened to Meryl Streep read Marianne Moore’s piece – Poetry – during a program sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. The event was called Poetry & the Creative Mind — Virtual Gala Supporting National Poetry Month. Meryl Streep’s reading – A.MAZ.ING.
Wanting to see if it was just the perfect actress reading the poem or a truly standalone incredible poem, I searched for it on their website. A.MAZ.ING.
Wouldn’t you agree?
Marianne Moore – 1887-1972
I too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers that there is in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a
high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are
useful; when they become so derivative as to become unintelligible, the
same thing may be said for all of us—that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand. The bat,
holding on upside down or in quest of something to
eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under
a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base—
ball fan, the statistician—case after case
could be cited did
one wish it; nor is it valid
to discriminate against “business documents and
school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry,
nor till the autocrats among us can be
insolence and triviality and can present
for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance of their opinion—
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness, and
that which is on the other hand,
genuine, then you are interested in poetry.
From Others for 1919: An Anthology of the New Verse, edited by Alfred Kreymborg. This poem is in the public domain.