The poem “Poetry” was first published in a literary journal in 1919. Later, it was included in three of Moore’s books: Observations, Collected Poems, and Complete Poems. The poem varies in length with each publication, changing from thirteen lines to almost forty lines, and then to three lines, respectively. In “Poetry,” the speaker opens the poem by claiming that she “dislikes . . . all this fiddle”— meaning poetry. In a tone that is both authoritative and witty, the speaker then goes on to develop her argument, carefully cataloging many of poetry’s shortcomings. Occasionally, she illustrates her logic by using carefully chosen images. The speaker says that one of poetry’s biggest flaws occurs when it lacks genuineness. She insists that poetry should combine both imagination and reality. She illustrates this point by saying that true poetry is able to present “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” This metaphor has become one of the most widely cited metaphors for poetry. Ironically, through the speaker’s exploration of what is “derivative” and “unintelligible” in poetry, this poem proves the merits of poetry. It offers the very model of what “genuine” poetry is, and it exemplifies how valuable good poetry can be.
Did this raise a question for you?