Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
The main theme of “Poetry” is simply what poetry is, what a suitable subject is, and what approach should be taken by both the poet and the reader.
It is clear that Moore has some difficulty, as do most readers, in defining poetry. She comes as close as she can to a definition through the negative. It is easier, in this case, to define the subject by realizing what it is not and, by eliminating those characteristics, to understand it.
Poetry is not intended to be informational. In effect, the purpose is not to disseminate knowledge as “business documents” are so intended; although, as Moore observes, they cannot be totally excluded as part of the raw material of experience. Nor is poetry intended to inspire with a “high-sounding interpretation” of experience, thus abstracting it to fit a mold of thought. Poetry is not intended, furthermore, to teach like the “immovable critic.” It may do so, but that is not its essential purpose. Above all, poetry is not intended for simple self-aggrandizement on the part of the poet, with all its attendant “insolence and triviality.”
What, then, is poetry? Moore insists, above all, that poetry must be “genuine” for both the poet and the reader. The response of both must not be colored by preconceptions or learned responses. The ideas and emotions cannot be, she believes, “so derivative as to become unintelligible,” because “we do not admire what we cannot...
(The entire section is 409 words.)
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Nature was a popular subject for romantic poets who found in it their inspiration, energy, and, often, their reason for being. Modernist poets enlarged their conception of subject matter and of nature itself. Moore, even though she described the natural world with an almost scientific eye for detail, using decidedly unromantic language, nonetheless considered it a place of beauty and mystery. She underscores this attitude in the third stanza when she uses the odd behavior of animals as examples of what the human mind “cannot understand.” But like poetry, these behaviors should be embraced rather than ignored, as they embody the very “raw material” of life itself, which cannot be reduced to mean this or that, as critics would have it.
Modern poetry has often been criticized for its obscurity and elitism, with some writers claiming that it shows a deliberate attempt to alienate general readers. Moore addresses this in her opening line when she claims about poetry: “I, too, dislike it.” What she implies here is that she dislikes the popular conception of modern poetry as writing that has nothing to do with the real world, and is often abstract. However, in the rest of her poem she utilizes explicitly modernist techniques, such as irony, allusion, paradox, quoting others, and incorporating footnotes—techniques that often invite the very accusation of elitism. In this way, she shows herself to be a true...
(The entire section is 571 words.)