What other information do you wish to have in this poem?"Love in America" by Marianne Moore

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Love in America—

Whatever it is, it’s a passion—
a benign dementia that should be
engulfing America, fed in a way
the opposite of the way
in which the Minotaur was fed.
It’s a Midas of tenderness,
from the heart;
nothing else. From one with ability
to bear being misunderstood—
take the blame, with “nobility
that is action,” identifying itself with
pioneer unperfunctoriness

without brazenness or
bigness of overgrown
undergrown shallowness

whatever it is, let it be without

Yes, yes, yes, yes.


Certainly, the title of Marianne Moore's poem is somewhat ambiguous as the reader is not certain whether Miss Moore has meant to write about Love, American Style or what the American style of love should be. Of course, as is typical of Moore's verse, the poem is a mix of apparently incongruous elements that critics term "highly idiosyncratic."  For instance, Moore writes in the first two lines of love being both a passion and a "benign dementia." 

The allusions to Greek mythology also seem abstruse in the context of this poem, and the lines


undergrown shallowness

are, indeed, an oxymoron.  For, how can something be both overgrown and needy of growth. How, indeed is shallowness both overgrown and undergrown?

The ending of the poem seems rather odd, as well. While it does seem to indicate that love in America should be genuine, the abrupt cutting off of the poem 's verse creates doubt in the reader's mind that the affirmation of "yes,yes, yes,yes" does little to dispel.