(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“The Mind Is an Enchanting Thing” appeared in the 1944 publication of Nevertheless. Both technically and thematically it is a central poem in Moore’s work. In it, she uses intricate syllabic verse and stanzaic arrangements. Through a series of similes and metaphors, she alternates between details and generalities, integrating the two in the last line. The poems deals with a complex paradox: The mind is both subject and object, both enchanter and enchanted. It has the power to dissolve unities into multiplicities and also to synthesize those different facets into new unities. It has the power to transform dejection into joy, death into life. Moore is celebrating the miracle of the poetic process.

She introduces the paradox at the poem’s beginning by changing a single syllable; the “enchanting” of the title becomes “enchanted” in the first line. A series of similes follows, each focusing on the contradiction inherent in being both subject and object. Having established the paradox, Moore uses an animal, the kiwi, to lead to the central part of the poem, the concept of the mind that “walks along with its eyes on the ground.” Kiwi is the name New Zealand natives give to the apteryx, a flightless bird with a long beak that walks looking downward. It, too, is a paradox. It is a bird, but it does not fly. The mind is like the kiwi—it focuses intently, but it also “has memory’s ear.” It is in touch with the history it has stored, and in that sense, it can fly anywhere.

The sequence of similes...

(The entire section is 632 words.)