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.)