Our featured poet this month, Marianne Moore, was born on 15 November 1887. We owe a great deal to this Pulitzer Prizewinning poet, here on Real Toads, because her poem, Poetry is the inspiration behind our blog's conception. We embrace the notion that while acknowledging the role of imagination in writing and a poet's artistic right to idealize beauty and virtue, poets also have the onerous task of tackling the sometimes ugly, uncomfortable or harsh realities of the human condition.
"Her most famous poem is perhaps the one entitled, appropriately, "Poetry", in which she hopes for poets who can produce "imaginary gardens with real toads in them." It also expressed her idea that meter, or anything else that claims the exclusive title "poetry", is not as important as delight in language and precise, heartfelt expression in any form... These syllabic lines from "Poetry" illustrate her position: poetry is a matter of skill and honesty in any form whatsoever, while anything written poorly, although in perfect form, cannot be poetry:
nor is it valid
to discriminate against "business documents and
school-books": all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry..." wikipedia
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Moore was widely recognized for her work: 'She wrote with the freedom characteristic of the other modernist poets, often incorporating quotes from other sources into the text, yet her use of language was always extraordinarily condensed and precise, capable of suggesting a variety of ideas and associations within a single, compact image.' She was an animal-lover and a big fan of professional baseball, among other sports.
Marianne Moore lived in New York City for most of her adult life. She associated with many Imagist poets of the early 1900s, including William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens. She contributed to the Dial Literary Magazine, and took on the role of its acting editor for a time. Over the years, she became a patron of poetry and offered her support and encouragement to emerging modern poets, such as Elizabeth Bishop and Allen Ginsberg.
The theme for our mini-challenge is "imaginary gardens with real toads in them".
- Choose an idyllic setting for your poem; this backdrop will become 'the imaginary garden'. Moore showed a preference for natural settings and also wrote of sports but I leave these suggestions as optional.
- Place some object, person or event into your environment which is shown in blatant contrast, thus introducing the 'real toad' into your piece. This should raise a very realistic social issue or make a statement regarding hypocrisy, inhumanity, violence, corruption etc.
- Consider including a quote from another source.
- Moore's style was based on syllabic verse. In essence, the poet decides on the number of syllables for each line (usually between 5 - 9) but does not use a stress pattern. You may like to model your form on her example. Many of her poems are available for reading on the Poets.org site linked to her name above. I have included a link to quotes from Marianne Moore on Goodreads.com.