Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Birthday in November ~ Marianne Moore

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

All quotes shown on this post ~

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.

Source Above

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.

Source Above

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 site linked to her name above. I have included a link to quotes from Marianne Moore on
Should you choose to participate in this challenge, please write a new poem which adheres to the theme and instructions. Any unrelated links will be removed.


revelations said...

very interesting challenge...

Scarlet said...

Thank you Kerry for the excellent post ~ I'll be back to incorporate the points you requested ~

Happy weekend to all ~


carol l mckenna said...

Challenge sounds wonderful ~l hope the link works soon ` happy day ~ xx

Kerry O'Connor said...

Many thanks for your patience - Mr Linky decided to co-operate after all.

hedgewitch said...

Gosh--not sure whether I will be able to do anything with this one or not, Kerry, but enjoyed reading about Marianne Moore, as well as the quotes you selected. Thanks.

Susie Clevenger said...

Love the challenge Kerry! My words are not coming easily for some reason, but I will give it a try!!

Could someone please pass on to Kay I read each of her posts, but no matter how hard I try blogger will never share what I have written!!

Fireblossom said...

I detect rules. Lots of rules. Yet, I am a Toad and shall try to hop with them. :-P

Maude Lynn said...

This was a wickedly wicked challenge!

Loredana Donovan said...

A wonderful challenge, Kerry, thank you. Very inspiring :)

Hannah said...

I enjoyed this, Kerry!! Definitely got me thinking!! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

What a great post, Kerry. Thanks for all the work you do to put something like this together. I am on a blog break but could not resist. k.

Anonymous said...

Kerry-- I realize that I've been thinking rather randomly and loosely about this and more of the real toad in the garden part but not idyllic garden etc, so I'm not sure my poem qualifies for this prompt at all--please feel free to take it down--k,

Margaret said...

I have tried numerous times. I didn't find many examples of her poetry on the internet. I'm off to bed with a pile of poetry books to see if I can find her in any of my anthologies… The natural settings is not my problem, its getting a handle on the "hypocrisy, inhumanity, etc." I could only find one on but will try it again before I sign off. I will try my best (spent 8 hours in the ER with my oldest daughter (Chelsea) she is OK but had to have a her abscessed tonsil drained (yuck :)

Margaret said...

…ha. I found her poems on the website you linked - just had to open my eyeballs :)

hedgewitch said...

I spent the better part of my free time on this today, and still don't know if I came anywhere near the prompt--I couldn't even begin to figure out how to string all that together and then count individual line syllables--like Karin, I'll say how much I appreciate your hard work with this Kerry, and if you feel my effort falls short, please feel free to delete the link.

Ella said...

I was at a band competition-four hours away-one way. I will hop to it tomorrow. I off to bed to dream about my imaginary garden-in Maine.

Thank you Kerry! This is fascinating and wonderful tribute to our union and Marianne Moore!

Kerry O'Connor said...

I'm very sure I would never delete the link of poets who have taken the time to do extra reading, and pondered the challenge all day. I know there are 'rules' attached to the challenge, or guidelines, at least, which makes it quite tough but I do appreciate the effort that goes into creating a brand new poem.

I would only delete a link if the poem is clearly written to a different theme, or if the link takes us to a short story or discursive essay left here on a whim, or in the hope of getting a few comments. Though I don't expect this will be the case with our regular contributors.

Loredana Donovan said...

I'm glad you said that, Kerry. I was afraid my poem didn't meet all the guidelines. The syllabic verse was hard, as others have said. I was trying to think of a troubling human condition, and "hopelessness" came to mind, and how that's in contrast to the strength exuded in nature. Not sure if that came across, but I gave it a try. I totally agree with the quote by Marianne about poets being "hard on themselves." Smiles :)

Anonymous said...

A great summary of Moore's life and work, Kerry -- you get to the heart of her garden to ride the toad. I've always like Moore's aesthetic and influence more than her work -- her poems are so difficult -- but you're a fine advocate.

I wonder if the John Hollander poem "Something About IT" gets at this --


IT'S Lunch

On the shining china, white and gold,
A cold toad
Graced with pieces of lettuces; and
Unless eaten at once, somewhere past
Chambers of mauve and peacock, behind
The strings of candied stanzas, in a
White tiled room,
A child will go on being tortured.

Marian said...

holy crow, this prompt's found me uncharacteristically verbose and truthy. yikes! thank you, Kerry.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Brendan!! Hail fellow, well met!

Susan said...

Rules? There were rules? OK. Consider the new one I posted as a tribute to this group and Marianne Moore. I'll try again for tomorrow to have nature and social issues, a quote and an attention to syllable. And I am usually much more of a perfectionist than a radical (grin).

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this meets the guidelines, but will be back to read more, and happy week to all ~

Liz Rice-Sosne said...

How wonderful, it is again time to pick up her work.