Books April 1987
The hardened reviewer
A review of Marianne Moore’s Complete Prose.
As a poet Marianne Moore is accepted, admired, acknowledged, and listed more than she is read. Surely she is as marvelous a poet as Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams but surely people read her peers more than they read her. I suppose she is more difficult: she does things in her poetry that no one did before her, even more innovative than Eliot and Pound. She is listed but overlooked because critics don’t know what to say of her. A maddening phenomenon of literary reputation, when it afflicts a writer we love, is this acceptance—which, in italics, I will define as a form of rejection. In her lifetime she suffered not only by being accepted but by being found charming. (Late in her life she collaborated in this fate.) Although she was praised by the best, they were seldom at their best when they wrote about her. It is embarrassing to read Randall Jarrell’s gush. In his introduction to her...
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