Sunday, June 08, 2014

Picking and Choosing .

Outside my window onto the Northern Michigan woods, this tree was the favorite of woodpeckers, large and small. Each year its hold on life diminished, until finally it was a dead tree that the birds still spent a lot of time on. Why did they choose this tree?

One of my favorite lines in the poem below is: "Humming-bug, the candles are not wired . .." I am not going to pretend to completely explain this poem, which people seem to write dissertations on. But I like it very much for how it includes so many different knowledges.


Literature is a phase of life. If one is afraid of it,
the situation is irremediable; if one approaches it familiarly,
what one says of it is worthless.
The opaque allusion, the simulated flight upward,
accomplishes nothing. Why cloud the fact
that Shaw is self-conscious in thee field of sentiment
but is otherwise rewarding; that James
is all that has been said of him. It is not Hardy the novelist
and Hardy the poet, but one man interpreting life as emotion.
The critic should know what he likes:
Gordon Craig with his "this is I" and "this is mine,"
with his three wise men his "sad French greens" and his "Chinese cherry"
Gordon Craig so inclinational and unashamed--a critic.
And Burke is a psychologist, of acute raccoon-like curiosity.
Summa diligentia; to the humbug whose name is so amusing--
very young and very rushed, Caesar crossed the Alps
on the top of a "diligence"!
We are not daft about the meaning,
but this familiarity with wrong meanings puzzles one.
Humming-bug, the candles are not wired for electricity.
Small dog, going over the lawn nipping the linen and saying
that you have a badger--remember Xenophon;
only rudimentary behavior is necessary to put us on the scent.
"A right good salvo of barks," a few strong wrinkles puckering
the skin between the ears is all we ask.

Marianne Moore from The Complete Poems
Penguin Classic, page 45.

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