For a critic to praise justly, and without exaggeration, is hard; it may be harder still, when praise is due, to make it relevant--to make it mean anything specific in reference, and specifically alive in statement. This difficult art goes to the root of criticism. For praise that counts is not encomium, is certainly not compliment, but attempts identification. It no longer adds a mere plus (or when not bestowed, a minus sign); it ceases to refer primarily to the writer, and becomes the predicate attaching itself to the work in question. Because Marianne Moore exemplifies the reserve and the "immunity to fear" of the true writer, her praise of the work she admires suggests the outline of her poetics. [bold emphasis mine]
The predicate metaphor is beautifully apt. The literary work should be the focus of the critic, as the grammatical subject is the focus of the sentence. The critic's job is to complete the sentence by showing what the literary work is or does, to her.
Moore uses quotations in her prose reviews as well as in her poems. These quotations sometimes serve as a springboard of metaphor, as in this fine observation on the imagination:
"imagination of the finest type involves an energy which results in order 'as the motion of the a snake's body goes through all parts at once, and its volition acts at the same instant in coils that go contrary ways.'"
Stapleton: "Bacon recommends aphorisms as the way to represent thought in growth."
An unusual insight. Aphorisms are usually seen as summary, or, at least, static. But an aphorism embedded in a poem may provide a resting place, a staging post or a debating point, and thus "represent thought in growth."
She is one of the few writers who has paid special attention to accelerations of tempo: in discussing one poem, she admires "brilliance gained by accelerated tempo in accordance with a fixed melodic design." Acceleration affects rhyme as well: "the accelerated light final rhyme,...the delayed long syllable." She thinks that "the better the artist...the more determined he will be to set down words in such a way as to admit of no interpretation of the accent but the tone intended."
From the next chapter "Arrivals and Departures" about the next stage in Moore's poetic development. Stapleton:
Marianne Moore would have completely understood Eudora Welty's principle: "You have to have an idea so strong it compels you to write. Only a strong idea has vitality and you give it all you've got."
From another perspective, that of the critic's, the question to ask of any literary work is: what idea compels it into being? With what strength does the work realize the idea?