Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poem: "Marianne Moore in Japan"

Marianne Moore in Japan

The weak overcomes its
     menace, the strong over-
     comes itself.
—Marianne Moore, “Nevertheless”

I don’t think I would like you very much, Marianne Moore,
if we should meet in a beach resort or poetry workshop.
It is unladylike, you advised Miss Bishop, to write water closet.
She ignored you and now the student is far more popular.
She has vulnerability on her side, and the times are partial
to helplessness, after wars, pandemics, home foreclosures.
What do you have? Another armored animal. See what I mean?
How does a reader get close to such glittering finish, how does
a lover who will smudge? It’s not sexy to be counting syllables
beneath the breath when you can write up (write it!) a disaster.
Still, I would like to know what you make of the earthquake
in Japan, the epicenter at Fukushima prefecture, when shells
broke up and we are shown up to be soft through and through.
Would you cry with us, castigate us, or terrify with visions?
Anybody’s guess, but I would like to think that you pore over
reports on the nuclear reactors and call for restarting them.


Sarah Sarai said...

Jee, I really really like this poem. And I like how you write Bishop is more popular, which is fact, not judgment. I do wish the auto exec. from Detroit who asked Moore to come up with names of automobiles had gone ahead with her Mongoose Turtledove.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Thanks, Sarah. Many seem to read this poem as totally critical of Moore, but it is not.