split like spun glass...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Marianne Moore


through black jade.
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash-heaps;
opening and shutting itself like

injured fan.
The barnacles which encrust the side
of the wave, cannot hide
there for the submerged shafts of the

split like spun
glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
into the crevices—
in and out, illuminating

turquoise sea
of bodies. The water drives a wedge
of iron throught the iron edge
of the cliff; whereupon the stars,

rice-grains, ink-
bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green
lilies, and submarine
toadstools, slide each on the other.

marks of abuse are present on this
defiant edifice—
all the physical features of

of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
hatchet strokes, these things stand
out on it; the chasm-side is

evidence has proved that it can live
on what can not revive
its youth. The sea grows old in it.


An amazing use of line and music. The language, from the first stanza, is rich and direct. The form is a paradox of tight, determined lines that appear to be open, free. That is the poet’s deception. Moore is such a master of control that the music becomes spontaneous for the reader who must surrender to the force of the poetry.

A beautiful poem about – as Richard Howard has said – survival. I agree.


KATE EVANS said...

Thanks for posting this. I love her.

anhaga said...

A beautiful poem that I hadn't read in years. Thanks for reminding me of it. After seeing this here, I found my copy of Moore's Collected and spent a happy evening going through it.

How skillful she is in both using the form and letting it undercut itself, at the same time. Strong emotion, but contained. No wonder Bishop liked her so much.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

It is a powerful poem of fearless beauty. Thanks for reading Kate & James.