Poetry Poem by Marianne Moore Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


One of Marianne Moore’s most well-known literary works is “Poetry.” She kept editing the poem over the years of her life because she was never satisfied with it. This analysis just looks at the first three lines of the version. However, there are a few further variations. The version with five stanzas is one of the most well-known and has the same themes but is significantly lengthier. The poem appeared for the first time in 1919’s Others, and it was published again until at least four distinct copies of it were printed and distributed. In the end, Moore simplified the poem by reducing it to three lines and included the lengthier, five-stanza version as an endnote. 

About the poet

Marianne Craig Moore was an American modernist poet, critic, translator, and editor who lived from November 15, 1887, to February 5, 1972. She is known for her poetry’s stylistic originality, exact diction, sarcasm, and humor.


Stanza 1

I too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.

  Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers that there is in

  it after all, a place for the genuine.

     Hands that can grasp, eyes

     that can dilate, hair that can rise

        if it must, these things are important not because a

Poetry is described in the poem’s opening line as “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” This opening line establishes the tone of the poem and makes the point that poetry has the ability to conjure up something fantastic and lovely while being rooted in reality. Art emphasizes poetry’s capacity to capture reality and authenticity, challenging the idea that art serves just as an escape from the actual world.

Stanza 2

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are

  useful; when they become so derivative as to become unintelligible, the

  same thing may be said for all of us—that we

     do not admire what

     we cannot understand. The bat,

        holding on upside down or in quest of something to

The poem’s following section discusses the challenge of defining poetry and emphasizes how elusive and always evolving it is. Moore refers to poetry as a “place for the genuine,” implying that it offers a forum for sincere expression and real-life experiences. She rejects artificiality and meaningless jargon in favor of honesty and sincerity in poetry.

Stanza 3

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under

  a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base—

  ball fan, the statistician—case after case

     could be cited did

     one wish it; nor is it valid

        to discriminate against “business documents and

Later, the poem switches to a discussion of the connection between poetry and its listener. Moore contends that poetry is not intended to conform to accepted norms or appeal to general tastes. Instead, it ought to make the reader think critically and connect with the intricacies of life by challenging and provoking them. She urges the reader to approach poetry with an open mind and a willingness to be curious and attentive.

Stanza 4

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction

  however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry,

  nor till the autocrats among us can be

    “literalists of

     the imagination”—above

        insolence and triviality and can present

Moore discusses the function of poets as artisans and craftspeople in the section that follows. She emphasizes how critical accuracy and focus on detail are while writing poetry. She compares the poet to a competent craftsman who painstakingly chooses and organizes words to produce an important and memorable work of art.

Stanza 5

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have

  it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance of their opinion—

  the raw material of poetry in

     all its rawness, and

     that which is on the other hand,

        genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

The poem’s concluding section comments on the power of poetry to transcend time and make a lasting impression. According to Moore, poetry has the power to transcend time and endure, striking a chord with readers of all ages. She says poetry has the capacity to encapsulate the essence of human experience and provide comfort through moments of ambiguity and disorientation.