Today, I brutally greet you with a grunt or a kick. Where are you hiding, where have you fled with your wild box full of hearts, and your stream of gunpowder? Where are you now; in the ditch where all dreams are finally tossed, or in the jungle's spidery web where fatherless children dangle?
I miss you, you know I do-- as myself or the miracles that never happen-- you know I do? I'd like to entice you with a joy I've never known, an imprudent affair.
When will you come to me? I'm anxious to play no games, to confide to you: "my life"-- to let thunder humble us to let oranges pale in your hand. I want to search your depths and find veils and smoke, that will vanish at last in flame.
I love you truly but innocently as the transparent enchantress of my thoughts, but, truly, I don't love you, though innocently as the confused angel that I am. I love you, but I don't love you. I gamble with these words and the winner shall be the liar. Love!. . . (What am I saying? I'm mistaken, because here, I wanted to write, I hate you.) Why won't you come to me?
How is it possible you let me pass by without requiting our fire? How is it possible you're so distant, so paranoid that you deny me? You're reading the newspapers passing through death and life. You're with your problems of groans and groin, listless, humiliated, entertaining yourself with an aspiration to mourning. Even though I'm melting you, even though I insult you, bring you a wilted hyacinth approve your melancholy; call forth the salt of heaven, stitch you into being: what? When are you going to murder me with your spit, hero? When are you going to overwhelm me again beneath the rain? When? When are you going to call me your little bird, your whore? When are you going to profane me? When? Beware time that passes, time, time! Not even your ghosts appear to me now, and I no longer understand umbrellas? Every day, I become more honest with myself, magnificently noble. . . If you delay, if you hesitate and don't search for me, you'll be blinded; if you don't return now, infidel, idiot, dummy, fool, I'll count myself nothing.
Yesterday, I dreamt that while we were kissing, a shooting star exploded and neither of us gave up hope.
This love of ours belongs to no one; We found it lost, stranded in the street. Between us we saved it, sheltered it. Because of that, when we swallow each other in the night, I feel like a frightened mother left alone. It doesn't matter, kiss me again and over again to come to me. Press yourself against my waist, come to me again; be my warm animal again, move me, again. I'll purify my leftover life, the lives of condemned children.
We'll sleep like murderers who've saved themselves by bonding together in incomparable blossoming. And in the morning when the rooster crows, we will be nature, herself. I'll appear like your child asleep in her cradle.
Come back to me, come back, penetrate me with lightening, Bend me to your will. We'll turn the record player on forever. Bring me that unfaithful nape of your neck, the blow of your stone. Show me I haven't died, my love, and I promise you the apple.
American poetry is a great literature, and it has come to its maturity only in the last seventy years; Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson in the last century were rare examples of genius in a hostile environment. One decade gave America the major figures of our modern poetry: Wallace Stevens was born in 1879, and T. S. Eliot in 1888. To the ten years that these dates enclose belong H. D., Robinson Jeffers, John Crowe Ransom, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and Marianne Moore.
Marianne Moore began to publish during the First World War. She was printed and praised in Europe by the expatriates T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. In Chicago, Harriet Monroe’s magazine Poetry, which provided the enduring showcase for the new poetry, published her too. But she was mainly a poet of New York, of the Greenwich Village group which created magazines called Others and Broom.
To visit Marianne Moore at her home in Brooklyn, you had to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, turn left at Myrtle Avenue, follow the elevated for a mile or two, and then turn right onto her street. It was pleasantly lined with a few trees, and Miss Moore’s apartment was conveniently near a grocery store and the Presbyterian church that she attended.
The interview took place in November 1960, the day before the presidential election. The front door of Miss Moore’s apartment opened onto a long narrow corridor. Rooms led off to the right, and at the end of the corridor was a large sitting room that overlooked the street. On top of a bookcase that ran the length of the corridor was a Nixon button.
Miss Moore and the interviewer sat in her sitting room, a microphone between them. Piles of books stood everywhere. On the walls hung a variety of paintings. One came from Mexico, a gift of Mabel Dodge; others were examples of the heavy, tea-colored oils that Americans hung in the years before 1914. The furniture was old-fashioned and dark.
Miss Moore spoke with an accustomed scrupulosity, and with a humor that her readers will recognize. When she ended a sentence with a phrase that was particularly telling, or even tart, she glanced quickly at the interviewer to see if he was amused, and then snickered gently. Later Miss Moore took the interviewer to an admirable lunch at a nearby restaurant. She decided not to wear her Nixon button because it clashed with her coat and hat.
On one wall of Mr. Lowell’s study was a large portrait of Ezra Pound, the tired, haughty outlines of the face concentrated as in the raised outlines of a ring seal in an enlargement. Also bearded, but on another wall, over the desk, James Russell Lowell looked down from a gray old-fashioned photograph on the apex of the triangle thus formed, where his great-grandnephew sat and answered questions.
Mr. Lowell had been talking about the classes he teaches at Boston University.
Four floors below the study window, cars whined through the early spring rain on Marlborough Street toward the Boston Public Garden.
What are you teaching now?
I’m teaching one of these poetry-writing classes and a course in the novel. The course in the novel is called Practical Criticism. It’s a course I teach every year, but the material changes. It could be anything from Russian short stories to Baudelaire, a study of the New Critics, or just fiction. I do whatever I happen to be working on myself.