UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Poetic synthesis : a study of form and subject in the poetry of Marianne Moore Shelbourn, Judith Anne Blakeston


One of the popular trends of modern literary criticism has emphasized the unity of form and subject as a first principle of a poem. Marianne Moore provides a thoroughly solid example of this principle in much of her poetry; the moral themes of her poems are reflected in her precise handling of the craftmanship of the poetic form. It is the purpose of this essay to review Miss Moore’s poetry within the implication of the phrase "poetic synthesis". In order for her poems to work for all levels of critical direction, that is language, metre, rhyme, metaphor, symbol, and philosophic,—and in her particular case- moral, theme, the reader must be aware of the singular unity of the poems. In other words, each of the facets of the constructed prism - poem reflects by its construction the light which comes the creative source of the poet: the act of the statement is the essence of the statement. This idea is the controlling method of this particular thesis: the work dealt with includes a range of material from fifty years of Miss Moore's publication of her poetry. For the most part, selections from her Collected Poems provide the basis of discussion. No attempt is made to asses her work chronologically since the selections in the Collected Poems contain works that will have a fixed importance regardless of their time sequence. The first chapter offers a close reading of poems in terms of the concept of the poetic synthesis. References are made to the deliberately controlled metric and syllabic system which is found in most of her works as well as to the many types of rhyme that contribute to the structural unity of the poem. Some mention is made of the moral themes which occur in many of the works, often with reference to the “armoured" metaphor of which she is so fond. The second chapter suggests some comparisons between Miss Moore and several of her contemporary writers; William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens, to show how, against the Imagist background, each of these poets projects a particular concern in both technique and theme. No mention has been made of Miss Moore's most recent publication since the thesis had been written and approved before its appearance.

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