You make me think of many men
Once met, to be forgot again
Or merely resurrected
In a parenthesis of wit
That found them hastening through it
Too brisk to be inspected.
by Marianne Moore
I was not expecting sassiness in first reading Marianne Moore, to be completely honest; I was expecting a feminist statement to be sure, but not sassiness. Still, this was quite a fun first dive into the mind of Moore.
For starters, the poem is very bouncy. Robert Pinsky mentioned that it reminded him of the limerick form, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does the poem have a similar metre and rhyme scheme (if not for the extra line), but the subject matter is treated with an air of dissidence and humour as is common in the limerick.
The first couplet is rather straight forward given the title, and makes quite the statement on the monotony and crudeness of the contemporary man of the city (contemporary here of course meaning the 1910’s). The following four lines left me momentarily confused however, thinking she meant the specified men or rat was literally “resurrected” (it’s been a long night, okay?). However, this is where the poem gets truly sassy.
Not only is Moore calling this rat the embodiment of the contemporary city-man, but is saying they are so forgettable, she can remember nothing more than the concept of them. On top of all that, she takes a brief moment to pat herself on the back for her “parenthesis of wit”, a clear case of the humble brag pre-internet.
In any case, this is a ridiculously fun poem to start my exploration of Marianne Moore. I was always expecting statements, I was never expecting sass. There’re a couple hundred poems to go; here’s hoping they’re equally entertaining.