PERSPECTIVE: ‘To a Snail’ by Marianne Moore

If “compression is the first grace of style,”
you have it. Contractility is a virtue
as modesty is a virtue.
It is not the acquisition of any one thing
that is able to adorn,
or the incidental quality that occurs
as a concomitant of something well said,
that we value in style,
but the principle that is hid:
in the absence of feet, “a method of conclusions”;
“a knowledge of principles,”
in the curious phenomenon of your occipital horn.

By Marianne Moore

I cannot begin to express how much I do not care about this poem. I try to take the time to consider each poem I read, try to take time to understand both subject and perspective, try to take time to connect to the poem. I have been staring at this page on and off for far too long, and, frankly, I give up.

I don’t really know why it’s not my cup of tea, but this feels like a poem that needs incredibly little discussion. Seeing as it’s an ode, we know exactly who – or what, as may be the case – the subject is. Furthermore, Moore specifies the intent of this poem in the second and third lines; “Contractility is a virtue/as modesty is a virtue.” It leaves little room for a subjective audience outside of potential discussion on poetry itself.

See, Moore has a penchant for writing meta-poems, and she’s possibly done so here again. But even that doesn’t intrigue me in this case. I could dive into this further, but there’s an article written by a person who cares so much more than I do here.

The poem just seems to me a thesis statement surrounded by flowery unnecessaries; this might be the point, but I don’t think I’ve taken the intended lesson. The lesson I’ve taken is that not every poem connects; even a poem written by one of America’s greatest poets, and a poem apparently loved by others, during a circumstance I’m intentionally trying to embrace what I read, doesn’t always spark. I have learned something in a lesson of futility.

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