Things change at a wicked clip these days. Who would have imagined that Marianne Moore, saluted by Eliot in the Thirties as...

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TELL ME, TELL ME

Things change at a wicked clip these days. Who would have imagined that Marianne Moore, saluted by Eliot in the Thirties as one of the great, difficult poetic innovators, should now be so famous, so domesticated that Esquire could list her as being among the ""unknockables,"" like Grandma Moses? Eliot spoke admiringly of her ingenious syllabic meters, witty bestiary fables, and descriptive accuracy ""startling us into an unusual awareness of visual patterns, with something like the fascination of a high-powered microscope."" Since the great man is dead, Miss Moore needn't worry about his reaction to Tell Me, Tell Me; she might start worrying, though, about the terrible predictability of her later style. For the collection here, her first since 1959 is largely a matter of genius indulging itself. Miss Moore's celebrated eccentricity is no longer stimulating; in fact, the effect of a number of these poems is like air going out of a balloon. Fractured couplets (""Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral;/he could handle any missile""); the breath-taking music of ""tale-spinner"" rhymed with ""Yul Brynner""; runic phrases (""metaphysical new mown hay""); Arthur Mitchell's balletics called ""your jewels of mobility""; or the daring experiment of taking a Victor Hugo epigraph for a short-beat, baby-talk remembrance of ""my crow/Pluto"" interspersed with loony Italian expressions.... What can be Miss Moore's intentions? True, there are sparkling stretches (""W.S. Landor,"" the title-poem, and some extremely clever essayistic prose passages). Alas, the prevailing impression is a highly private, cultivated dottiness, stuffed with aphoristic jugglery, and unredeemed by pyrotechnical skill. Sorry.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 1966

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1966