June 30th Marianne Moore: The Mind is an Enchanted Thing

Yesterday, I wrote about how imagery is used in poetry (or any type of writing) to capture a moment, after all a moment is more about what you are currently seeing, hearing, touching, smelling or tasting or feeling, but imagery is also used to tell a story, or rather, specify ideas in a story.

In Marianne Moore’s “The Mind is an Enchanted Thing”, the poet uses imagery to capture an idea. What does she mean, the mind is an enchanted thing? I suppose she could have described how great minds have thought up amazing inventions, beautiful symphonies or astounding architecture (Gothic Cathedrals, skyscrapers and the pyramids come to mind), but that would only tell what they could do. She used the verb “is”, she wanted to comment on how they are in a state of enchantment, no normal adjectives, adverbs or modifiers will do. She needed “the glaze on a katydid-wing”, “Gieseking playing Scarlatti”, “the apteryx-awl as a beak, or the/kiwi’s rain-shawl” and “the fire in the dove-neck’s/iridescence”. With such beautiful and strange sights, the enchantment is unquestionable. And just as the right word must be found to perfectly express the poet’s idea, so must the perfect image be found.

The poet can’t use something trite, not if she is going show how beautiful and unique an object is (unless trite is what she is trying to express). She can’t be general (the mind is like the sun, but how?), specificity is the key to getting the reader as close to the idea as possible and without it the image might not say anything useful. They say God is in the details, I say the enchantment is in the details. Pick the right image to say exactly what you want to say.

This is my 200th post. Hooray for me! I said I would make changes after this. I want to pull in more readings from fiction prose, perhaps talk more about bigger concepts like plot, character and story (sometimes poems have those, they just aren’t necessary like they are in stories). So, raise a champagne glass (or whatever celebratory drink you chose) to me. Two years worth of work. And it has been worth it.

The Mind is an Enchanted Thing

by Marianne Moore

is an enchanted thing
like the glaze on a
katydid-wing
subdivided by sun
till the nettings are legion.
Like Gieseking playing Scarlatti;

like the apteryx-awl
as a beak, or the
kiwi’s rain-shawl
of haired feathers, the mind
feeling its way as though blind,
walks along with its eyes on the ground.
It has memory’s ear
that can hear without
having to hear.
Like the gyroscope’s fall,
truly unequivocal
because trued by regnant certainty,

it is a power of
strong enchantment. It
is like the dove-
neck animated by
sun; it is memory’s eye;
it’s conscientious inconsistency.

It tears off the veil; tears
the temptation, the
mist the heart wears,
from its eyes, — if the heart
has a face; it takes apart
dejection. It’s fire in the dove-neck’s

iridescence; in the
inconsistencies
of Scarlatti.
Unconfusion submits
its confusion to proof; it’s
not a Herods oath that cannot change.

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About penneloppe

I like to write horror, dark fantasy and crime fiction. Sometimes, I'll write science fiction, but usually I like to write science fact. I also write screenplays and stage plays. My day job is office work. I live in Seattle and I have a cat.
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