We know that much of what passes for interpretation

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we know that much of what passes for interpretation and commentary is often undertaken by persons far less gifted than their poets for purposes purely fashionable in the academy to which theinterpreters/commentators belong. It is not without some demonstrable logic and proof that Moore observes that “these things [hands, eyes, hair— all emblems of aesthetic stimuli and appropriate human responses] are important not because a/ / high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them/ but because/ they are/ useful” (pp.266–267). No poet could have been more precise and pertinent than Moore when she proposes a new theory of reading literature (a domain capacious enough for all things genuine in life and the arts) at a time when schools of critical theory have been rising and falling on popular votes and journal-ratings. The point is that when a shadow falls between readers and what they read, the penumbral does not constitute feasible hermeneutics. Much of what we read as critical interpretation or scholarly commentary falls within this penumbral region. Neither has the poet said anything nor has the interpreter heard anything. Once again we suspect that the real and the imaginary have played truant. Imaginary gardens with real toads in them
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6 We shall be remiss, again, if we tried hard to extract or develop a simplistic ‘theory’ of reading poetry from Moore’s poem, but it is plausible that the poem nevertheless seemed to suggest to our class why reading (not only poetry, but just about anything genuine , a word Moore repeats here 4 ) has a grammar, an ethics of words, of its own. It is not always the way we read (or what we read) that eventually takes the shape of our commentary. The experience of reading, in other words, is certainly not the “reading” we present as ‘our’ experience. Each of these, reading as well as the understanding of that experience, is subject to completely different protocols. Yet another way of putting this is to remark that Moore’s “Poetry” (a poem that makes such a metapoetic bid, as it were) is an utterance not only in language but by language. Are we able to imagine language doing such things on our TV shows? Hardly. But when language speaks itself in poetry, we ought not to interpret its language strenuously. We have heard enough. And what we have heard is “the rustle of language,” as Roland Barthes calls it, when the poet’s creatures (elephants, wild horse, the tireless wolf, the immovable critic, the baseball fan, the statistician …) live and move and have their beings in that world created out of nothing thatwe can record or reproduce electronically or mechanically. For all this, however, Moore’s “Poetry” occupies only a secondary status among the landmarks of American modernist poetry. Most anthologies print only its drastically edited/ excised opening, a reminiscential token from an era that first learnt to be circumspect about poetry in all its forms. While other poets recognized “Poetry” as a minor achievement
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