Full text: The little review (12 (1926), 1)

54 
IN THIS AGE OF HARD TRYING, NON 
CHALANCE IS PREJUDICED 
W HAT T. S. ELIOT wrote is found true: one re 
reads the poems of Marianne Moore many times 
“always with exactly the same pleasure and satis 
faction in something quite definite and solid.” If 
one is an esthete and an analyst of literary pleasures, 
that almost ends matters: one simply goes on to the not easy 
business of explaining how Miss Moore gets her effects. The 
trouble is, the esthete finds it impossible to grade his pleasures 
beyond a certain point. After all, a number of literary artists 
are highly skilled and dexterous in the use of their medium. A 
number of them have—of one type or another—refined sensi 
bilities, interesting and beguiling temperaments, sharp novel in 
telligences, and each of them grants a special satisfaction to the 
attentive reader. But how evaluate these various satisfactions? 
They are all alike in that they satisfy one in some given direc 
tion, but the directions are all different, and the esthete, it is 
perceived, must base his literary opinions in the final analysis 
upon his personal antipathies and preferences. 
Yet there is such a thing as major poetry and such a thing as 
minor poetry, and it is indisputable that Marianne Moore is not 
a major poet but certainly an amazing minor poet. To say that 
is to abandon the esthete’s position—without, let us pray, giving 
up esthetic perceptiveness. For the esthete there can be only 
good, indifferent and bad poetry. But for one who believes that 
poetry is not only a glamorous phase of life, but a vital function 
of life cooperating with other functions and occupying a definite 
place in the whole round of man’s activity, there is a hierarchy 
of values to which all good poetry is subject and by which some 
poems are esteemed great and others are thought to be of minor 
excellence. 
What is the distinction between major and minor? It ap 
pears to me that there exists none in detail or craftsmanship but 
that it is to be discovered in the pattern in which details are set 
and the purpose for which craft is employed. There is a dif 
ference in scope. The effort of the major poet is to be compre 
hensive and precise, whereas the minor poet values precision 
alone. There is a difference in purpose. The great poet’s aim 
is to see totalities, to treat his experience, to treat life, as a 
whole. The minor poet is content with fragments of his experi 
ence, even with the isolated preception. 
Hence, the achievement of the minor poet is style and design. 
The achievement of the great poet is Form—the microcosmic
	        

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