Moore in the Poetry Machine
What narrative sustains and interprets this concurrent distribution of text? What valences precipitate out of this multi-faceted display? Just as â€œPoetryâ€ comes to signify Mooreâ€™s attitudes towards her chosen genre, the differences across versions, especially the erasures, demonstrate Mooreâ€™s poetic trajectory, from her early to later days, from her magpie-like enthusiastic culling and collaging of esoteric sources to a final, compact version that celebrates terseness and repudiates her penchants for proliferation exhibited earlier in her career.
Mooreâ€™s assertive epitaph from The Complete Poems (1967) declares â€œOmissions are never accidents,â€ which resonates with the presentations that modVers avows. The eye pans from left to right, observing the drastic cut in length from the initial to final iterations. The display makes patent the steep jump from the lengthy first and second versions, 39 and 38 lines respectively, to the terminal rendition of â€œPoetryâ€â€”a four-line haiku-esque stub.
What material does Moore shed in the fray? The first two versions embody a few alterations in terms of word choice, arrangement and length of lines, enjambments, and the deletion of the lines â€œcase after case / could be cited did / one wish itâ€ that reduces the overall length of the poem and disrupts the consistent stanza scheme. Notably, the term â€œautocratsâ€ morphs into â€œpoetsâ€; at first Moore blatantly airs and then, on second thought, masks the self-critical and derisive rapport with poetry underpinning her meditation on the form. Initially Moore describes the critic of poetry as â€œtwinklingâ€ in 1919 and then was â€œtwitchingâ€ in 1924.
Obviously, the most striking difference emerges in the final version of the poem in 1967. Moore concocts a reduction of four lines to articulate her ars poetica, demonstrating such pithiness that the tone verges on curt. The annihilated stanzas from the previous versions emblematize trademark Moore characteristics. References to visual art, zoology, high-and-low brow culture, mixed media and materials, the technique of collage all evaporate. Moore strips away the real toads from their imaginary gardens. This oft-quoted phrase critics deploy to define Mooreâ€™s poetic approach (â€œimaginary gardens with real toads in themâ€) disappears, as does mention of concrete objects, animals, the bits and pieces of the collage in the final version. The quintessential materials that form the basis of contemporary Moore studies: visual art, the natural world, collage and mixed media, and even baseball evaporate over time. â€œPoetryâ€ concludes its lifespan as barebones, brusque wisdom, crystallized salt.
I was already aware of the significant differences across versions before processing the text through modVers. Yet visualizing and entertaining â€œPoetryâ€ as a triadic poem allowed me to enlist this specific narrative of erasure and markedly note how the disappearance of specific material mapped onto what scholars define as typical traits in Mooreâ€™s poetry. ModVers, like a trellis, guides and exposes the text and narrative. With the whole hand showing, I could construct, mobilize, and visualize Moore scholarship in relation to her versioned poetry.
This post originally appeared atÂ http://maker.uvic.ca/machine/.Â It was edited by Jentery Sayers, Karly Wilson, and the Maker Lab in the Humanities.
AdÃ¨le Barclay is a doctoral candidate in English at UVic. She is a Graduate Research Assistant with the MVP and with INKE, and works out of The Maker Lab in the Humanities. For more of her work, visit maker.uvic.ca