Review of Marianne Moore's 'Nevertheless'

Clark Ashton Smith

The six pieces in this tiny volume, written by a winner of numerous prize-awards, impress the present viewer as being fairly mild examples of modernist decadence. That is to say, they are as far from good poetry as they are from the absolute deliquescence of thought and language in such a writer as E. E. Cummings. One finds thought and observation in Miss Moore: but hardly such as to reward one for breaking the gnarled and spiny husk of diction. There is, as in so many other "modernists," an attempt to give distinction to the undistinguished through a sharp dislocation of rhythm and an eccentricity of image and phrase often carried to the verge of the ludicrous. For example, take the opening of the first poem, so eloquently entitled Nevertheless

you've seen a strawberry
that's seen a struggle; yet
there was, where the fragments met,

a hedgehog or a star-
fish for the multitude
of seeds.

After puzzling out the various turns and twists of this knotty effusion, one finds only a bit of commomplace didacticism, summed up in the sentence

Victory won't come
to me unless I go
to it.

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Printed on: November 14, 2018