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This report is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

Comment C.H. Sisson
Readers and indeed non-readers of the so-called Complete Poems of Marianne Moore currently available in paperback would do well to dig out the Selected Poems issued under the same imprint in 1935. The earlier volume, which incidentally contains some poems missing from the later one, contains also an introduction by T.S. Eliot which is worth reading, less for its observations on Moore - which are however much to the point - than for remarks which have at least as much bearing on the fashionable verse of our own age as on that of an earlier time.

'For many readers,' Eliot says, 'any superficial novelty of form is evidence of, or as good as, newness of sensibility.' He does not here attempt to define what is meant by form. In the crude sense, as meaning patterns of versification, there is now less that calls attention to itself than there was in the 1920s and 1930s but the superstition of newness has found other formal expressions. It certainly remains true that 'if the sensibility is fundamentally dull and second-hand, so much the better; for there is no quicker way of catching an immediate, if transient, popularity, than to serve stale goods in new packages.' Of this talent there is no lack of examples in our own day. It can hardly be said that Eliot's own later verse is entirely free of staleness, and certainly his sensibility became less vivid, with the Four Quartets. Those later poems fail Eliot's own test - ...


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