disclaimer: This is post 1 of 2 on the same book & poet. 🙂 you should definitely read post 2 as well!
I have to admit this was a frustrating experience. A surprise, if you will. I knew Bishop was very fond of Moore, and somehow expected a sort of poetic kinship, but couldn’t find it. Where Bishop’s poems, to me , were largely very accessible, with footholds and corners and such, Moore’s poems — starting at the beginning — are more like teflon. My mind just slips off, I can’t get a grip. There is craft, certainly, and form, and there are allusions and interesting details, but I had a difficult time getting into this book. That said, I’ve been struggling with a lot of headaches, so this has probably affected my reading experience. What the two do share (Bishop and Moore) is an eye for and interest in specific plants. Lots of different specific types of plants are named, at times with their latin signifiers, and they matter in the poems. The poem I liked best in this collection is “Love in America –” (340):
Whatever it is, it’s a passion — / a benign dementia that should be / engulfing America, fed in a way the opposite of the way / in which the Minotaur was fed.
The idea of love as a “benign dementia” is wonderful. This is love without guile or unnecessary pride, love that has the “ability / to bear being misunderstood” and, in all, “without / affectation. // Yes, yes, yes, yes.” It’s a clean, straight-forward poem.
The one facing it, “Tippoo’s Tiger,” is fascinating although (imho) wordy. Old mechanical ‘toys’ are such interesting things. Tipu’s Tiger is a mechanism made to look like a tiger assaulting a European man. It contains an organ that creates both the noises of the attacking tiger and the dying man. Tipu was, obviously, not very fond of the British colonizers, in addition to being very fond of tigers. Read more about this strange toy at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tipu%27s_Tiger. The Collected Poems also contain extensive notes in the back that identify the quotes and allusions in each poem, and Selections from The Fables of La Fontaine. The fables are much more accessible.