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Historical Context in Poetry

Marianne Moore’s work uses many modernist elements, incorporating quotes from other works and presenting concise language capable of suggesting a myriad of images or ideas. In “Poetry,” she paraphrases a quotation from William Butler Yeats: “‘a literalist of the imagination.’” In the poem’s most famous line, Moore urges poets to create “‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them,’” a phrase of her own invention which, oddly enough, she quotes. Moore first published “Poetry” in 1919 but revised it countless times over the span of five decades. In 1967, she controversially reduced it to merely three lines.

Historical Context Examples in Poetry:


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"“literalists of          the imagination”..."   (Poetry)

Moore suggests the ideal approach is to be a “literalist of the imagination,” a poet who stirs the imagination through precise, evocative imagery. Such a literalist uses language to create a lifelike object in the reader’s imagination—be it a bat or a wild horse—rather than to offer an abstract statement about it. Moore places the phrase “literalist of the imagination” in quotation marks because it drawn from the writings of William Butler Yeats, the famous Irish poet who was a contemporary of Moore.

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