Analysis Pages

Themes in Poetry

Language as a means of delivering physical feeling: Moore’s speaker claims that language and form in poetry can truly produce a physical reaction or response in readers. This ability for physical, rather than intellectual, stimulation, is the real power of poetry.

The Despotism of Poetry Scholars: Moore sets up two sides of poetry: the poetry critics who pursue the “high-minded interpretation” and others who physically feel a “genuine” response to poetry. Throughout the poem, Moore argues that physical responses to poetry are more important than intellectual ones.

Themes Examples in Poetry:


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"the raw material of poetry in          all its rawness, and          that which is on the other hand,              genuine..."   (Poetry)

In these final lines, Moore’s speaker reaffirms the two ingredients for real poetry: “the raw material of poetry”—in other words, language and form—and “that which is… genuine”—in other words, powerful evocations of the world which raise the hair and induce pupil dilations. The poem slowly works its way to make this claim, revealing at the end this central idea.

"“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.

"by half poets,          the result is not poetry,..."   (Poetry)

Moore’s ingredients for true poetry are “the raw material of poetry”—that is, language and technique—as well as an attention to the genuine. The fault of the “half poets” lies not in their misdirected attentions but in their loose grasp of the raw material. A half poet cannot make poetry, even out of genuine subjects such as the “wild horse taking a roll.”

"twinkling his skin..."   (Poetry)

The image of the critic gets to the heart of the poem’s claim. The critic is “immovable” in the sense of being unable to be moved emotionally. The critic is too busy with the pursuit of “high-minded interpretation.” However, the critic is nonetheless “twinkling his skin”: a skin-tingling sensation overtakes him as he reads. Even for the critic there is “a place for the genuine,” for pure feeling.

" Hands that can grasp, eyes          that can dilate, hair that can rise..."   (Poetry)

These lines describe poetry from an affective perspective. When encountering poetry which captures the “genuine,” the reader experiences a physical response: the hair stands up, the eyes dilate, etc. As Moore’s speaker goes on to explain, these reactions are “useful” in themselves, not merely as fodder for interpretation. These unconscious reactions, arising from language which stirs the depths of our imaginations, are the whole point.

"insolence and triviality..."   (Poetry)

The noun “insolence” means having a prideful, haughty, or overbearing disposition. It generally describes a person’s behavior that makes apparent their contempt for inferiors. The noun “triviality” means the quality of being common or basic. Using these two disdainful nouns to refer to the autocrats’ behavior, the speaker implies that these “half-poets” have overwhelming flaws of character that they must contend with in order to make good poetry.

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