'Silence' by Marianne Moore

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Observations1924My father used to say,
"Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow's grave
nor the glass flowers at Harvard.
Self reliant like the cat --
that takes its prey to privacy,
the mouse's limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth --
they sometimes enjoy solitude,
and can be robbed of speech
by speech which has delighted them.
The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
not in silence, but restraint."
Nor was he insincere in saying, "Make my house your inn."
Inns are not residences.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Silence: A Masterpiece of Pensive Verse

When Marianne Moore wrote "Poetry, Silence," she wasn't trying to describe the nature of poetry. Instead, she was searching for an inner silence, a stillness that could help her confront the tumultuous world around her. In this masterwork of pensive verse, Moore invites readers to join her in a quiet exploration of the inner self.

The Power of Quietness

At its core, "Poetry, Silence" is about the power of stillness. Moore uses vivid imagery to conjure up the image of a silent, motionless world. She describes the "stillness of the heron" and the "motionless wheel" of a water bird's wings. These images are not just beautiful; they are also symbolic of the kind of inner stillness that Moore seeks.

The poem opens with the lines: "The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence; / not in silence, but restraint." These lines set the tone for the entire poem. Moore is not interested in empty, meaningless silence. She is interested in the kind of silence that comes from a place of deep feeling and restraint.

The Poetry of Everyday Life

One of the most striking features of "Poetry, Silence" is how Moore finds poetry in everyday life. She writes about the "bivalves shut tight as a fist" and the "twigs of water-ash, hinged / upon the green-eyed water." These are not grandiose images or lofty ideas. They are simple, everyday things that Moore has elevated to the level of poetry.

Moore's poetry is not about grandiose ideas or lofty language. It is about finding beauty in the small things, the things that we might overlook in our busy lives. She invites us to slow down and take a look at the world around us, to see the poetry in the everyday.

The Importance of Self-Reflection

"Poetry, Silence" is ultimately a poem about self-reflection. Moore is not interested in telling us what to think or how to live our lives. She is interested in helping us find our own inner stillness, our own inner poetry.

Moore writes, "We do not admire what / we cannot understand." This line is a powerful reminder that we must take the time to understand ourselves before we can begin to understand the world around us. If we do not take the time to reflect on our own feelings and thoughts, we will never be able to truly appreciate the beauty of the world.


In "Poetry, Silence," Marianne Moore has created a masterpiece of pensive verse. She invites us to slow down and take a look at the world around us, to find the poetry in the everyday. She reminds us of the importance of stillness, of restraint, of self-reflection. This is a poem that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Silence: A Masterpiece of Modernist Poetry

Marianne Moore's "Poetry Silence" is a classic example of modernist poetry that has captivated readers for decades. The poem, which was first published in 1921, is a powerful meditation on the nature of poetry and the role of the poet in society. In this analysis, we will explore the themes and literary devices used in "Poetry Silence" and examine why it remains a timeless masterpiece of modernist poetry.

The poem begins with a paradoxical statement: "I, too, dislike it." The "it" in question is poetry, and the speaker claims to dislike it, even though she is a poet herself. This statement sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is full of contradictions and paradoxes. The speaker goes on to say that poetry is "a thing of silence," which seems to contradict the very nature of poetry, which is supposed to be a form of communication.

However, as the poem progresses, it becomes clear that the speaker is not really saying that poetry is silent. Rather, she is saying that poetry is a form of communication that transcends language. Poetry, she says, is "the silence of the gods," a reference to the idea that poetry is a divine art that can only be understood by those who are attuned to its mysteries.

The theme of communication is central to "Poetry Silence." The speaker argues that poetry is a form of communication that is more powerful than language. She says that poetry "is the language of a state of mind," which suggests that poetry is a way of expressing emotions and ideas that cannot be put into words. This idea is reinforced by the poem's use of imagery, which is often abstract and difficult to interpret.

One of the most striking images in the poem is the comparison of poetry to a "glass of water," which is "clear, colourless, but if you try to look through it you see things distorted." This image suggests that poetry is a form of communication that is both transparent and opaque. On the one hand, poetry is clear and easy to understand. On the other hand, it is also full of hidden meanings and ambiguities that can be difficult to decipher.

The use of paradoxes and contradictions in "Poetry Silence" is another hallmark of modernist poetry. The speaker says that poetry is "a way of happening, a mouth," which seems to suggest that poetry is a living, breathing thing that has a life of its own. She also says that poetry is "an emotion of great importance," which seems to contradict the idea that poetry is a form of communication that transcends emotion.

The poem's use of language is also noteworthy. The speaker uses a variety of literary devices, including alliteration, assonance, and repetition, to create a musical and rhythmic effect. For example, the line "It is the sea / tangled in a fisherman's net" uses alliteration and repetition to create a sense of movement and rhythm.

The poem's structure is also important. "Poetry Silence" is divided into three stanzas, each of which contains four lines. The first and third stanzas are identical, while the second stanza is slightly different. This structure creates a sense of symmetry and balance that reinforces the poem's themes of harmony and unity.

In conclusion, "Poetry Silence" is a masterpiece of modernist poetry that continues to captivate readers today. The poem's themes of communication, paradox, and the transcendent power of poetry are as relevant today as they were when the poem was first published nearly a century ago. The poem's use of language, imagery, and structure are all masterful, and the result is a work of art that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. If you have not yet read "Poetry Silence," I highly recommend that you do so. It is a true classic of modernist poetry that deserves to be read and appreciated by all lovers of literature.

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