Marianne Moore Criticism

A criticism of Marianne Moore and her unconventional method of creating a poem that compares the grace and imagery of baseball to the grace and imagery of poetry.

Marianne Moore uses an unconventional method to create a poem that compares the grace and imagery of baseball to the grace and imagery of poetry. Most poets rarely use any kind of dialogue in their poems. Moore uses quoted dialogue that may actually be quoted from an individual, non-fiction; quoted dialogue that is obviously an artistic recreation of what Moore thinks a character would have said in a given situation, fiction; and dialogue without quotation marks. In "Baseball and Writing," Moore uses dialogue saturated with simile and metaphor to enhance the imagery and realism of the poem.

Except for the first, each stanza of Moore's poem includes quoted dialogue; each also includes figurative language such as metaphor and simile to bring the reader into the ballpark. The only part of the first stanza that stands out, the way the dialogue stands out in the other stanzas, is the italicized metaphor "owl" in "Owlman." It is as if the writer adds her own dialogue as description to the narrative. The "Owlman watching from the press box?" conjures images of Mel Allen and the members of the New York sporting press staring through binoculars from below the Yankee Stadium façade. Moore invites the reader to share her perspective, using a simile to compare baseball to writing, "Writing is exciting / and baseball is like writing."

In the second stanza, Moore uses Elston Howard's own words to contrast the imagery of the sharp words she uses to describe Howard as he approaches the plate. Moore describes Howard in her narrative with "cruel puma paw," "lumbers," and "killer instinct," and then contrasts those images with his dialogue:

when questioned, says, unenviously,

"I'm very satisfied. We won."

Shorn of the batting crown, says, "We";

robbed by a technicality.

If we only get Moore's description of Howard approaching the plate, we only get half of the image. Moore's use of most likely real dialogue""non-fiction""to enhance the imagery gives the reader greater insight into the mind of the player. If she uses only the narrative description, we have a catcher "with cruel puma paw" and a "killer instinct," a fierce competitor. The use of nonfiction dialogue allows us to see Howard as he "unenviously" speaks his humbleness, "I'm very satisfied. We won," and team spirit. Moore adds her interpretation of his words, "Shorn of the batting crown, says, "˜We'; / robbed by a technicality." He does not say I, he says "˜We,' a part of the image that would have been omitted without the dialogue.

In the third stanza, Moore uses the dialogue of the announcer Mel Allen to compare the excitement of a baseball game to the excitement of writing. The poetic way Mel describes Mantle's catch and the excitement of the ball game, imitates Moore's excitement of writing:

"Going, going. . ." Is

it? Roger Maris

has it, running fast. You will

never see a finer catch. Well. . .

"Mickey, leaping like the Devil"

Moore likes Mel's imagery, but thinks she can improve it. She finds herself re-writing Mel's words and continuing his description:


gild it, although deer sounds better""

snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest,

one-handing the souvenir-to-be

meant to be caught by you or me.

Moore uses dialogue to enhance several metaphors in the fourth stanza. The dialogue in this section, however, is different. There are two voices speaking. She begins with the unquoted and quoted voice of Mel, using a metaphor to describe Yogi Berra's catching abilities

Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral; he could

handle any missile.

He is no feather. "Strike! . . . Strike two!"

Without any indication Moore, switches to the unquoted voice of Mel Allen and the quoted voice of Mark Skowron. It is Skowron who identifies the unquoted speaker "Thanks, Mel." The switch allows us to see things through not only Mel Allen perspective, but also Moose Skowron's. Moore uses only enough dialogue""non-fiction""as needed to enhance her images and then returns, as narrator and the excited writer, to tie the images together.

Moore uses two quoted voices again in the fifth stanza. First, she uses her own voice to emphasize the frustration and empathy of the crowd""much like an announcer""when the pitcher throws close to Mantles knees:

("Grazed a Yankee!

My baby, pitcher, Montejo!"

The use of her own spoken voice, rather than as narrator, brings an intensity that enhances the realism of the moment. It is as if she is shouting out-loud. Moore then imagines that she is Mantle in the batting box talking to himself, "˜"I can stand here, bat held steady." The line enhances the image of Mantle's frustration and allows the reader to feel the emotions of the players, the announcers, and the fans.

In the final stanza, Moore returns to her comparison of baseball and writing. She compares the job of a pinch hitter to that of a writer in the only dialogue:

And "Yes, it's work; I want you

to bear down, but enjoy it while

you're doing it."

Moore does not indicate who is speaking, but in the next line, she mentions Yankee coaches "Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain," implying similarity to a pep talk. Yet it is Moore, herself, who makes the observation, and the final comparison between the excitement of baseball and the excitement of writing.

Moore experiments with various kinds of dialogue to enhance imagery and realism, but her method works. The reader experiences the excitement, Moore's passion for both baseball and writing. The dialogue enhances the effect of the figurative language and also gives the reader insight to the poet's ideas and thoughts.

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