“Further Document on the Human Brain,” by W. R. Moses

June 4th, 2014

waste-paper

Further Document on the Human Brain

This is a bit of rope that lies in the street.
And the stuff of oakum, but it is not blood
Out of half-naked seamen, nor the smoke
Grey from gun-mouths over the rough blue water
Where oaken old vessels would battle as they could.

This is waste-paper, flicked by a dust-filled breeze.
And what they make books on, but no feathered pen
In the hand of one who wore a ready dagger.
Wrote thunderous plays, praised his wine and tobacco,
And kept his whores in Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

This is a fringe of a woman’s fine black hair
Just seen past another; it is sheeting, cool
And crisply smooth to sheathe one’s limbs between.
Behind a locked door; and a heart that makes its throbbing
Noticed much more than in class-rooms in a school.

from Trial Balances: An Anthology Of New Poetry, edited by Ann Winslow
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935

In Trial Balances: An Anthology Of New Poetry, Allen Tate writes:

The feature of Moses’ work that most forcibly strikes me is the conscious control of his material. I believe he must have stated his problem to himself somewhat in these terms: given the desire to achieve all the shock of immediacy so brilliantly achieves in a poem like Crane’s Paraphrase; but given, too, the desire for the greater range of presentation and commentary that is possible only if the poem is removed from its inciting event, is there any way in which they might be combined, so that they actually reinforce and define each other?

In each of Moses’ poems lurks a hidden generalization that we do not merely infer, as we do with all poetry; it is the conscious selector of the material.

You can find this and two other poems by Moses from the The American Review in 1934: link. Moses’ work was the subject of a commemorative issue of the Kansas Quarterly in 1982.

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