Laurence Stapleton: On "An Octopus"

"Neatness of Finish!"

 

In the spring issue [of the Marianne Moore Newsletter], the editors ask whether the expression "neatness of finish" in "An Octopus" came from Henry James. I think it more likely that the origin of this phrase is to be found in William Carlos William's Kora in Hell in Section XXI, 2:

 

Neatness and finish, the dust out of every corner, you swish from room to room and find all perfect. The house may now be carefully wrapped in brown paper and sent to a publisher. It is a work of art.

 

The larger context in which this passage occurs also has some interest in connection with the lines in "An Octopus." It is characteristic of MM to have changed the quotation from "neatness and finish" to "neatness of finish!" She had reviewed Williams' Kora in Hell for the magazine Contact in 1921, not long before the time when she wrote the poem.

 

Laurence Stapleton

Bryn Mawr College

 

From the Marianne Moore Newsletter, Volume I, Number 2 (Fall 1977).

Details

Criticism Overview
Title Laurence Stapleton: On "An Octopus" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Laurence Stapleton Criticism Target Marianne Moore
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 19 Oct 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
Printer Friendly PDF Version
Contexts No Data Tags No Data

Rate this Content

Item Type Criticism
Average Rating 0/100
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Total votes: 0
Use the above slider to rate this item. You can only submit one rating per item, and your rating will be factored in to the item's popularity on our listings.

Share via Social Media