ABSTRACT

This essay discusses Marianne Moore’s archival practices through the lens of live speech and performance. While it is common to view Moore’s poetic archive—both her eclectic composition and her collage form—as embodying the tension between knowledge and reality, her borrowing from live speech also draws attention to the tension between written documents and speech acts, between text and performance. Invoking Diana Taylor’s idea that the liveness of performance necessarily disappears in archival documents, the author argues that Moore’s archival practices enact a drama of dis/appearance by creating appearances of speech that measure themselves against states of disappearance. The dis/appearance of speech in Moore’s poetry evinces her obsession with liveness and her discernable concern to hold the audience’s attention; it illuminates how Moore wants her poetry to “appeal” to the reader. Through elaborating on her incorporation of live speech and its affinities with her performances, I seek to take an appeal as a fulcrum for interpreting Moore’s poetry and amplify the critical vocabulary for describing her readers’ engrossment and infatuation. Moore’s poetry often animates a quest for knowledge, but it also aims at the very effect of engaging us in the “here and now.” Her “performing” archive, by letting live speech dis/appear, ultimately challenges us to envision a modernist poetics that has appeal as its major theme and ethos.

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