Monday, January 3, 2011

A Jelly-fish, Marianne Moore; plus Sarah gets nerdy

And more on jellyfish. Or jelly-fish. I've seen Miss Moore's title presented either way, and though the language, with speed and efficiency having no regard for the look of a word, is eliding hyphens, I'm leaving this one in.

As a proofreader, I approve of the simplfication, the freedom of prefix to snuggle with its root word. Hyphens, further, can cause problems in typography. The move to a hyphen-less or hyphen-little language is okay, with exceptions.

And now, Marianne Moore's (November 15, 1887 – February 5, 1972) poem. Please read it outloud. It is a painting.

Painting from:

A Jelly-fish

Visible, invisible,
a fluctuating charm
an amber-tinctured amethyst
inhabits it, your arm
approaches and it opens
and it closes; you had meant
to catch it and it quivers;
you abandon your intent.
Marianne Moore, 1887-1972. For more info, please see


  1. honestly I find a hard time of understanding the poem. But i know there is a hidden meaning inside the poem and i would want to know what is this.

  2. i cant really understand what is the hidden meaning of the poem. I want to know what is it.

  3. Had to analyze this poem for English. Basically I took it as trying to reach a goal in life that can be potentially dangerous.

  4. I analysed this for my University course. The message I received was the indecisiveness of people, which is mirrored both in the structure of the poem and in the behavior of the jellyfish that it addresses. It 'opens and it closes' - you open your mind, then close it, and 'abandon your intent.' Hope people find this an interesting interpretation!

  5. I analyzed this poem for English also. I got from it a message about indecisiveness of people, or simply a state of mind. The jellyfish mirrors this, as well as the structure of the poem itself - 'it opens and it closes', like our mind to ideas when we are deep in thought and suddenly decide against something. 'you abandon your intent' meanwhile, the structure is mirroring this pulsating movement of the jellyfish to emphasise this with its short lines.
    Hope people found this interesting!

  6. Thanks so much for your analysis, Chukapi. I find it fascinating that this blog posting gets so much attention. I don't analyze poems much beyond the experience of reading, the detail of description, the emotion I feel or the complexity of feelings excited, and the poem's encapsulation of my condition (the human condition) so it's great to hear other people's insights.

  7. Recently worked on this poem with my seventh grade writing student; it was one she selected. I took a trip to the ocean the following week- and of all things, quivering jelly-fish were riding the waves. The experience Moore wrote about came to life within me. At its best, poetry awakens us to our own lives.