enchanted thing

Over the fold are some brief comments on Marianne Moore‘s “The Mind is an Enchanting Thing“. I shall be posting some more of the material I had prepared for class discussion up here including some on Mansfield and Brecht.

The Mind is an Enchanting Thing

is an enchanted thing
like the glaze on a
subdivided by sun
till the nettings are legion.
Like Giesking playing Scarltti;

like the apteryx-awl
as a beak, or the
kiwi’s rain-shawl
of haired feathers, the mind
feeling its way as though blind,
walks along with its eyes on the ground.

It has memory’s ear
that can hear without
having to hear.
Like the gyroscope’s fall,
truly equivocal
because trued by regnant certainty,

it is a power of strong enchantment. It
is like the dove-
neck animated by
sun; it is memory’s eye;
it’s conscientious inconsistency.

It tears off the veil; tears
the temptation, the
mist the heart wears,
from its eyes – if the heart
has a face; it takes apart
dejection. It’s fire in the dove-neck’s

iridescence; in the inconsistencies
of Scarlatti.
Unconfusion submits
its confusion to proof; it’s
not a Herod’s oath that cannot change.

The opening line is one of my favourite opening lines of any poem. It is written to do what it says, or does not say as the case may be. The differential repetition of the title “The mind is an enchanting thing” in the first line “is an enchanted” without ‘the mind’ produces the effect of the reader automatically inserting ‘the mind’. The present tense infinite verb of ‘enchanting’ becomes the past tense ‘enchanted’ after the mind has already been literally ‘enchanted’. Moore does not ‘represent’ the mind in this first line, she captures the movement of the mind. This is the dance of “conscientious inconsistency” (about line 26).

Line six makes mention of the mind being like “Gies[e]king playing Scarl[a]tti.” As the wikipedia entry notes, Walter Gieseking “is said to have been a natural and intuitive pianist. According to legend, he never practised except in his own mind. He apparently would study the score, imagine playing it, and then perform it flawlessly. His habit of spending hours in total silence as he pored over scores is said to have frustrated his wife greatly.” Domenico Scarlatti was a different type of classical composer and musician. His works “are characterized by many unconventional features, which include irregular phrases or groups of phrases, extensive use of the acciaccatura, and unusual modulations. Scarlatti also explored virtuoso technique in these sonatas, employing devices such as frequent crossing of the hands, runs in thirds and sixths, leaps wider than an octave, rapid arpeggio figurations, and rapid repeated notes.” Gieseking is the pianist who allegedly practised playing only in his own mind who is described as playing the brilliant and extremely creative compositions of Scarlatti.

Moore produces a problematic of thought that poetically addresses the conceptual injunction of an (early) Deleuze who argues in Empiricism and Subjectivity that it is “no longer a question of fixed relations, but centers of fixation” (124). Moore writes:

trued by regnant certainty,

it is a power of strong enchantment

Across these two lines Moore creates a link of expression, not analogy, between the ‘regnant certainty’ of the mind and the ‘power of strong enchantment’. The enchantment here is of imagination’s fancy from which are expressed ideas that fall with the certainty of a gyroscope, i.e. gravity.

How does the mind capture multiplicity (of “a katydid-wing subdivided by sun till the nettings are legion” katydid)?