Saturday, September 26, 2009

"unconscious fastidiousnes"

Natalia asked of us to define "unconscious fastidiousness" in short assignment #5. In class we briefly mentioned it, but we did not go into too much detail. I thought we could maybe discuss it now. My initial thought of "unconscious fastidiousness" was a human being's natural pickiness of anything, but after reading the rest of the poem, it extended to animals and insects as well. Is pickiness a word because there are red-dot underline thingys signifying that it isn't. :( Anyway, maybe this pickiness is just our natural instinct to constantly yearn for the better. Generally, people want the best of everything, right? We would not want a half eaten turkey sandwich opposed to one untouched, correct? A dog is not going to pick the broken toy over the one that squeaks fine, yeah? In trying to relate it to the title, critics and connoisseurs just have a higher sense of this unknowing difficulty to please.

The first sentence in the poem goes, "There is a great amount of poetry in unconscious fastidiousness." This was super confusing to me. Since my definition of "unconscious fastidiousness" is a natural pickiness of anything, how does poetry have anything to do with it! Is it saying that there is some kind of art in being picky? Any thoughts?


  1. By the term “unconscious fastidiousness” I think Moore means that most poetry is written with stunning detail (essentially written fastidiously) without the poet realizing it. Immediately following the sentence in which the phrase is found Moore goes into a detailed description of a scene, exemplifying her inadvertent, tremendously descriptive writing. It is common, I imagine, that when poets write about an object they often have "stream of consciousness"-like reactions, often without paying any regard to it. With that logic, I presume that if you asked Moore to describe a flower for you, even at a basic level, that her description would have incredible detail. She attempts to explain this phenomenon by saying that it is an unconscious reaction, thus calling it “unconscious fastidiousness.”

  2. I agree with Mattan. Poems are filled with very detailed descriptions and metaphors. Maybe poets, naturally do this. They unconsciously write their poems with great detail. Also when she says "There is a great amount of poetry in unconscious fastidiousness", isn't this illogical? Shouldn't it be "There is a great amount of unconscious fastidiousness in poetry"? Maybe she did this on purpose to say that the unconscious fastidiousness cannot be helped. Am I making sense? Poetry is fastidiousness, and fastidiousness is poetry.

  3. That's a great point, Olyvia.

    The discussion so far has coasted on the idea that there is unconscious fastidiousness in poetry, which, as Hanh and Mattan have noted, is counterintuitive. It wouldn't make sense to suppose that Moore writes her poems carefully without noticing that she's doing it, for example -- that's a paradox.

    As you point out, what Moore actually says is the reverse: there is a great deal of poetry in unconscious fastidiousness. It is not poetry that's a given, but rather unconscious fastidiousness.

    So here's a question, the one that's perhaps lurking under all of these comments: can there be "poetry" that is not a "poem"?

  4. I think there can be poetry that isn't a poem: the simplest example would be an excerpt from a poem. The excerpt is obviously not a poem by itself but it's still poetry.

    It's probably possible to unintentionally write something as prose that, when rearranged with proper line breaks and spacing, could be viewed as a poem. In fact, Moore seems to be able to do this quite well, as some of her lines, when taken out of context and stripped of line breaks, can be easily misinterpreted as prose but are unmistakably poetry in their original form.


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