… With a Perfect Contempt | Work in Progress. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
[Moore's] lifelong practices of revising, reordering, and redacting her poems make a special kind of hash out of any attempt to be definitive. … Moore didn’t just write poems, she rewrote them, often completely, often more than once. The most famous example of this predilection for revision is found in her poem “Poetry.” It was reprinted dozens of times over the course of her life, and she took many of those occasions as opportunities to revise it. The longest version she published is thirty lines long; the shortest version is three lines long. There are versions of eighteen lines and versions of thirteen lines. There are versions in free verse and versions in the syllabic stanzas for which she is famous. Some of them contain one of her most beloved metaphors—“imaginary gardens with real toads in them”—and some of them don’t. So which poem is the real “Poetry”?