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Photograph by Carl Van Vechten (1948)
November 15, 1887|
Kirkwood, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||February 5, 1972
New York City, New York, U.S.
Moore was born in Kirkwood, Missouri, in the manse of the Presbyterian church where her maternal grandfather, John Riddle Warner, served as pastor. She was the daughter of mechanical engineer and inventor John Milton Moore and his wife, Mary Warner. Before Moore was born, her father suffered a nervous breakdown, and Moore never got to meet her father. She grew up in her grandfather's household until 1894, when John Riddle Warner died. In 1905, Moore entered Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, and she graduated four years later with a B.A., having majored in history, law and politics.1 She taught at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, until 1915, when she began to publish poetry professionally.
Moore came to the attention of poets as diverse as Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, H.D., T. S. Eliot, Mina Loy, and Ezra Pound beginning with her first publication in 1915. From 1925 until 1929, Moore served as editor of the literary and cultural journal The Dial. This continued her role, similar to that of Pound, as a patron of poetry; much later, she encouraged promising young poets, including Elizabeth Bishop, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery and James Merrill.
In 1933, Moore was awarded the Helen Haire Levinson Prize by Poetry. Her Collected Poems of 1951 is perhaps her most rewarded work; it earned the poet the National Book Award,2 Pulitzer Prize, and the Bollingen Prize. Moore became a minor celebrity in New York literary circles. She attended boxing matches, baseball games and other public events, dressed in what became her signature garb, a tricorn hat and a black cape. She particularly liked athletics and was a great admirer of Muhammad Ali, for whose spoken-word album, I Am the Greatest!, she wrote liner notes. Moore continued to publish poems in various journals, including The Nation, The New Republic, and Partisan Review, as well as publishing various books and collections of her poetry and criticism.
Moore corresponded with Ezra Pound from 1919, even during his incarceration. She opposed Benito Mussolini and Fascism from the start and objected to Pound's antisemitism. Moore herself was a conservative Republican and supported Herbert Hoover in 1928 and 1932.345 She was a lifelong ally and friend of the American poet Wallace Stevens. See for instance her review of Stevens's first collection, Harmonium, and in particular her comment about the influence of Henri Rousseau on the poem "Floral Decorations for Bananas'".
Her most famous poem is perhaps the one entitled, appropriately, "Poetry", in which she hopes for poets who can produce "imaginary gardens with real toads in them." It also expressed her idea that meter, or anything else that claims the exclusive title "poetry", is not as important as delight in language and precise, heartfelt expression in any form. She often composed her own poetry in syllabics. These syllabic lines from "Poetry" illustrate her position: poetry is a matter of skill and honesty in any form whatsoever, while anything written poorly, although in perfect form, cannot be poetry:
- nor is it valid
- to discriminate against "business documents and
- school-books": all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
- however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry
In 1955, Moore was informally invited by David Wallace, manager of marketing research for Ford's "E-car" project, and his co-worker Bob Young to suggest a name for the car. Wallace's rationale was "Who better to understand the nature of words than a poet?" On October 1955, Moore was approached to submit "inspirational names" for the E-car, and on November 7, she offered her list of names, which included such notables as "Resilient Bullet", "Ford Silver Sword", "Mongoose Civique", "Varsity Stroke", "Pastelogram" and "Andante con Moto." On December 8, she submitted her last and most famous name, "Utopian Turtletop." The E-car was finally christened by Ford as the Edsel.6
Moore moved to 35 West 9th Street in Manhattan in 1966, after 37 years at 260 Cumberland Street in Brooklyn.7 Not long after throwing the first pitch for the 1968 season in Yankee Stadium, Moore suffered a stroke. She suffered a series of strokes thereafter, and died in 1972. She was interred in Gettysburg's Evergreen Cemetery. The New York Times devoted an entire page to an account of her life and death.
Moore never married. Her living-room has been preserved in its original layout in the collections of the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia.8 Her entire library, knick-knacks (including a baseball signed by Mickey Mantle), all of her correspondence, photographs, and poetry drafts are available for public viewing.
Like Robert Lowell, Moore revised a great many of her early poems (including "Poetry") in later life. These appeared in The Complete Poems of 1967, after which critics tended to accept as canonical the "elderly Moore's revisions of the exuberant texts of her own poetic youth." Facsimile editions of the theretofore out-of-print 1924 Observations became available in 2002. Since that time there has been no critical consensus about which versions are authoritative.910
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- Poems, 1921 (Published in London by H.D. and Bryher. Moore disapproved of the timing, editing, selections, and format of this collection. See The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore, ed. Bonnie Costello et al. (New York: Knopf, 1997), p. 164. In a letter to Bryher, Moore notes "... I wouldn't have the poems appear now if I could help it and would not have some of them ever appear and would make certain changes....")
- Observations, 1924
- Selected Poems, 1935 (introduction by T. S. Eliot)
- The Pangolin and Other Verse, 1936
- What Are Years, 1941
- Nevertheless, 1944
- A Face, 1949
- Collected Poems, 1951
- Fables of La Fontaine, 1954 (verse translations of La Fontaine's fables)
- Predilections: Literary Essays, 1955
- Like a Bulwark, 1956
- Idiosyncrasy and Technique, 1958
- O to Be a Dragon, 1959
- The Marianne Moore Reader, 1961
- Eight Poems, 1962, with illustrations by Robert Andrew Parker
- The Absentee: A Comedy in Four Acts, 1962 (dramatization of Maria Edgeworth's novel)
- Puss in Boots, The Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, 1963 (adaptations from Perrault)
- Dress and Kindred Subjects, 1965
- Poetry and Criticism, 1965
- Tell Me, Tell Me: Granite, Steel and Other Topics, 1966
- The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore, 1967
- The Accented Syllable, 1969
- Homage to Henry James, 1971 (essays by Moore, Edmund Wilson, et al.)
- The Complete Poems, 1982
- The Complete Prose, 1986, edited by Patricia C. Willis
- Complete Poems, 1994
- The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore, edited by Bonnie Costello, Celeste Goodridge, and Cristanne Miller, 1997
- Becoming Marianne Moore: The Early Poems, 1907–1924, edited by Robin G. Schulze, 2002
- Poems of Marianne Moore, edited by Grace Schulman, 2003
- "National Book Awards – 1952". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-02.
(With acceptance speech by Moore and essay by Lee Felice Pinkas from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
- Carson, Luke (September 2002). "Republicanism and Leisure in Marianne Moore's Depression". Modern Language Quarterly 63: 315–342. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
- Burt, Stephen (November 11, 2003). "Paper Trail: The true legacy of Marianne Moore, modernist monument". Slate. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
- Hall, Donald (October 26, 1997). "The Post Modernist Marianne Moore's Letters Add to our Appreciation of a Great Poet's Overflowing Life". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
- Her experience was memorably recounted in her April 13, 1957 epistolic article for The New Yorker called "Correspondence with David Wallace". It is anthologized in Mordechai Richler's The Best of Modern Humour, Knopf, 1983, pp 66-73. She notes in her preface, "[These letters] should correct the impression persistent among inquirers that I succeeded in finding for the new products division … a name for the new car I had been recruited to name; whereas I did not give the car the name it now has." See also: Edsel.com
- Page, Chester. Memoirs of a Charmed Life in New York. iUniverse, Inc. (2007)
- "Marianne Moore Archive". Rosenbach Museum & Library. Retrieved 2009-08-22.
- McCabe, Susan. Cinematic Modernism: Modernist Poetry and Film. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2005): 259.
- Schulze Robin G. (ed.). Becoming Marianne Moore : the early poems, 1907-1924. Berkeley: University of California Press (2002)
- St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". stlouiswalkoffame.org. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Marianne Moore|
- Marianne Moore reading her poem "Bird-Witted"
- Yale College Lecture on Marianne Moore audio, video and full transcripts from Open Yale Courses
- "Marianne Moore". Academy of American Poets. http://poets.org website: biography, 6 poems, prose, and criticism.
- Works by or about Marianne Moore in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Donald Hall (Summer-Fall 1961). "Marianne Moore, The Art of Poetry No. 4". The Paris Review.
- St. Louis Walk of Fame
- Modern American Poetry: Marianne Moore