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Marianne Moore

Photograph by Carl Van Vechten (1948)
Born November 15, 1887(1887-11-15)
Kirkwood, Missouri, U.S.
Died February 5, 1972 (aged 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Poet

Marianne Moore (November 15, 1887 – February 5, 1972) was a Modernist American poet and writer noted for her irony and wit.

Contents

Life

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 construction engineer and inventor John Milton Moore and his wife, Mary Warner. She grew up in her grandfather's household, her father having been committed to a mental hospital before her birth. In 1905, Moore entered Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and graduated four years later. She taught at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, until 1915, when Moore began to publish poetry professionally.

Poetic career

In part because of her extensive European travels before the First World War, Moore came to the attention of poets as diverse as Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, H.D., T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. 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, encouraging promising young poets, including Elizabeth Bishop, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery and James Merrill, and publishing early work, as well as refining poetic technique.

Photograph by George Platt Lynes (1935)

In 1933, Moore was awarded the Helen Haire Levinson Prize from Poetry. Her Collected Poems of 1951 is perhaps her most rewarded work; it earned the poet the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Bollingen Prize. Moore became a minor celebrity in New York literary circles, serving as unofficial hostess for the mayor. 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 athletes 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 for a time with W. H. Auden and Ezra Pound during the latter's incarceration.

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

Later years

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 provide input with regard to the naming of 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.[1]

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.

Moore never married. Her living room has been preserved in its original layout in the collections of the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia.[2] 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.[3][4]

In 1996, she was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Selected works

  • Poems, 1921. Published in London by H.D. and Bryher. Moore disapproved of the timing, editing, selections, and format of this collection.
  • 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.
  • Idiosyncrasy and Technique, 1966.
  • Like a Bulwark, 1956.
  • O To Be a Dragon, 1959.
  • Idiosyncrasy and Technique, 1959.
  • The Marianne Moore Reader, 1961.
  • The Absentee: A Comedy in Four Acts, 1962. A 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, 1967.
  • The Accented Syllable, 1969.
  • Homage to Henry James, 1971. Essays by Moore, Edmund Wilson, etc.
  • The Complete Poems, 1981.
  • The Complete Prose, 1986.
  • The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore, edited by Bonnie Costello, Celeste Goodridge, Cristanne Miller. Knopf, 1997.

References

  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ "Marianne Moore Archive". Rosenbach Museum & Library. http://www.rosenbach.org/collections/categories/moore.html. Retrieved 2009-08-22.  
  3. ^ McCabe, Susan. Cinematic Modernism: Modernist Poetry and Film. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2005): 259.
  4. ^ Schulze Robin G. (ed.). Becoming Marianne Moore : the early poems, 1907-1924. Berkeley: University of California Press (2002)

External links

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.

Marianne Moore (November 15, 1887February 5, 1972) was a Modernist American poet and writer. Her work Collected Poems (1951) earned her the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Bollingen Prize.

Sourced

  • War is pillage versus resistance and if illusions of magnitude could be transmuted into ideals of magnanimity, peace might be realized.
    • "Comment" in The Dial No. 86 (April 1929)
  • O to be a dragon,
    a symbol of the power of Heaven — of silkworm
    size or immense; at times invisible.
    Felicitous phenomenon!
    • "O To Be A Dragon" in O To Be A Dragon (1957)
  • A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.
    • Interview in Writers at Work, Second Series, ed. George Plimpton (1963)

The Poems of Marianne Moore (2003)

You are not male nor female, but a plan deep-set within the heart of man.
Though many of these are available in other volumes, these quotes are listed in the sequence in which they occur in The Poems of Marianne Moore (2003) edited by Grace Schulman, which arranges them in chronological sections. Dates provided are those of first publication, where known.
  • You are not male nor female, but a plan
    deep-set within the heart of man.
    • "Sun"
That which is impossible to force, it is impossible to hinder.
  • that which is impossible to force, it is impossible
    to hinder.
    • "Radical"
  • I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this
    fiddle.
    Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
    it after all, a place for the genuine.
So wary as to disappear for centuries and reappear but never caught, the unicorn has been preserved by an unmatched device wrought like the work of expert blacksmiths...
  • The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
    not in silence, but restraint.
    • "Silence"
  • This is a strange fraternity — these sea lions and land lions,
    land unicorns and sea unicorns
    ;
    the lion civilly rampant,
    tame and concessive like the long-tailed bear of Ecuador —
    the lion standing up against this screen of woven air
    which is the forest:
    the unicorn also, on its hind legs in reciprocity.
    • "Sea Unicorns and Land Unicorns"
He's not out seeing a sight but the rock crystal thing to see...
  • So wary as to disappear for centuries and reappear
    but never caught,
    the unicorn has been preserved
    by an unmatched device
    wrought like the work of expert blacksmiths ...
    • "Sea Unicorns and Land Unicorns"
Beauty is everlasting and dust is for a time.
  • He's not out
    seeing a sight but the rock
    crystal thing to see
    — the startling El Greco
    brimming with inner light — that
    covets nothing that it has let go. This then you may know
    as the hero.
    • "The Hero"
  • What is our innocence,
    what is our guilt? All are
    naked, none is safe.
    • "What Are Years?
Some speak of things we know, as new;
And you, of things unknown as things forgot.
  • Beauty is everlasting
    and dust is for a time.
    • "In Distrust of Merits"
  • Some speak of things we know, as new;
    And you, of things unknown as things forgot.
    • "Quoting an Also Private Thought" (this poem is a very slight reworking of an earlier poem "As Has Been Said")
Maine should be pleased that its animal is not a waverer, and rather than fight, lets the primed quill fall.
  • We Call Them the Brave
    who likely were reluctant to be brave.
    • "We Call Them the Brave" (the title of this poem is also obviously meant to be read as its first line, though set apart)
  • What of it? We call them brave
    perhaps? Yes; what if the time should come
    when no one will fight for anything
    and there's nothing of worth to save.
    • "We Call Them the Brave"
Staff and effigy of the animal which by shedding its skin is a sign of renewal — the symbol of medicine.
  • Maine should be pleased that its animal
    is not a waverer, and rather
    than fight, lets the primed quill fall.

    Shallow oppressor, intruder,
    insister, you have found a resister.
    • Of the porcupine, in "Apparition of Splendor"
  • A symbol from the first, of mastery,
    experiments such as Hippocrates made
    and substituted for vague
    speculation stayed
    the ravages of plague.
The Gordian knot need not be cut.
  • Staff and effigy of the animal
    which by shedding its skin
    is a sign of renewal —
    the symbol of medicine.
    • "The Staff of Aesculapius"
  • The problems is mastered — insupportably
    tiring when it was impending.
    Deliverance accounts for what sounds like axiom.

    The Gordian knot need not be cut.

    • "Charity Overcoming Envy"
None can diverge from the ends which Heaven foreordained.
  • Love, ah Love, when your slipknot's drawn,
    One can but say, "Farewell, good sense."
    • "The Lion in Love"
  • We are what we were at birth, and each trait has remained
    in conformity with earth's and with heaven's logic
    :
    Be the devil's tool, resort to black magic,
    None can diverge from the ends which Heaven foreordained.
    • "The Mouse Metamorphosed into a Maid"

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