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Merrill Moore
Born September 11, 1903(1903-09-11)
Columbia, Tennessee
Died September 20, 1957 (aged 54)
Occupation M.D., psychiatrist, Poet

Merrill Moore (1903 – 1957) was an American psychiatrist and poet from Tennessee.

Moore attended Nashville's Vanderbilt University, where he was a member of the Fugitives, a group of then unknown poets who met to read and criticize each other's poems. Moore, the youngest Fugitive, was a prolific contributor to the group's meetings and, starting in 1922, to its eponymous journal, in which his earliest contributions were published under the pseudonym "Dendric" alongside work of John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, Allen Tate and Robert Penn Warren and others.

Moore took an M.D. at Vanderbilt in 1928. After the death of his father in 1929, Moore removed to Boston and except for military service during World War II, spent the rest of his career there.

Besides his medical and literary pursuits, he was close to the families of Robert Frost and Robert Lowell and an adept literary networker. It was Moore who put the young Lowell in contact with literary men including Ford Madox Ford, Tate and Ransom, and who encouraged Lowell to become a student of Ransom after Lowell's sudden violent break with his family and departure from Harvard.[1] [2] Moore also advised his close friend Frost on the medical treatment of two troubled children.[3] After World War II, Moore played a key behind-the-scenes role in the Ezra Pound controversy, as a member of a group of literary men who saw to it that the modernist icon escaped a treason trial for his radio propaganda in support of Mussolini. Moore was a close friend of one of the psychiatrists on a diagnostic panel that found Pound unfit to stand trial. [4]

Throughout his career Moore produced sonnets in a very high volume. Estimates vary but by 1935, Louis Untermeyer had counted 25,000 sonnets in Moore's files, according to a Time Magazine article that year[5]; just over two years later, a 1938 Talk of the Town piece in the New Yorker put Moore's total production of sonnets at 50,000. [6]) Moore discovered his affinity for the sonnet form while still in secondary school and is said to have learned shorthand during college in order to be able to write more sonnets between classes. Although some of his work, such as the posthumous quatrain collection The Phoenix and the Bees, is in other forms, the poet-psychiatrist wrote and archived his poems in a dedicated home office he called his "sonnetorium."

Some of his books were illustrated by Edward Gorey.

Until his death from cancer, Moore was married to Anne Leslie Moore, a woman from a wealthy southern family.

Although he is known mostly as a poet, Merrill Moore was highly regarded as a keen and effective psychiatrist, and a practitioner of a progressive directed psychiatric intervention, similar to the style pioneered by Milton Erickson. Willing to be vividly unconventional, he would walk barefoot through Boston, wearing a suit, to attend hospital and academic meetings, because he "liked the feel of grass in his toes".

During World War II, Moore enlisted and served in the Pacific theatre, at one point serving as a personal physician to the Nationalist Chinese supremo, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek (according to the Tennessee State Library and Archives).

Moore's father, John Trotwood Moore (1858-1929), a regionally prominent novelist and magazine editor, served as Tennessee State Librarian and had been appointed Poet Laureate of Tennessee.[7]

Published works

  • Clinical Sonnets. New York: Twayne Publishers. 1949.
  • Illegitimate Sonnets. New York: Twayne Publishers. 1950. Inside covers include illustrations by Edward Gorey.
  • Case-Record from a Sonnetorium. New York: Twayne Publishers. 1951. Illustrated by Edward Gorey, additional text by John Crowe Ransom, William Carlos Williams and others.
  • Clinical Sonnets. Illustrated ed. New York: Twayne Publishers. 1953. Illustrated by Edward Gorey.
  • More Clinical Sonnets. New York: Twayne Publishers. 1953. Illustrated by Edward Gorey
  • The Verse Diary of a Psychiatrist. 1954.
  • A Doctor's Book of Hours. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. 1955.
  • The Hill of Venus. New York: Twayne Publishers. 1957.
  • The Phoenix and the Bees. Baltimore: Contemporary Poetry. 1959.


  • Wells, Henry W. Poet and Psychiatrist Merrill Moore M.D. New York: Twayne, 1955.

External links



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