Marianne Moore Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Discuss the adjustment between precision and imagination in a poem such as “The Fish.”

What does Marianne Moore mean by beginning her poem “Poetry” with “I, too, dislike it”? How does the rest of the poem qualify this utterance?

What is simple and what complex in “The Mind Is an Enchanting Thing”?

Discuss the nature of the challenge facing Moore in presenting her poem “In the Public Garden” to an audience of five thousand people.

Is paradox a matter mainly of contradiction or of unexpected truth as it appears in Moore’s poems?

How is Moore’s prosody inventive and original?

What does Moore correspondence with the Ford Motor Company reveal about the relationship of the poetic and commercial sensibilities?

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

ph_0111201253-Moore_M.jpg Marianne Moore Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Marianne Moore left a voluminous correspondence with literary figures in the United States and England. She also wrote occasional reviews and lectured on campuses and at poetry centers. This work, too, shows her imaginative daring, the “idiosyncrasy and technique” that she valued. A sampling of her prose as well as of her verse was published as A Marianne Moore Reader (1961). A selection of essays, Predilections, appeared in 1955.

The words “collected” and “complete” in a title may promise more than the book delivers; in Moore’s case, the contents are only those examples of her work that she wished to keep in circulation. Because she frequently revised extensively, a genuinely complete edition must be variorum. Her poems have been collected in The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore and The Poems of Marianne Moore. Most of Moore’s manuscripts and correspondence, as well as a collection of her furnishings and personal items, are housed in the museum of the Philip H. and A. S. W. Rosenbach Foundation, Philadelphia. The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore (1986) includes all of Moore’s published prose work, from her early stories to her mature essays and reviews; as editor of The Dial from 1921 to 1929, and later, as her poetic reputation grew, she had the opportunity to write on a broad range of twentieth century poets and fiction writers.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

If Marianne Moore had lived longer, she would have sympathized with the aims, if not with the more fervid rhetoric, of the revived feminist movement, but in her day Moore sought recognition without regard to gender. Her daring paid off because her work impresses most critics, male or female, as that of a major figure among poets of modernism; she is considered to be an artist on a par with Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, and Ezra Pound.

Praised by Eliot as “one of those few who have done the language some service,” Moore quickly made a reputation among other poets. She won the Dial Award in 1924, and in 1925 was the object of discussion in five consecutive issues of The Dial. Her work, however, long remained little known to the public. The “beauty” that she sought was the product of an individualistic decorum, a discipline of self and art that yielded the quality she admired in the poem “The Monkey Puzzle” (Selected Poems, 1935) as “porcupinequilled, complicated starkness.” The quilled and stark imagery was slow to attract admirers other than the cognoscenti, but she won the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine in 1933 and the Shelley Memorial Award in 1941. She became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1947.

By the 1950’s, her work was receiving wide recognition. She had, indeed, a year of wonder in 1952, winning the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize. She served as chancellor for the Academy of American Poets from 1952 to 1964. She received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 1965 and the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in 1967. Some of her poems have appeared in every reasonably comprehensive anthology of modern verse. Either the 1935 or the 1967 version of “Poetry” is almost always included. Other choices vary: “The Pangolin,” “What Are Years?,” “Virginia Britannia,” and “A Grave” are among those poems most frequently anthologized.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Costello, Bonnie. Marianne Moore: Imaginary Possessions. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981. Having studied the notebooks, clippings, pamphlets, and books from which Moore’s many quotations are derived, Costello provides a guide to understanding Moore’s poetry. Each chapter discusses a poetic element: symbols, images, poems on poetry, and three of Moore’s critical essays and forms.

Goodrich, Celeste. Marianne Moore and Her Contemporaries. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1989. In some respects a study for specialists, this work does document the interactions between Moore and her more conspicuous male colleagues T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams. It is fully documented and indexed, and contains a selected bibliography.

Hadas, Pamela White. Marianne Moore: Poet of Affection. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1977. Hadas brings out the human qualities in the objects and animals that are often the subjects of Moore’s poems. She shows how Moore bridges the scientific knowledge of animals and the human fields of music, art, and language. This useful book helps to make difficult poems more understandable and ends with notes, a bibliography, and an index.

Holley, Margaret. The Poetry of Marianne Moore: A Study in Voice and Value. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987. This mainstay standard scholarly commentary on Moore’s poetry is more readable and useful than most. It provides insights and persuasive interpretations. The biographical sketch is separate and...

(The entire section is 691 words.)