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.