Marianne Moore

A Brief Biography by Abbey C.

An imaginative poet who was as fiery as her bright red hair, Marianne Moore earned critical acclaim for her poetry and popular affection for her eccentric character.

Born in 1887 in Kirkland, Missouri, Marianne Craig Moore never met her father, who suffered a breakdown before her birth. Moore, lived with her family (moving sporadically) until 1905, when she began attending Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. There Moore published her first poems and encountered institutional feminist rhetoric. In college, Moore also began to explore her fascination with the biology of animals (which later manifested itself in poems like “A Jellyfish”) and, potentially, her sexual desire for women. Moore’s queer tendencies, however, have been a contentious topic, and her lesbianism has perhaps been exaggerated in feminist criticism.

Moore graduated from college in 1909 and, in 1918, after publishing poems in avant-garde little magazine Others, moved to Greenwich Village with her mother. From 1921-1925, Moore worked at the New York Public Library. During her employment, Moore took a trip (1922) to Washington to visit her brother. There, she climbed Mount Rainer and was inspired to start two of her most celebrated poems, “An Octopus” and “Marriage.” In 1924, Moore published Observations and won the Dial Award.

The time between 1918 and 1922 was the time of Moore’s greatest overlap with Mina Loy (although their texts met and mingled often in avant-garde publications). Later, Loy disclosed to William Carlos Williams that that during a visit to New York “Marianne was the only one whose poetry she had feared” (Burke 291). A rivalry began, but one mostly orchestrated by their male counterparts. (For example, Ezra Pound wrote of Moore, “Also, entre nooz: is there anyone in America except you […] and Mina Loy who can write anything of interest in verse?” (Moore 453)). Both their counterparts and critics today suspect that Moore felt intimidated by Loy’s beauty and presence at literary events, which presumably prompted her to write “Those Various Scalpels” “about Loy’s image in literary circles” (Burke 292). While Loy and Moore preferred to keep their distance, in January of 1920, Loy and McAlmon did visit Moore in Greenwich Village.

Upon leaving the library in 1925, Moore replaced Scofeild Thayer as editor of The Dial until the magazine was discontinued in 1929. After, Moore and her mother moved to Brooklyn and Moore stopped writing until, in 1933, she was awarded the Helen Haire Levinson Prize from Poetry, which gained her national attention and spurred her to renewed creativity. In 1934, Moore met poet Elizabeth Bishop and they began an “intense, sometimes tense, sometimes erotic” relationship (Kent 169). After several publications in the 1940s, Moore was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1945 and, a year later, a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. With this money, Moore began meticulously translating the Fables choisies, mises en vers by Jean de La Fontaine. This project took almost a decade, and Moore suffered a great loss of confidence when it was rejected by the first publishing firm to which she submitted it.

In 1947, Moore’s mother died. Besides Moore’s time in college, they had lived together for most of Moore’s life and, she had relied on her mother’s guidance for revising her poetry. The loss of left her unsure of her abilities. Nevertheless, later awards—a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1952—helped to restore her confidence. In 1954, her translations of Fables of La Fontaine appeared on the market, followed by an anthology of critical essays (Predilections) and a collection of poetry (O to be a Dragon, 1959). In the 60s, Moore reemerged into popular culture “as somewhat of a celebrity” (Gale). She was featured in Life, the New York Times. In 1968, she suffered a series of strokes and lived a secluded life until she died in her sleep in 1972.

Bio-Template: 

Name: Marianne Craig Moore

Date of Birth: November 15, 1887

Place of Birth: Kirkland, Missouri

Date of Death: February 5, 1972

Place of Death: 35 West 9th Street, apartment 7B. Greenwich Village, New York City, New York.

Country of origin, citizenship: United States of America

Gender: Female

Race: White/Caucasian

Kind of Artist/Cultural worker: Poet, critic, and translator. “Self-identified (spinster) daughter and modernist poet” (Kent 184).

Address in Florence or New York:

  • 14 at St. Luke’s Place, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York (1918-1929, with mother)
  • 260 Cumberland Street in Brooklyn, New York (1929-1966)
  • 35 West 9thStreet, apartment 7B, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York (1966-1972)

Dates & Places of Overlap with Loy: 4 at St. Luke’s Place, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York  in January 1920.

Avant-garde movements the figure was associated with: Moore was primarily associated (and identified herself) with modernism.

  • Brief summary of the figure’s Biographical/Historical significance: Moore was a Pulitzer Prize winning American modernist Poet whose work was characterized by linguistic precision and vivid description. She served as the editor of the little magazine The Dial from 1925-1929 and was well respected among her modernist contemporaries.
  • Summary of the figure’s Relationship to Loy: Acquaintance and rival.
  • What other artists/writers did your figure come in contact with? 
  • Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) was the editor of the London-based Egoist, the bimonthly in which her first several professional poems were published
  • Alfred Kreymborg was the coeditor of Others magazine, in which 4 of Moore’s poems appeared
  • Alfred Stieglitz- photographer
  • Wallace Stevens- poet
  • William Carlos Williams- poet
  • Bryher (Winifred Ellerman) was one of H.D.’s patrons and lovers who helped H.D. publish twenty-four of Moore’s poems in a book titled Poems in 1921
  • Scofield Thayer- editor of the Dial(pro-modernist magazine) before Moore, they met in 1918
  • Elizabeth Bishop
  • H. Auden

Works Cited:

 

Burke, Carolyn. Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy. 1st ed. ed., New York, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1996.

Chiasson, Dan. “All About My Mother: Marianne Moore’s Family Romance.” The New Yorker, 11 Nov. 2013, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/11/11/all-about-my-mother.

Gale, Robert L., and Elaine Oswald. “Marianne Moore.” American National Biography Online. Oxford University PressFebruary 2000. Online.

Hadas, Pamela White. “Marianne Moore: Poet of Affection.” Contemporary Literary Criticism Select, Gale, 2008.

Hicok, Bethany. “To Work ‘Lovingly’: Marianne Moore at Bryn Mawr, 1905-1909.” Journal of Modern Literature, 2000, Literature Resource Center.

Kent, Kathryn R. Making Girls into Women: American Women’s Writing and the Rise of Lesbian Identity. Durham N.C., Duke University Press, 2003.

Leavell, Linda. Holding on Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013.

Miller, Cristanne. Cultures of Modernism: Marianne Moore, Mina Loy, & Else Lasker-Schüler:

Gender and Literary Community in New York and Berlin. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Moore, Marianne, and Robin G Schulze. Becoming Marianne Moore: The Early Poems, 1907. Berkeley, University of California Press, 2002.

 

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