Marianne Moore

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Marianne Moore photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1948

Marianne Moore (November 15, 1887 - February 5, 1972) was a Modernist American poet and writer.

Marianne Moore was born in Kirkwood, Missouri, outside of St. Louis, the daughter of a construction engineer and inventor, John Milton Moore, and his wife, Mary Warner. She grew up in the household of her grandfather, a Presbyterian pastor, her father having been committed to a mental hospital before her birth.

In 1905, Marianne Moore entered Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, and graduated four years later. A few years on, she began to teach courses at the United States Industrial Indian School, Carlisle, and continued until 1915, when Moore began to professionally publish poetry. 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."

In part because of her extensive European travels before the first World War, Moore came to the attention, and received the respect 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 and Allen Ginsberg, and publishing, as well as refining poetic technique, early work.

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. After being awarded these prizes, she began to be a kind of minor celebrity, at least in New York literary circles. Moore often served 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. (Tricorn hats she liked because they concealed the defects of her head, which, she added, resembled that of a hop toad.) She particularly liked athletics and athletes, and was a great admirer of Muhammad Ali, to whose spoken-word album, I Am the Greatest!, she wrote liner notes.

Moore continued to publish poems in various journals, including The Nation, New Republic, and Partisan Review, as well as publishing various books and collections of her poetry and criticism. As evidence of her importance, Moore corresponded for a time with W.H. Auden and Ezra Pound during the latter's incarceration.

In 1955, the Ford Motor Company asked Moore to help them name a new model then in development. Moore submitted a list of suggestions that included "The Intelligent Whale," "The Utopian Turtletop," "The Pastelogram," and "The Mongoose Civique." The Company decided not to use any of Moore’s suggestions and instead named the car the Edsel. The model, having lost Ford $250 million, was discontinued in 1959.

Not too long after throwing the first pitch and opening the 1968 season in Yankee Stadium, Moore suffered a stroke. She suffered a series of subsequent strokes thereafter, and died, unmarried, in 1972.


  • Observations (1924)
  • Selected Poems (1935)
  • The Pangolin and Other Verse (1936)
  • What Are Years? (1941)
  • Nevertheless (1944)
  • Collected Poems (1951)
  • Fables of La Fontaine (1954; translation)
  • Predilections (1955)
  • Like a Bulwark (1956)
  • O to Be a Dragon (1959)
  • Idiosyncrasy and Technique (1959; prose)
  • The Arctic Fox (1964)
  • Tell Me, Tell Me (1966)
  • Poetry and Criticism (1965; prose)

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