Marianne Craig Moore

Biographical Information
Moore in her tricorn hat and cape
Name

Marianne Craig Moore

Birth

November 15, 1887, Kirkwood, Missouri, U.S.A.

Death

February 5, 1972, New York, NY, U.S.A.

Country of Origin/Citizenship

United States/America

Kind of Artist/Cultural Worker

publisher, poet, prose writer, editor

Avant-Garde Movements Associated With

Imagism, modernism

Date & Places of Overlap with Loy

4 at St. Luke’s Place, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York in January 1920.

The daughter of John Milton Moore and Mary Warner, Marianne Craig Moore was born in Kirkwood, Missouri in 1887. Although she never met her father because of his mental breakdown before her birth, Moore and her mother were very close. Her widowed mother became a housekeeper for Moore’s grandfather, John Riddle Warner. After Warner’s death in 1894, Moore’s overly protective mother moved with her children to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where Moore attended the Metzger Institute (now part of Dickinson College). In 1905 Moore entered Bryn Mawr College. While there she submitted nine poems that were published in the university’s literary magazines Tipyn O’Bob and the Lantern (Hicok 488). She majored in history, law, and politics, and graduated with a B.A. in 1909.

After taking secretarial courses at Carlisle Commercial College (1910-1911), she taught bookkeeping, stenography, and typing. She also taught commercial English and law at the U.S. Industrial Indian School at Carlisle (Poetry Foundation).  In 1915 Moore began to publish poems professionally. Seven poems appeared in the Egoist, edited by H.D. That same year, four of her poems appeared in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. Additionally, five of her early works were published in Others, a magazine co-edited by Alfred Kreymborg (Poetry Foundation). During this time Moore was also reading avant-garde poetry and criticism and began publishing reviews and critical essays.

In 1916 Moore moved with her mother to New Jersey, to live with her only sibling, John Warner Moore. In 1918 he joined the U.S. Navy as a chaplain and Moore and her mother relocated to Manhattan. Esteemed among modern poets such as H.D. and T. S. Eliot, Moore attended salons regularly. Overlapping with Mina Loy’s social group, such as the Arensberg circle, the Others crowd, and the Stieglitz’s circle, Moore was seen among the prominent crowd of modernist figures (Leavell viii). Between 1918 and 1922 Marianna Moore and Mina Loy’s texts circulated in some of the same popular avant-garde publications. Critics and commentators frequently paired Moore with Loy in both their work and persons. While there was somewhat of a rivalry between them, it was largely orchestrated and embellished by male counterparts such as Pound, Eliot, Williams, and McAlmon (Burke 294).  In the Prologue to Kora in Hell (1920), William Carlos Williams singles out Loy and Moore as “the South and North poles of the poetry landscape” (Kouidis). Furthermore, Pound’s influential review, published in the March 1918 Little Review, focuses on “the first adequate presentation of Mina Loy and Marianne Moore,” whom he categorizes as women writers of “logopoeia…[a] poetry that is akin to nothing but language which is a dance of the intelligence among words and ideas and modifications of ideas and characters” (Churchill). Pound differentiates their styles by “pointing out that in Moore’s verse he detects ‘traces of emotion,’ whereas in Loy’s poetry embodies ‘no emotion whatever’” (Churchill). Moreover, Pound’s review provides defining praise for these women writers and his sentiment is echoed in Eliot’s own review in the Others anthology (The Egoist, May 1918), where he employs the term “logopoeia” as a means of further classifying Loy and Moore. In respect to their characters, contemporary discourses suspect that Moore was unsettled by Loy’s beauty and presence at literary events, which presumably prompted her to write “Those Various Scalpels” a poem about “Loy’s image in literary circles” (293). Responding, Loy illustrated Moore “with the cartwheel hat that hid her braided crown that was to become her own ‘signature’” (Burke 293). While Loy and Moore preferred to keep their distance, in January of 1920, Loy and Robert McAlmon visited Moore in Greenwich Village, proving that despite the contrived positioning as rivals, Moore and Loy always “maintained a wary respect for each other” (294).

Many of Moore’s poems appeared in the Egoist and were published by her friends H.D. and Bryher in 1921 without her knowledge, in a small book entitled Poems (Leavell vii). From 1921 until 1925 Moore worked part-time in the Hudson Park branch of the New York City library. In 1924 her London book was expanded to include fifty-three poems and was published in the U.S. as Observation, which includes some of the “greatest poems of her career including “An Octopus, “Marriage,” and “Sea Unicorns and Land Unicorns” (Leavell xiv). In the same year she won an award for achievement in poetry from the Dial (viii). In 1925 Moore ceased publishing poetry and took over as editor of the Dial, continuing until 1929 when the publication was halted. Moore never married and supported herself by freelance writing and with occasional help from former Dial backers. In 1933 Moore was awarded the Helen Haire Levinson Prize from Poetry, which gained her national attention and renewed her creative energy. Selected Poems (1935), which includes several of the poems she published between 1932 and 1935 in periodicals and anthologies, confirmed her position as a leading modernist poet. T.S. Eliot provided an acclamatory introduction for the collection, writing: “My conviction…for the last fourteen years…[is] that Miss Moore’s poems form part of the small body of durable poetry written in our time,” “alert intelligence,” and “deep feeling” (Hickman 40).

Moore continued to submit poems to reputable periodicals such as the Kenyon Review, the Nation, the New Republic, and the Partisan Review. She later collected these works into book form including, The Pangolin and Other Verse (1936), What Are Years? (1941), and Nevertheless (1944). In 1945 she was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for creative writing and a year later a joint grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. After World War II, she followed her friend W.H. Auden’s advice and began methodically translating the Fables choisies, mises en vers of Jean de La Fontaine, whose realistic moral messages and inspired artistry she had long admired (Setina).

The 1950s brought Moore growing recognition and several more awards. Her Collected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize (1951), the National Book Award (1952), and the Bollingen Prize (1953). When she formally accepted the National Book Award, she made the often-quoted remark that her work is called poetry for lack of any other category to put it in and added that she was “a happy hack” (Oswald & Gale). Her Fables of La Fontaine, went through four painstaking drafts, and was eventually published in 1954. Even though the prevailing critical opinion was that this work did not represent her best poetic accomplishment, the French government was so impressed by her Fables they awarded her the Croix de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (Oswald & Gale). Additionally, her critical essays on writers and artists such as Louise Bogan, Jean Cocteau, E. E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, and Anna Pavlova, among many others, were collected in Predilections (1955).

She and her mother lived in Brooklyn until her mother’s death in 1947. Moore tried to live a reserved existence before her final move to Manhattan in 1966. As she continued steadily writing, she surfaced as somewhat of a celebrity. Her tricorn hat and black cape became her personal insignia. She was featured in Life magazine, the New York Times, and the New Yorker and acted as an unofficial hostess for the mayor of New York. She claimed to like the shape of such hats because they concealed the defects of her head, which, she added, “resembled that of a hop toad” (Oswald & Gale). Unfortunately, Moore suffered a series of strokes and became a semi-invalid for nearly two years. She died February 5, 1972 in her New York City home. The next day she received a full-page obituary in the New York Times. Most of her manuscripts, letters, notebooks, and diaries are held in the Rosenbach Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Works Cited

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


Churchill, Suzanne W. “The Little Magazine Others and the Renovation of Modern American Poetry.” Google Books, 2006, books.google.com/books?id=iN5ADgAAQBAJpg=PT216lpg=PT216dq=little%2Breview%2Bpound%2Blogopoeia%2Bchurchill%2B1918&source=blots=PKYJ4o6SNxsig=ACfU3U1GBoDmtlSHp25vp7sUVH7WDiX5sg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjNvfThy4fjAhXhQd8KHQE5DcwQ6AEwAXoECAkQAQ#v=onepageq=little%20review%20pound%20logopoeia%20churchill%201918&f=false\.


Hickman, Miranda. “Modernist Women Poets and the Problem of Form.” The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Women Writers, by Maren Linett, Cambridge University Press,  2010, pp. 33–46.


Hicok, Bethany. “To Work ‘Lovingly’: Marianne Moore at Bryn Mawr, 1905-1909.” Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 23, no. 3/4, 2000, pp. 483–501. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3831671.


Kouidis, Virginia M. “Mina Loy’s Life.” Mina Loy’s Life, 2000, www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/loy/bio.htm.


Miller, Cristanne. “Marianne Moore and the Women Modernizing New York.” Modern Philology, vol. 98, no. 2, 2000, pp. 339–362. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/438939.


Moore, Marianne. “Introduction by Linda Leavell.” Observations, edited by Linda Leavell, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016, pp. vii-xv.


“Marianne Moore.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 2019, www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/marianne-moore.


Oswald, Elaine, and Robert L. Gale. “On Marianne Moore’s Life and Career.” Marianne Moore’s Life and Career, www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/moore/life.htm.


Setina, Emily. “Marianne Moore’s Postwar Fables and the Politics of Indirection.” PMLA, Oct. 2016, www.mlajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1632/pmla.2016.131.5.1256.


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