Marianne Moore

Marianne Moore Poems

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in

This institution,
perhaps one should say enterprise
out of respect for which
one says one need not change one's mind

you've seen a strawberry
that's had a struggle; yet
was, where the fragments met,

Beauty and Beauty's son and rosemary -
Venus and Love, her son, to speak plainly -
born of the sea supposedly,
at Christmas each, in company,

My father used to say,
"Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow's grave
nor the glass flowers at Harvard.

Man looking into the sea,
taking the view from those who have as much right to it as
           you have to it yourself,
it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing,

Fanaticism?No.Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
You can never tell with either
how it will go

not of silver nor of coral,
but of weatherbeaten laurel.

Here, he introduced a sea

The illustration
is nothing to you without the application.
You lack half wit. You crush all the particles down
into close conformity, and then walk back and forth on them.

If external action is effete
and rhyme is outmoded,
I shall revert to you,
Habakkuk, as when in a Bible class

Dürer would have seen a reason for living
in a town like this, with eight stranded whales
to look at; with the sweet sea air coming into your house
on a fine day, from water etched

"No water so still as the
dead fountains of Versailles." No swan,
with swart blind look askance
and gondoliering legs, so fine

Another armored animal–scale
lapping scale with spruce-cone regularity until they
form the uninterrupted central
tail row! This near artichoke with head and legs and


Strong and slippery, built for the midnight grass-party confronted by four cats,
he sleeps his time away -- the detached first claw on his foreleg which corresponds
to the thumb, retracted to its tip; the small tuft of fronds
or katydid legs above each eye, still numbering the units in each group;

For authorities whose hopes
are shaped by mercenaries?
Writers entrapped by
teatime fame and by

Although the aepyornis
or roc that lived in Madagascar, and
the moa are extinct,
the camel-sparrow, linked

has not altered; -
a place as kind as it is green,
the greenest place I've never seen.
Every name is a tune.

You do not seem to realize that beauty is a liability rather
an asset - that in view of the fact that spirit creates form

through black jade
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash heaps;

of ice. Deceptively reserved and flat,
it lies 'in grandeur and in mass'
beneath a sea of shifting snow-dunes;

Marianne Moore Biography

Moore was born in Kirkwood, Missouri, in the manse of the Presbyterian church where her maternal grandfather, John Riddle Warner, served as pastor. She was the daughter of construction engineer and inventor John Milton Moore and his wife, Mary Warner. She grew up in her grandfather's household; her father having been committed to a mental hospital before her birth. In 1905, Moore entered Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and graduated four years later. She taught at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, until 1915, when Moore began to publish poetry professionally. In part because of her extensive European travels before the First World War, Moore came to the attention 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, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery and James Merrill, and publishing early work, as well as refining poetic technique. 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. Moore became a minor celebrity, in New York literary circles, serving 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. She particularly liked athletics and athletes, and was a great admirer of Muhammad Ali, for whose spoken-word album, I Am the Greatest!, she wrote liner notes. Moore continued to publish poems in various journals, including The Nation, The New Republic, and Partisan Review, as well as publishing various books and collections of her poetry and criticism. Moore corresponded for a time with W. H. Auden and Ezra Pound during the latter's incarceration. 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." It also expressed her idea that meter, or anything else that claims the exclusive title, "poetry," is not as important as delight in language and precise, heartfelt expression in any form. She often composed her own poetry in syllabics. These syllabic lines from "Poetry" illustrate her position: poetry is a matter of skill and honesty in any form whatsoever, while anything written poorly, although in perfect form, cannot be poetry: nor is it valid to discriminate against "business documents and school-books": all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry In 1955, Moore was informally invited by David Wallace, manager of marketing research for Ford's "E-car" project, and his co-worker Bob Young to provide input with regard to the naming of the car. Wallace's rationale was "Who better to understand the nature of words than a poet?" On October 1955, Moore was approached to submit "inspirational names" for the E-car, and on November 7, she offered her list of names, which included such notables as "Resilient Bullet", "Ford Silver Sword", "Mongoose Civique", "Varsity Stroke", "Pastelogram" and "Andante con Moto." On December 8, she submitted her last and most famous name, "Utopian Turtletop." The E-car was finally christened by Ford as the Edsel. Not long after throwing the first pitch for the 1968 season in Yankee Stadium, Moore suffered a stroke. She suffered a series of strokes thereafter, and died in 1972. She was interred in Gettysburg's Evergreen Cemetery. Moore never married. Moore's living room has been preserved in its original layout in the collections of the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia. Her entire library, knick-knacks (including a baseball signed by Mickey Mantle), all of her correspondence, photographs, and poetry drafts are available for public viewing. Like Robert Lowell, Moore revised a great many of her early poems (including "Poetry") in later life. These appeared in The Complete Poems of 1967, after which critics tended to accept as canonical the "elderly Moore's revisions of the exuberant texts of her own poetic youth." Facsimile editions of the theretofore out-of-print 1924 Observations became available in 2002. Since that time there has been no critical consensus about which versions are authoritative. In 1996, she was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.)

The Best Poem Of Marianne Moore


I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against 'business documents and

school-books'; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
'literalists of
the imagination'--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them', shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

Marianne Moore Comments

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Marianne Moore Quotes

I see no reason for calling my work poetry except that there is no other category in which to put it.

When one cannot appraise out of one's own experience, the temptation to blunder is minimized, but even when one can, appraisal seems chiefly useful as appraisal of the appraiser.

Egotism is usually subversive of sagacity.

Poetry, that is to say the poetic, is a primal necessity.

War is pillage versus resistance and if illusions of magnitude could be transmuted into ideals of magnanimity, peace might be realized.

A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.

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