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The Life and Work of Marianne Moore

by Linda Leavell

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-374-10729-1
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A detailed biographical study and literary critique of modernist poet Marianne Moore’s life (1887–1982) and work.

Moore scholar Leavell’s (Marianne Moore and the Visual Arts: Prismatic Color, 1995) intimate portrait is the first biography written with the support of the Moore estate. Though Moore left behind an extensive archive recounting each week of her life, she revealed little of the inner workings of her cloistered personal self. Leavell delves deeply into Moore’s early work and its connection to her eccentric life and relationships. The poet never married, seemingly never fell in love and suffered poor health for much of her life. From her early 20s to her 60s, Moore lived with her mother. Yet the poet maintained intense friendships with Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and Elizabeth Bishop, and she became editor of The Dial in 1925. Critics agreed that she was the “finest poet writing in America,” yet her popularity would be limited to a small devoted following. Her complex poems first began garnering recognition in 1915, and she went on to win major awards, including the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Moore was still receiving recognition and awards for her work “in the last decade of her life.” In her 60s, the reclusive Moore became a celebrity. Major magazines published feature stories about the elderly spinster poet, and her college readings were sellouts. In 1967, on her 80th birthday, Moore appeared on Today to promote a book of her collected works. “Greatly beloved yet little understood, highly esteemed yet barely known outside of English departments,” writes Leavell, “Marianne Moore is a poet of paradoxes.”

A well-researched, scholarly excursion into the life of a complex personality and the world she inhabited.