Selected Letters (Moore, Marianne)

Overview

Marianne Moore's correspondence makes up the largest and most broadly significant collection of any modern poet. It documents the first two-thirds of this century, reflecting shifts from Victorian to modernist culture, the experience of the two world wars, the Depression and postwar prosperity, and the changing face of the arts in America and Europe. Moore wrote letters daily for most of her life—long, intense letters to friends and family; shorter, but always distinctive letters to an ever-widening circle of ...

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Overview

Marianne Moore's correspondence makes up the largest and most broadly significant collection of any modern poet. It documents the first two-thirds of this century, reflecting shifts from Victorian to modernist culture, the experience of the two world wars, the Depression and postwar prosperity, and the changing face of the arts in America and Europe. Moore wrote letters daily for most of her life—long, intense letters to friends and family; shorter, but always distinctive letters to an ever-widening circle of acquaintances and fans. At the height of her celebrity, she would occasionally write as many as fifty letters a day. Both Moore and her correspondents appreciated the value of their exchange, so that an extraordinary number of letters, approximately thirty thousand, have been preserved.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Moore (1887-1972) shepherded American modernism into the mainstream via her poetry, her editorship of the Dial, her essays and reviews and her encouragement of young poets, most notably Elizabeth Bishop. Moore's 30,000 or so extant letters (her output could reach 50 a day) reflect her captivation, as communicated to Wallace Stevens, with "the enchantment of accuracy, which seems more imperative than the personal." Hers was a cultivated yet unpretentious bearing that allowed her to express herself clearly on everything from psychoanalysis to Ezra Pound's conduct during WWII, and to wryly register the seeming decline of the language, as when offering criticism to a young Allen Ginsberg. Such decorum, however, did not always allow for personal disclosures. Other than revealing a "crush" on the daughter of William James when at Bryn Mawr, the letters, even those to the married British noblewoman Bryher (Winifred Ellerman) and her lover Hilda Doolittle (aka H.D.) shed little light on Moore's sexuality. She was nevertheless not shy about displaying whimsy and affection, as when the new book of a friend arrived: "Dear Mr. Cummingsblasphemous, inexorable, disrespectful, sinful author though you areyou received a cordial welcome at my door today." Her mother (who in family parlance was called Fawn, Mole, Mouse or Bunny) was a profound influence on her sensibilities, often editing over Moore`s shoulder, especially in the many letters to brother John Warner (Fish, Badger, Biter, Bible), a Navy chaplain. Mother and daughter lived together in Moore's birthplace of Carlisle, Penn., and later in Manhattan and Brooklyn until the older woman's death in 1947. Moore never met her father, who was institutionalized before she was born. After winning numerous prizes in the 1940s, she assumed the role of prominent public poet she would maintain until the late 1960s, as Costello, a Boston University English professor, observes here. Moore's letters show the gradual development of an authoritative woman of letters, who fiercely loved and protected the American language. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Library Journal
In keeping with the recent custom of publishing a broad, one-volume selection of a poet's letters before issuing a more comprehensive edition, as was already done this year with the selected letters of May Sarton (LJ 6/15/97) and Hart Crane (LJ 7/97), editor Costello (English, Boston Univ.) and her two associates have produced a compilation of interest to Moore scholars but also to students of 20th-century poetry generally. Moore's letters to her beloved brother John Warner Moore (a.k.a. "Weaz," "Pidge," "Bruno," "Bible," "Bullfrog," and "Badger," among dozens of other nicknames), with their detailed reports of parties attended, meals consumed, and guests charmed, will interest biographers, while those to such luminaries as Pound, Eliot, Williams, Stevens, cummings, Bishop, Auden, Ginsberg, and other literary movers and shakers amount to a fascinating insider's report on Po Biz from before World War I through the early 1970s. Recommended for academic librariesDavid Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee
Jeanne Heuving
"The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore was compiled to show Moore at her intellectual and writerly best. Culled from a lifetime of letter-writing, this voluminous collection amounts to a reltively small selection of Moore's total epistolary output.....But while the letters admirably convey Moore's impressive talents, they sem plucked out of a life, rather than revealing a life, because of hte large absence throughout the volume of a sense of human conflict and struggle...." -- The Women's Review of Books
Kirkus Reviews
A massive literary treasure trove.

Moore, the distinguished American poet, lived part of her long life (18871972) through and in the writing of letters to a huge cast of family, friends, fellow writers, and other leading cultural figures. She expressed herself to them in ways so singular and specific that the letters assembled here by Costello (English/Boston Univ.), like her poems, resist easy paraphrase or comment. This collection, a major literary event, conveys to us an expanded sense of Moore's celebrated modernist signature while also offering an invaluable record of the literary history of her times. Moore was precocious: Her voice as a teenager is already remarkably distinct. Writing to her brother in 1905 from Bryn Mawr, she observed, "Fire drill is the worst institution we have here. The gong is outside my door and when it goes off the sound smites my angel ear with diabolical suddenness." An indescribably bold precision, advanced with a fey offhandedness, is part of her charm. Her mature voice, though, is even more riveting, whether raised to venture literary judgment or to relate the delights of a visit in 1921 to the zoo, where crowned cranes were "slate blue with a pompom of centipede's legs on their heads about the size of a silk pompom on a slipper." To read Moore's letters in succession is to become better acquainted with a novelistic character whose brio suggests that she must have created herself. She hid playfully behind a series of metaphorical disguises and yet also left her mark as one of the least compromising post-Victorian experimentalist poets.

To overstate Moore's originality or her skill, whether in poetry or prose, would be difficult. Here, finally, we also gain a fairly direct sense of who the woman—also an original—was. A dramatic and witty revelation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141181202
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin Series
  • Pages: 624
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Marianne Moore was born in Kirkwood, Missouri, on November 1, 1887, and spent much of her youth in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. After graduation from Bryn Mawr College in 1909 she taught for four years at the Carlisle Indian School. Her poetry first appeared professionally in The Egoist and Poetry magazines in 1915 and she moved to New York City in 1918. Her first book, Poems, was issued in England by the Egoist Press in 1921. Observations, published three years later in America, received the Dial Award. From 1925 to 1929 she served as acting editor of The Dial, the preeminent American literary periodical. She moved to Brooklyn in 1929, where she lived for the next thirty-six years. In 1935 Selected Poems, with an Introduction by T.S. Eliot, brought her work to the attention of a wider public.

Three additional books of poetry were followed, in 1951, by her Collected Poems, which won the Bollingen Prize, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. She went on to publish a verse translation of the complete Fables of La Fontaine, a collection of critical essays, and three more volumes of poems.

Among the many awards Marianne Moore received are the National Institute of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for poetry, the Poetry Scoiety of America's Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement, and the National Medal for Literature, America's highest literary honor. A member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters since 1947, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1955. In 1967 she was made Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Republic, and in 1969 she received an honorary doctorate in literature from Harvard University, her sixteenth honorary degree. Marianne Moore died in New York City, in her eighty-fifth year, on February 5, 1972.

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