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Marianne Moore: The Poet's Advance

Marianne Moore: The Poet's Advance

Laurence Stapleton
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 304
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    Marianne Moore: The Poet's Advance
    Book Description:

    This book provides a full-scale interpretation of Marianne Moore's poetry and prose, starting with her early experiments and exploring the range and variety of her artistic achievement. It portrays the self-discipline and the fidelity to experience that were the source of her originality.

    Laurence Stapleton's study of unpublished manuscripts, including notebooks, drafts of poems, and correspondence, supports her account of Marianne Moore's progress in the mastery of form. Her methods of work in the early satires, in the more openly constructed poems of the 1930s, and in the major ones of World War II, emerge in the context of her life as a professional writer. The spontaneity and inventiveness of her later books resulted from her La Fontaine translation and her response to music, to painting, and to the changing American scene.

    Constantly in view are Marianne Moore's literary relationships with Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams, as well as her appeal to a large circle of readers that made her become "New York's laureate." The insight that may be gained from this book should bring a better understanding of her accomplishment and of her place in American literature.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7124-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
    (pp. vi-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  6. Note to the Reader
    (pp. xvi-2)
    Laurence Stapleton
  7. 1 How It All Began
    (pp. 3-30)

    The time when good writers come to be known by the general company of intelligent readers does not matter so much as the time when they begin to know one another’s work. For T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and Marianne Moore, that beginning was in 1915. In that year Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “Portrait of a Lady,” Stevens’ “Sunday Morning” and “Peter Quince at the Clavier,” Marianne Moore’s “To a Steam Roller” and “To Statecraft Embalmed” appeared in print. One newly founded “little magazine,”Others, published all but two of these now-famous poems as well...

  8. 2 On Her Own
    (pp. 31-51)

    THE “mystery man from theDial” who heard Marianne Moore read her poem “England,” and induced her to part with it, was Scofield Thayer. He and his friend James Sibley Watson, Jr., had recently gained control of the fortnightly review, with which they had been associated for some time, and were in the process of metamorphosing it from a journal of liberal opinion and critical discussion into a monthly “journal of arts and letters,” reviving for the twentieth century the aims of the transcendentalistDialedited by Emerson and Margaret Fuller.¹ Thayer’s name now appeared as editor and Sibley Watson’s...

  9. 3 “Some of Her Prose”
    (pp. 52-67)

    If she could have managed it, Marianne Moore would have begun her professional life as a reviewer. Before the move to Chatham, New Jersey, in 1916, she made a fierce attempt to get work of this kind on one of the Philadelphia newspapers, being willing to write other pieces for them if asked. “Rats need room to experiment and grow that is the main thing andthey need pay,”¹ she wrote Warner. She and her mother soon set out for Philadelphia “with belts and pistols” to see a Mr. Lion of theEvening Ledger,“Mole” being prepared to “roar at...

  10. 4 Arrivals and Departures
    (pp. 68-109)

    Referring to the decision to end publication of theDial,Marianne Moore said that some of her friends felt that she ought not to continue as its editor because that task left her no time for writing poetry. She did not publish any of her own poems during these five years; and from the extant notebooks one cannot judge whether she had completed any new ones.

    A number of poets have refrained from writing verse for a considerable period of time—Hopkins after entering the Jesuit order until the composition of “The Wreck of the Deutschland” seven years later, Valery’s...

  11. 5 The Poet’s Advance
    (pp. 110-157)

    The publication ofPangolinproved a good transition for Marianne Moore. When she had finished new work that could be added to this little private edition, she for the first time took the initiative in arranging for the publication of a book, withWhat Are Yearsin 1941, then the book that followed it,Nevertheless(1944).¹ Her skill and, one might say, hardihood in these negotiations resulted in her maintaining essential control of the manner and timing of publication.

    When she learned accidentally, in 1940, that Macmillan had remaindered the unsold copies ofSelected Poems,she might have felt discouraged....

  12. 6 “My Fables”
    (pp. 158-183)

    For Marianne Moore the decision to translate the fables of La Fontaine meant an unpredictable experience, a willingness to subordinate her imagination to that of another writer, and to place all her skill at his command. Yet she committed herself to this task with no hesitation, almost casually. W. H. Auden, who was then teaching at Swarth-more, was preparing an anthology of verse translations, and sent a mimeographed letter to a number of writers, asking for suggestions. On the copy mailed to her he added in his own hand, “Have you done any translations. What translations appeared in The Dial?”¹...

  13. 7 The Poet’s Pleasure
    (pp. 184-212)

    We cannot make a sharp distinction between the poems written before the La Fontaine translation and the ones subsequently published; Marianne Moore always was creating something entirely her own. A remark in a letter to Margaret Marshall, then poetry editor of theNation,expresses the need for independence: “Mr. Engel of the Viking Press is humane and reassuring but I cannot walk a tightrope my whole life. It is time I alighted.”¹ The letter answers a question about “Armor’s Undermining Modesty,” and its date, March 23, 1950, indicates that this and other pieces in the “Hitherto Uncollected” section ofCollected...

  14. 8 The Reader’s Response
    (pp. 213-230)

    Place Marianne Moore’s books side by side upon the shelf, in what seems their chronological order. Glancing from the Cretan terra cotta pattern of the slightPoemsof 1921 to the tall, green and blue and grayComplete Poems(really incomplete) of 1967, we note that the physical characteristics of the different volumes almost confirm our sense of the poet’s advance. Now it is time to look for the continuity, the qualities belonging to all, or most, of these “exercises in composition,” even when they differ in form or implication. “What distinguishes one artist from another is the characteristics that...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 233-262)
    (pp. 265-272)
    (pp. 273-282)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 283-283)