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This report is taken from PN Review 45, Volume 12 Number 1, September - October 1985.

Letter from New York Gwyneth Lewis
When I asked for directions to the celebration of Marianne Moore's 97th birthday, held last November at the Museum of Natural History, I was told to turn left at the standing bear and right at the third totem pole on the right. The Museum, one of Miss Moore's favourite haunts, was an inspired setting for the reading. The sponsor, the Academy of American Poets, had been marking its own fiftieth anniversary the previous night - Seamus Heaney read to an invited audience at the Pierpont Morgan Library in honour of the occasion. The significance of Miss Moore's 97th birthday is not clear to me, but the tribute paid by Brad Leithauser, Grace Schulman, Donald Hall and John Ashbery to Miss Moore's eccentric genius could hardly be untimely. Besides, Miss Moore is the closest thing America has seen to a celebrity-poet - in an interview in McCall's magazine, she was asked whether or not the milkman had proposed to her after the death of her mother.

Brad Leithauser (a recent recipient of a coveted McArthur Fellowship) opened by reading 'In Distrust of Merits', a poem which many lovers of Moore's work dislike for its uncharacteristic ponderousness. His other choices came from the volume What Are Years, published in 1941, a period during which he considers Moore to have been at the peak of her poetic abilities. As well as reading from the poems, Grace Schulman read an excerpt from her forthcoming book on Marianne Moore, and analysed 'The Paper Nautilus', ...


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