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This item is taken from PN Review 203, Volume 38 Number 3, January - February 2012.Inside cover Portrait: David C. Ward on Marianne Moore
by George Platt Lynes
Gelatin silver print, 1935
23.4cm x 19cm (93⁄16" x 71⁄2"),
Image National Portrait Gallery,
© Estate of George Platt Lynes
Marianne Moore (1887-1972)
Prior to Marianne Moore, women poets were outliers in the American poetical tradition. Emily Dickinson was too singular and hermetic - as well as unknown - to leave any traces. Poets such as H.D. were known and respected up to a point, but were still considered marginal or even anomalous by the literary establishment. Marianne Moore changed all that. She wrote poetry that was wholly original and could not be condescendingly damned with faint praise. And she influenced subsequent poets, especially Elizabeth Bishop. Poetically, she more than fulfilled Pound's edict to 'make it new', concocting new verse forms - a line that seemed like prose but wasn't, based, in part, on counting syllables - which she married to her close empirical observation. In her 'manifesto' poem, titled 'Poetry', she begins: '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'. She loved observing animals, especially at the zoo. And she was a devoted baseball fan, an unlikely afficion for a modernist poet. She also became a charismatic figure at readings and literary gatherings, standing out with her distinctive tricorne hat. But her influence as a writer made her a trailblazer both in and of herself and for what came after her, with the growing presence of women poets in American literature.
DAVID C. WARD
This item is taken from PN Review 203, Volume 38 Number 3, January - February 2012.