Susan Tichy
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Marianne Moore: Chronology & Notes on Texts

For several women poets of first importance we still lack authoritative, or even comprehensive, editions of their complete works--thus making serious examinations of their poetry difficult. Hilda Doolittle, Lorine Niedecker, Mina Loy, and Marianne Moore are only a few of the women thus neglected. Only for Loy is an effort under way to remedy the disaster.

The sequence of Moore’s 1935 Selected Poems was suggested by T.S. Eliot, who also wrote the introduction. Though Moore deleted some poems from her later Collected Poems (and its revised version, Complete Poems, now the only collection in print) she made only slight changes to the sequence of those that remained. The arrangement is thematic and places several of her poems from the early 1930s first, with poems from 1915 appearing as far as 88 pages into the book . Thus it obliterates all sense of development and obscures differences among Moore’s periods of high poetic production up to 1935. (One argument for containing Moore as a "minor" poet is that she "did not develop.") Though you may not be reading Moore’s poems in strictly chronological order, you will wish to recognize these periods and place her work in the context of contemporary public and private events.

The list below includes only the poems I assigned the last time I taught Moore (Fall 2000). When time permits (or hell freezes over, whichever comes first) I will complete the list. What is here should at least allow you to pinpoint the characteristics of each of her most productive periods. The sequence is based on several sources, most prominently Margaret Holley’s “Chronology of Moore’s Published Poems,” in her The Poetry of Marianne Moore: A Study in Voice and Value (Cambridge University Press, 1987) where you can find the chronology of poems not listed here. 

The number at left is the page number in Complete Poems. A quick scan of those numbers reveals the extent to which chronology is ignored in this arrangement -- though poems of near-contemporaneous composition are clustered when their subjects are also related. The date in parentheses is the date of  first publication. The book title in CAPS indicates the poem’s first book publication, followed by the relevant date. 

Two poems written while at Bryn Mawr, though not included in a book until 1959--
178 I May I Might I Must (1909) O TO BE A DRAGON, 1959
180 A Jelly Fish (1909) O TO BE A DRAGON, 1959

Poems written while in Carlisle, Pennsylvania--
82  To the Soul of Progress/To Military Progress (1915) POEMS, 1921
81  To Browning/Injudicious Gardening (1915) POEMS, 1921
84  To a Steam Roller (1915) POEMS, 1921 first published poem containing a quotation
35  To Statecraft Embalmed (1915) POEMS, 1921
179 To a Chameleon (1916) O TO BE A DRAGON, 1959
37   Pedantic Literalist (1916)  POEMS, 1921 First poem in the volume 
38   Critics and Connoisseurs (1916/??) OBSERVATIONS, 1924
34   In This Age of Hard Trying (1916) POEMS, 1921
51   Those Various Scalpels (1917) OBSERVATIONS, 1924
88  The Past Is the Present (1917) OBSERVATIONS, 1924
40   The Monkeys (1917) POEMS, 1921
90   Sojourn in the Whale (1917)  POEMS, 1921
n/a Roses Only (1917) OBSERVATIONS, 1924

The later “Observations”--
n/a Malancthon/Black Earth (1918)
n/a  Reinforcements (1918) POEMS 1921
32   The Fish (1918) POEMS, 1921
266  Poetry (1919) POEMS, 1921 ( page 36)
41   In the Days of Prismatic Color (1919) POEMS, 1921
45   Picking and Choosing (1920) POEMS, 1921
46   England (1920) POEMS, 1921
85   To a Snail (written 1920? no journal publication) OBSERVATIONS, 1924
48   When I Buy Pictures (1921) OBSERVATIONS, 1924  free verse 
49   A Graveyard/A Grave (1921) OBSERVATIONS, 1924  free verse 
54   New York (1921)  OBSERVATIONS, 1924  free verse 
55   People’s Surroundings (1922) OBSERVATIONS, 1924  free verse 
60   Novices (1923) OBSERVATIONS, 1924  free verse 
62   Marriage (1923) OBSERVATIONS, 1924  free verse 
91   Silence (1924) OBSERVATIONS, 1924  free verse 
71   An Octopus (1924) OBSERVATIONS, 1924  free verse 
43   Peter (1924) OBSERVATIONS, 1924  free verse 

Poems 1932-1936--
5    The Steeplejack (1932) SELECTED POEMS, 1935
n/a The Student (1932) SELECTED POEMS, 1935
8   The Hero (1932) SELECTED POEMS, 1935
 [In Poety in 1932 and in SP in 1935, the three poems above were published under the single title 
 “Part of a Novel, Part of a Poem, Part of a Play.]
19  No Swan So Fine (1932) SELECTED POEMS, 1935
10  The Jerboa (1932) SELECTED POEMS, 1935
20  The Plumet Basilisk (1932) SELECTED POEMS, 1935
25  The Frigate Pelican (1934) SELECTED POEMS, 1935
107 Virginia Britannia (1935) WHAT ARE YEARS, 1941
105 Bird-Witted (1936) WHAT ARE YEARS, 1941
117 The Pangolin (1936) WHAT ARE YEARS, 1941

Lyrics of the war years--
95   What Are Years (1940) WHAT ARE YEARS, 1941
121 The Glass-Ribbed Nest/The Paper Nautilus (1940-41) WHAT ARE YEARS, 1941
96   Rigorists (1940) WHAT ARE YEARS, 1941
99   He Digesteth Hard Yron (1940) WHAT ARE YEARS, 1941
112 Spenser’s Ireland (1941) WHAT ARE YEARS, 1941
136 In Distrust of Merits NEVERTHELESS, 1944
149 Propriety (??) COLLECTED LATER, 1951

Later poems--
151 Armor’s Undermining Modesty (1950) COLLECTED LATER, 1951
167 The Sycamore (1955) LIKE A BULWARK, 1956
173 Blessed Is the Man (1956) LIKE A BULWARK, 1956
190 In the Public Garden (1958) O TO BE A DRAGON, 1959
231 Tell Me, Tell Me (1960) TELL ME, TELL ME 1966
237 “Avec Ardeur” (1965) COMPLETE POEMS, 1967

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Marianne Moore: A Note on Texts

Marianne Moore’s miscalled Complete Poems (1967, revised 1981) the only edition of her poems now in print, omits roughly half the poems Moore published before 1925--the period of her greatest innovation. Of those present, many have been revised to make them accord both formally and thematically with her later, less challenging work. Thus, the Complete Poems can’t be used alone to read Moore’s early poems or to trace her development.

Early studies of Moore took the Complete Poems (hereafter CP) as authoritative and thus often valued her later work more highly than the bowdlerized early work.[See note 1] The 1980s and 1990s produced an explosion of Moore criticism. Most of these more recent critics have made an effort to assess Moore’s development by taking the poems/versions in sequence and/or by seeking to determine the “authoritative” version of each poem. Thus, in the criticism you will encounter both poems that do not appear in CP and earlier texts of poems that do. Read carefully when a critic quotes a passage--the argument may be based on lines that differ from those you have read in CP. John Slatin, for example, in The Savage's Romance: The Poetry of Marianne Moore, bases his arguments on the earliest published text of each poem and treats later revisions as revisions--or, as he puts it, as Moore’s later critical responses to her own work. Linda Leavell, in Marianne Moore and the Visual Arts, does not limit herself to first or to later texts, but bases her readings on whatever text she believes to be definitive for each poem. For the convenience of readers who have access only to the CP, Cristanne Miller, in Marianne Moore: Questions of Authority, cites mostly from versions printed there, except where chronology is important to her argument or where earlier versions of a poem more adequately represent an analytical problem.

Nearly all critics of Moore divide her work into distinct phases, though the exact basis for division may vary. The first phase generally extends from her first publication in 1915 to 1920. The poems of this phase were composed in syllabic verse, and most appeared in two radical new journals: The Egoist and Others. The second phase runs from 1920 to 1925, a period in which Moore published only free verse, though several of the poems had been first composed in syllabics then revised into free verse. These poems contain more quotations [See Note 2] than those of other periods, and the poems become longer and more complex as the years pass. From January 1925 through June 1932 Moore served as acting editor, and then as editor, of The Dial and published no new poems. Thus her third phase begins in 1932 and runs through 1936--or to 1941, depending on your criteria. These poems return to syllabic form but are longer and more formally complex than the poems of 1915-1920. They appeared in a variety of well-established literary journals. Most readers locate the apex of Moore’s achievement somewhere in the work of these years--but there are exceptions (such as Jeanne Heuving, in Omissions Are Not Accidents: Gender and Authority in Marianne Moore) who find most of the post-1932 poems disappointing in comparison to the radical work of Moore’s youth.

Though Moore lived until 1972 and published through the late 1960s, few readers make any brief for her poems after the early 1940s, which rarely challenge a reader at either the level of content or the level of form. Some critics, however, including Linda Leavell, prefer to withhold judgment until a definitive edition of the poems appears, arguing that the early poems have been weeded down to the best, while later poems were (and continue to be) published indiscriminately, thus making it impossible to compare periods on equal terms.

Note 1: The first full-length study of Moore, Bernard F. Engle's Marianne Moore, 1951, appeared before the Complete Poems. Laurence Stapleton's Marianne Moore: The Poet's Advance, 1979, examined Moore's development but assessment of early poems was based on their revised versions in CP. Return to text

Note 2: Good resources on Moore's use of quotation include Leonard Diepeveen's Changing Voices: The Modern Quoting Poem (University of Michigan Press, 1993) and Joyce Gregory... oh, can't find the citation - you'll find it. John Slatin also addresses quotation. Return to text



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