Marianne Moore Newsletter - Volume 3 Number 2 Fall 1979
Marianne Moore Newsletter
Volume III Number 2 Fall 1979
[inside front cover]
MARIANNE MOORE NEWSLETTER
Volume III, Number 2, Fall 1979
Zebra drawn by Marianne Moore at the Smithsonian
Institution, Washington, D.C., on 2 March 1915.
All previously unpublished material by Marianne Moore is published here by permission of Clive E. Driver, Literary Executor of the Estate of Marianne C. Moore.
Subscription: Two issues a year, Spring and Fall. U.S.A. $4.00 a year; Foreign $4.50. Subscriptions run for calendar year in which placed. Continuing subscriptions available. Back issues available as issued at $3.50 except Volume I, Number 1 available in photocopy only. Please make cheques payable to The Rosenbach Museum & Library.
Contributions welcome on all aspects of MM and her work up to 750 words. Deadlines: Spring, February 1st; Fall, October 1st.
Address correspondence to Patricia C. Willis, Editor, MMN, The Rosenbach Museum & Library, 2010 DeLancey Pl., Philadelphia, PA, 19103.
by Clive E. Driver,
Literary Executor of the Estate
of Marianne C. Moore
Marianne Moore Newsletter
Volume III Number 2 Fall 1979
"Books, conversation, a remark, objects, circumstances, sometimes make an indelible impression on one, and a few words which occurred to one at the time the impression was made, remain associated with the original impression and suggest other words. Then, upon scrutiny, these words seem to have distorted the concept, so the effort to effect a record of what seemed valuable—say a testimony to the impression made, is abandoned perhaps, but remains dormant. Then perhaps the original impression reasserts itself with added associative detail and results in a suitable development. For instance, you see a suit of armor. The moveability suggests a wearer—there's life under the mechanism; you are reminded of an armadillo, say, or a crayfish, and recall the beauty of the ancient testudo, the shield laid on the shield of the Romans. Then perhaps the idea of conflict counteracts that of romance. Presently you see a live iguana and are startled by the paradox of its docility in connection with its horrific aspect. The idea of beauty outweighs the thought of painful self-protectiveness, and you have a developing theme."
(MM on the inspiration for poetry from WEVE broadcast, "The World in Books," corrected transcript, 13 July 1951)
It would appear from her finished poems that MM intended to display the sources of the impressions which led her to develop a theme and so begin a poem. She is careful to include, again and again, three kinds of evidence for her sources: unambiguous personal statement—"I saw an albino giraffe" ("The Sycamore"); direct quotation—" 'I shall be there when the wave has gone by' " ("In the Days of Prismatic Color"); and notes—" 'Thoughtful beavers'; Clifton Johnson; What to See in America; Macmillan" ("An Octopus," Observations). When MM proffers such clear evidence, what useful illumination about her sources can we expect to find among her personal effects? And what might discoveries tell us about the poet and her art?
To answer those questions, one must first consider the nature of work in an archive like the MM collection. Archival research here is a long sifting process whereby the scholar examines each piece of material and responds to it on the basis of whether or not it has a connection with a poem. He knows from the start that he will not be able to look up a source for a poem as he might a word in a dictionary. He is confronted with the possibility that every item in the collection could have bearing on any other; that each of 35,000 letters could disclose the inspiration for a work; that any of thousands of notebook entries could lead to a book that was the original topic for a poem; that a notation in an appointment book for any day between January 1920 and December 1969 could name a person or event connected with MM's writings. If he knows MM's work thoroughly, items related to it will leap out at him; if he knows the work less well, his sifting will be much less rewarding.
However, if the researcher is both knowledgable and patient, he will discover MM to be a poet whose method of transmuting personal experience into poetry has the effect of distancing what the reader meets on the poem's surface from the poet's sources of inspiration. He will find that MM saw an albino giraffe only on a page torn from an unidentified magazine; that she quotes, with modifications, from her brother who had recently entered the Navy: ". . . I feel sometimes as if the wave can go over me if it likes and I'll be there when it's gone by . . ."; and that the passage about beavers comes not from Johnson's book but from Enos Mills' The Spell of the Rockies, Boston, 1911. (It is worth pointing out that MM does not mention this book anywhere in her notes, but her citations of other works by Mills were enough to lead eventually to the right text.)
In these instances, and so many others like them, MM has only seemed to convey her sources of inspiration to her reader through personal statement, quotation and note. To discover that the sources are, in fact, quite
different from what they seem is to begin to observe the workings of MM's imagination. For example, "An Egyptian Pulled-glass Bottle in the Shape of a Fish" appears to concern only an ancient bottle, and a reader must juggle the notions of "patience" and "thirst" to associate them with it. However, when the reader can see what MM saw, the bottle and two monumental sculptures by Einar Jonsson, he can account for the parts of the poem and the juxtaposition of images. (Cf, MMN, 2 [Spring, 1978], 8-12.) Then, as closely as will ever be possible, he can look directly at the poet’s sources—stand in relation to them as she did—and see the triggers that fired her imagination. It is only by observing those sources directly that a reader can follow the process of her imagination from the moment that a poem began, when "Books, conversation, a remark, objects, circumstances . . . [made] an indelible impression” to the point when they clustered into a "developing theme" and submitted to the transforming craft of poetry.
These sources have the highest importance for a poet of the particular like MM who never abandoned her experience of them. She deplored what she called her "enigmas," the parts of her work which her readers professed to find baffling, while she herself maintained a tension between her recalled experience of a source and her transormation of it in a poem. Now, through exploration of her archive, her readers can at last see this tension and its function in her poems and recognize the truth of one of her most frequent and inscrutable remarks about her work: "I am," she said, "never consciously obscure to myself."
MARIANNE MOORE ON EZRA POUND, 1909-1915
MM came to know Ezra Pound's work in 1909, the year of his first book publications in England. The history of her poem, "Ezra Pound," is also a history of her awareness of his work and her positive response to it.
Facsimile of MM’s original typescript, Rosenbach Museum & Library
In late 1909, MM noted to herself: "Ezra Pound . . . at all costs" (Rosenbach 1250/1/20). She added a few days later a citation for Personae and Exultations, published that year by Elkin Mathews. MM travelled to London in 1911 and purchased at Mathew’s bookshop those two books and Canzoni, published in 1911. The last contained excerpts from 11 reviews of Personae and 7 of Exultations, a cross-section of critical response to
Pound, calling him. "rare," "a scholar," "untrammeled by metrical convention," "full of personality with such power to express it." An excerpt from the Morning Post read: ". . . immediately compels admiration by his lack of self-consciousness." MM underscored the last three words and drew a very large exclamation point in the margin.
George Meredith next enters the history of the poem. MM read his Rhoda Fleming in the summer of 1914. The only note she made from it refers to Edward Blancove, the bookish rogue antagonist of the novel, who has been boxing for exercise with his cousin Algernon: "Both had stout muscle, but in Edward there was vigour of brain as well which seemed to knit and inform his shape." (MM in Rosenbach 1250/1/92: cf. Rhoda Fleming. New York, 1908, p. 41.)
The following February, MM saw Pound's essay, "The Renaissance," in Poetry (5 [February 1915], 227-33). In "The Palette," as this first section of the essay was subtitled, Pound argues that the renaissance in American poetry depends upon poets’ explorations of classical models to stimulate an American "palette" of color for poetry. He insists that English standards for poetry, not English poets, disgust him, but that he does not mean to write a destructive article:
"Let anyone drink any sort of liqueur that suits him. Let him enjoy the aroma as a unity, let him forget all that he has heard of technic, but let him not confuse enjoyment with criticism, constructive criticism, or preparation for writing. There is nothing like futurist abolition of past glories in this brief article. It does not preclude an enjoyment of Charles d'Orleans or Mark Alexander Boyd. 'Fra bank to bank, fra wood to wood I rin.’ " (p. 230)
The last sentence quotes the first line of "Sonet" by Mark Alexander Boyd, 1563-1601, whose poem is still anthologized with Scottish verse.
MM absorbed this message at about the same time she encountered Blast, the short-lived and short-fused magazine of the Vorticist movement produced by Pound and Wyndham Lewis. At the Library of Congress, on 2 March 1915, she read the June 1914 issue: "Blast is a wonderful publication—compilation of curses and blessings on England and on ships in particular," she wrote home that evening. She copied from pages 22 and 23 into her notebook (Rosenbach 12S0/1/113):
On the next notebook page, MM transcribed two of Pound's poems. The first, "Li Po," was paired in Blast with "Fu I” as "Epitaphs" on page 48:
And Li Po also died drunk
He tried to embrace a moon
in the yellow river.
And the second, from page 49:
When I carefully consider the curious habits of dogs,
I am compelled to admit
Than man is the superior animal.
When I consider the curious habits of man,
I confess, my friend, I am puzzled.
During the next two days, MM shaped these pieces into a poem and sent it to the Little Review, founded ten months earlier. As the poem was never published, and since Pound was not yet "Foreign Editor" for the magazine, it is probable that he never knew of the compliment .
“Li Po" and "Meditatio," Copyright © 1926 by Ezra Pound. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
ALBINO AND MOTLEY IN "THE SYCAMORE"
MM's inspiration for the first ten lines of "The Sycamore" can be seen in her collection of clippings. The albino giraffe appears in a one-page story torn from an oversize slick magazine which considerable research has failed to identify. "An Albino Giraffe Is Seen by Man for the First Time and Photographed in Color" is the heading of a short piece about the discovery by the Macnab-Snyder expedition in Western Kenya. Nine minutes of color film resulted, four frames of
An Albino giraffe from an unidentified clipping printed in color, slightly out of register. More than 18 feet tall and 4000 pounds, this uncapturable specimen has piebald markings on its back.
Hampshire hogs with MM's annotation. Lucky stone.
which are reproduced with the article.
A second clipping shows Hampshire hogs and is labled by MM "lucky stones" because of their white stripe, like the stripe of white granite that occurs on dark stones called "lucky" by rock collectors.
Against a gun-metal sky
I saw an albino giraffe. Without
leaves to modify,
said, although partly pied near the base,
it towered where a chain of
stepping-stones lay in a stream nearby;
glamor to stir the envy
of anything in motley —
Hampshire pig, the living lucky-stone;. .
—The Sycamore, 1955
MM's clipping of the London Zoo's "rare Plumet Basilisk from Costa Rica" captioned "Bird, Beast or Fish?" from the New York Herald Tribune, 26 January 1930, and an inspiration for the description, "He runs, he flies, he swims . . ." in line 13 of the poem.
"To a Snail": A Lesson in Compression
Moore’s revisions of poems often reveal a process of self-instruction. In comparing an early draft of "To a Snail" with the later, published version, we can see Moore not only changing the form of her poem, but also her idea about the place of form in poetry.
A facsimile of the draft, slightly reduced, follows:
The poem lacks the "compression" it celebrates, and therefore doubly lacks "grace." The first two images are put in a weak parallel structure, which minimizes their potential for pun and metaphor. The impulse to compression is there, but it is vented on the quoted lines at the beginning (which originally read "the very first grace of style is that which comes from compression"), rather than on her own language.1 And the quotation is not fully integrated into the poem as a whole, so that she is forced into referring back to it awkwardly.
The redundancy and awkwardness of the poem ("is" appears 10 times and there are several unnecessary repetitions) is a symptom of its logical weakness. The poem tends to cancel itself out, first upholding an aesthetic virtue (a "grace of style”), but then diminishing the virtue of aesthetics (there are things "infinitely more worthwhile than style is worthwhile"—then why talk about style at all? Why not talk about modesty rather than contractility?). At this stage Moore still seems to be thinking of aesthetics and "real" virtue (morality) as separate realms, though, as Kenneth Burke has pointed out, in her later prose she tends to identify the two. By the fourth line of the poem it seems that she doesn't really want to talk
about style at all, but after equivocating about what she prefers ("things that are hid"), she ends the poem.
The second stanza of the early draft views style as an "adornment," an "incidental quality," at best. In this context Moore's weak use of her image (which disappears after the second line) is not surprising. Here the image is an adornment of an idea. If she had been true to her image she would realize that a snail would never leave his "vehicle" behind.
The final version is clearer, more compact, and, by a simple rearrangement of lines, more closely bound to the image of the title. Moore still retains the "je ne sais quoi" effect, but the new emphasis on the image gives the mystery a striking concreteness. It also makes the poem nicely circular.
TO A SNAIL
If "compression is the first grace of style,"
you have it. Contractility is a virtue
as modesty is a virtue.
It is not the acquisition of any one thing
that is able to adorn,
or the incidental quality that occurs
as a concomitant of something well said,
that we value in style,
but the principle that is hid:
in the absence of feet, "a method of conclusions";
"a knowledge of principles,"
in the curious phenomenon of your occipital horn.
— Complete Poems (1967)
Right away we notice the compression from three sentences into two. Almost half of the "is"'s are eliminated. This is also, necessarily, a revision, for the "things that are hid" are no longer "more worthwhile than style" but an integral part of the style. Modesty and contractility belong to the same class. The syntax of the final version clearly rejects adornment (and the imposed syllabic structure of the
early version is appropriately replaced by what seems to be free verse). Moore also becomes more specific about the things which are hid, adding two new quotations to balance the opening line. These phrases, ascribed to Duns Scotus in the notes to Observations, are recorded in Moore's Reading Diary (Rosenbach 1250/2,141-2) after September, 1920. They are from a passage Moore quotes from Medieval Mind, Vol, II, 516. "Is theology then properly a science? Duns Scotus will not deny it, but thinks [it]/p. 142/ may more properly be called, a sapientia, since according to its nature it is rather a knowledge of principles than a method of conclusions." It is interesting to note that while the source distinguishes science and sapientia Moore yokes them by apposing the two quoted phrases. Such revision not only of the form but of the meaning of her quotations is not unusual, and ought to be taken into consideration when we weigh the seriousness of her claim to quote simply because others had said better something she had wanted to say. Along with the new unity she has found between contractility and modesty, she has seen that a technical "method of conclusions" and a spiritual "knowledge of principles" work together in the expressive whole.
Moore’s essay "Humility, Concentration and Gusto,"2 may offer further hints about the poem. In judging "style" by its ability to express a hidden source of inspiration, Moore quotes William Cowper's "A Snail" (the title she put above the first draft of her poem) as "a thing of gusto although the poem has been dismissed as mere description." The two writers focus on different aspects of the image, but their themes have much in common. Cowper's poem ends by identifying the shell with the snail, and by implication, the poem with its maker.
Who seeks him must be worse than blind,
He and his house are so combined,
If finding it, he fails to find
Moore’s copy of Cowper's poems (edited by J, C.
Bailey, London, Methuen, 1905; given to Moore by her mother in 1910) has a book mark at "A Snail" and an annotation changing "self-collecting" to "self-collective" (as Moore published it in her essay). It is clearly a poem she knew well. The scholarly notes to this edition show that Cowper had translated and compressed a Latin poem by Vincent Bourne. Since Moore's poem obviously isn't about a snail per se perhaps it is addressed to Cowper.
1. In Complete Poems Moore cites a 1952 edition of De Elocutione by Democritus. But she originally saw the quote in a review of Ancient Gems in Modern Settings by G. B. Grundy, which appeared in The Spectator, May 10, 1913.
2. Marianne Moore, "Humility, Concentration, and Gusto," in Predilections (New York: Viking, 1955) p. 15.
WRITING: HEART, PRECISION, UNACCENT
Alice Hunt Bartlett, editor of the American Section, The Poetry Review (London) planned to review MM's Selected Poems in 1935. Following her usual practice, she wrote to the poet to request her comments on why she wrote poetry and the place of poetry in "modern life.” MM's reply, except for her opening sentence of thanks, is quoted in the review "Dynamics of American Poetry: LVI," 26 (September 1935), 403-412, which also discusses work by Horatio Colony, John Black, Josephine Turch Baker, and Harold Vinal:
"For either verse or prose, I feel that Sterne’s advice might be followed: 'Write anything and write it any how, so it but comes from yr heart.' The question then presents itself how valuable is the heart which writing from the heart will reveal?—through individuality, predilections, reading, sense of colour, scene—even selfishness, and the qualities which hinder aspiration.
"If, however, the thought in your enquiry concerned idiosyncrasies of technique, may I say that I am interested in precision, and feel that one should regard no amount of trouble taken too great to ensure making the meaning clear; admitting too that a concept as one exposits it, is so predominantly what is in one's mind that one sometimes fails to detect inadvertences.
"l dislike affectation. The unaccented rhymed syllable has an attraction for me as it had for Longfellow, Whittier, and others; and as a phase of unaccent, I tend to like a poem which instead of culminating in a crescendo, merely comes to a close; and though one cannot score words as one does notes there is an inevitable connection, I feel, between poetry and music."
LIBRARY NOTES: MARIANNE MOORE AT BUFFALO
In addition to a set of first editions of MM's works, The Poetry/Rare Book Collection contains the following items. Among the letters there are 16 to Charles D. Abbott, 10 to William Carlos Williams, and 7 to Robert Lowe. The letters cover the period from 15 June 1926 to 27 March 1968: the first of these is written on the letterhead of The Dial, while the last claims that it is her cousin, of the same name, and not MM who should be the object of letters. The letters to Lowe express appreciation for his interest and help in finding a proper publisher.
TLS to Charles Abbott, 15 June 1926
TLS to W.C. Williams, 1 Nov 1928
TLS to W.C. Williams, 24 May 1929
TLS to W.C. Williams, 20 March 1931
TLS to W.C. Williams, 7 Oct 1931
TLS to W.C. Williams, 4 May 1933
TLS to W.C. Williams, 4 Oct 1933
ALS to W.C. Williams, 22 June 1935
TLS to W.C. Williams, 29 June 1935
ALS to W.C. Williams, 22 April 1936
TLS to W.C. Williams, 27 May 1936
ALS to R.L. Latimer, 25 Nov 1936
TLS to Charles Abbott, 8 Dec 1936
TLS to Charles Abbott, 30 Dec 1936
TLS to Charles Abbott, 3 Jan 1939
ANS to Mr & Mrs Abbott, 10 Jan 1941
TLS to Charles Abbott, 23 Oct 1941
TNS to Charles Abbott, 7 Nov 1941
TLS to Charles Abbott, 15 Jan 1942
TLS to Charles Abbott, 20 Jan 1942
TLS to Lockwood Memorial Library, 22 Jan 1942
TLS to Robert Lowe, 6 Feb 1942
TLS to Mary Bernard, 13 Feb 1942
ALS to Robert Lowe, 28 March 1942
ALS to Charles Abbott, 27 Nov 1942
ALS to Robert Lowe, 10 Dec 1943
ALS to Robert Lowe, 6 Feb 1944
ALS to Robert Lowe, 16 Jan 1945
ALS to Charles Abbott, 20 March 1945
ALS to Robert Lowe, 15 Dec 1947
ALS to Robert Lowe, 9 August 1947
ALS to Charles Abbott, 8 June 1948
TLS to Charles Abbott, 30 June 1948
TLS to Peter Russell, 1 Jan 1949
TNS to E. Magner, 11 Jan 1950
TLS to Peter Russell, 10 April 1950
TLS to Charles Abbott, 16 Feb 1953
TLS to Mr & Mrs Abbott, 5 March 1954
APCS to Charles Abbott, 22 June 1955
TLS to Anna Russell, 22 June 1958
TPCS to Lockwood Memorial Library, 13 May 1960
TLS to Lockwood Memoral Library, 27 March 1968
"The Pangolin,” tms, 3 leaves, all recto 153 lines. This typescipt contains differences in spacing and line arrangements from the version published in The Pangolin and Other Verse (London: The Brendin Publishing Company, 1936), pp. 17-21.
"The Frigate Pelican," tms, 1 leaf, 45 lines. This typescript is the first part of the poem as it appeared in The Criterion, 13 (July 1934), 57-60. There are some revisions and editorial marks.
"See in the Midst of Fair Leaves," ams.s., 1 leaf, 14 lines. This is the text of the poem as it appeared in New Directions in Prose and Poetry [Norfolk, CT.: New Directions,“1936), p. .
WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, ST. LOUIS
The Special Collection of Modern Literature at Washington University Libraries contains a sizeable Marianne Moore collection. In addition to a comprehensive collection of published materials both by and about MM (including translations and variant editions of bibliographic interest), Washington University houses a collection of MM's manuscripts and correspondence. Although the Collection holds only three actual Mss--a typescript with corrections of the poem "Quoting an Also Private Thought," and typescript carbons of two reviews: Selected Criticism by Louise Bogan, and Moments: Poems 1915-1954 by Kenneth Burke--it does house 91 of MM's letters, notes, and postcards including 45 written to the poet Babette Deutsch between 1927-1965. Other letters include ones MM wrote to Isabella Gardner, William Jay Smith, Lee Anderson, Mona Van Duyn, Anne Stevenson, and others. In addition, the Collection contains an assortment of miscellaneous material, including letters from various people to MM, letters associated with her, clippings and other ephemera.
Timothy D. Murray
Curator of Manuscripts
INSPIRATION FOR POETRY
Quoted in the "Comment" section of this issue is MM's discussion of her inspiration for poetry, taken from a corrected transcript of an interview broadcast on "The World in Books," WVED (New York), on 13 July 1951. Evelyn Feldman has discovered an earlier, published version of the same text, kept by MM and revised for use in 1951: "Marianne Moore: Poet, Winner of The Dial Award for 1924, New York," in Mary Austin, Everyman's Genius, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1925, p. 339,
MM IN THE SATURDAY REVIEW, 1948
Marianne Moore, "High Thinking in Boston," The Saturday Review, 31 (6 November 1948), 28. Review of Kathrine Jones, Miss Gifford's, New York: Exposition Press, 1948, a novel about a boarding house in Boston's South End. In this 300 word review, MM comments on "versimilitude and originalities of characterization" and concludes: "Profundities need not be a bore; and presented with the light touch, by a serious mind, can be, as here, a prism of fascination,"
A LETTER FROM MM
"Letters from Elizabeth Bishop" by Anne Stevenson, TLS, No. 4015 (7 March 1980), p. 261-62, contains a letter from MM encouraging Stevenson, then working on a Twayne book on Elizabeth Bishop, to write to the poet in Brazil.
In a letter to the editor in the TLS for 4 April 1980, Holly Hall of Washington University explains that Stevenson published the MM and several EB letters from photocopies, not from the originals held since 1974 by the University Libraries. [See "Library Notes" above.] In the letters column for 18 April 1980, Stevenson replies that she assumed she held the only extant versions of the letters, having lost her originals, and, wishing to share them, she had not intended to publish them without permission.
IMAGES OF MARIANNE
IN HER OWN IMAGE: PHOTOGRAPHERS, PAINTERS AND SCULPTORS VIEW MARIANNE MOORE
From 24 Jaunary through 1 May 1980, the Rosenbach Museum & Library held an exhibition of portraits of MM, in all, 145 items created between 1888 and 1969. With the exception of 15 loan items, the exhibition was drawn from the MM Collection at the Rosenbach, its selection made from several hundred photographs and works in other media.
Early studio portraits and snapshots of MM reveal a shy, quiet and delicate child and young woman. Only in a photograph taken at the age of 10 where she is playing croquet in a large hat with artificial flowers is there an intimation of things to come. In photos taken during her college years, she is almost invariably in the back row, with head lowered. She did, however, in her sophomore year at Bryn Mawr, within her extremely limited means, decide to have a portrait photograph done, and selected the photographer with great care. In photos taken soon after her graduation, she usually wears a shirt-waist and a long dark skirt. By the early 1920's, this mode of dress was becoming her own particular style of fashion. The settings, too, which would be repeated innumerable times in later years, in which she is seen reading, writing, or engaged in sports, were becoming established. Simultaneously with her decision to become a poet, she begins to appear in photographs in a role which she is consciously creating. But it was not until 1921, and the immminent publication of her first book, that she again sat for a formal studio portrait.
MM posed dozens of times for portrait photographers, with many of the most important photographers of their day, often at their request. Her favorite early portrait was made by Sarony's studio where the style was to cajole or startle a sitter into a lively expression. Sarony and Dupont were popular for their theatrical portraits, and their pictures of MM show her with dramatic flair. Alice Houghton and Doris Ulmann sought her out as a literary personality when she was editor of The Dial in the ’Twenties, and their soft-focus work gives a very different impression of the poet. Morton Dauwen Zabel, editor of Poetry, Carl Van Vechten, writer turned photographer, and Marion Morehouse, wife of E. E. Cummings, all knew her first as poet and friend.
Several of these photographers included their studies of MM in their own published portfolios, among them George Platt Lynes, Cecil Beaton, Carl Van Vevhten, Marion Morehouse, Lotte Jacobi, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus, and Richard Avedon.
In I960, MM wrote that "for anyone with 'a passion for actuality,' the camera often seems preferable to any other mechanism." On the other hand, she admitted to Goerge Platt Lynes that she had had a "fondness for fogged and furry effects" until she saw his sharp-edged work. And to Richard Avedon, with reference to her 1958 portrait, she gave a sampling of her suggestions for the darkroom: "I need not tell a magpie how to judge eggs but . . . On my left hat brim, could the white wisps be effaced? and the back side of the dollar clip; i,e. where the clip is not right side out - I think it detracts. Could the twine on the stems of the flowering quince be darkened? Could the speckling of my eyebrows be overcome - especially along the lower edge of the right eye? (equalized). . . . Photography is a great help in these matters."
Her collaboration with her photographers is most immediately evident in her choice of dress. With her large hats, gloves, capes, blue or black suits of classic line, tailored blouses with contrasting flowing ties, she established a personal style independent of contemporary fashion and consistently maintained for more than 50 years. As thoughtful in her appearance as in her craft, she created a unique visual persona, itself part of a long poetic tradition. Her cape and tricorne hat became her trademark, as immediately recognizable on the street or in the stadium as in the literary salon. But her influence on the artistic rendering of her image was even more persuasive. Through the care with which she selected her photographer or the care with which she arranged her costume and effect before presenting herself to the photographer who selected her, she controlled to an unusual degree the final record of her visual shape and form. When she sat for her portrait she composed a persona which became an equivalent of her poetry, as different from her informal everyday appearance as her poetry was from her conversation. The formal portrait shares with her poetry the spareness and control of the artist, whereas the informal photograph preserves the spontaneity and warmth of her character.
After the age of 60, MM became a celebrity. Her
honors and awards, media events which she attended, even meals and casual meetings with her famous friends, were photographically recorded. MM made good copy.
Friends and admirers of her work also became inquisitive about her home, her neighborhood, the world in which she moved. This prompted several photographic essays on her life and surroundings for Look and Life with photographs by Esther Bubley and Steve Schapiro, as well as other on-location shots by Martha Holmes and Basil Langton. Although a very private person with strong reclusive tendencies, she shared in these ventures with remarkable charm and good humor, and the results preserve fascinating glimpses into her personal world.
While maintaining her sense of privacy and private protectiveness, she nevertheless relished excursions to meed her public and enthusiastically participated in public events. But everything she did was done with style and grace, whether it was going to the racetrack, throwing out the first ball to begin a baseball season, feeding the elephants at the zoo, or making an advertisement. And yet, even in these less guarded moments, she maintains the propriety of her chosen persona. Even trivial moments are charged with an appropriate decorum. Conscious of herself as poet and literary figure, she presents herself in informal private or public occasions in a role complementing and yet entirely consistent with her formal portraits.
Works in other media portray MM in lights other than those of the flashbulb or the blazing klieg. A large painting by Marguerite Zorach shows MM interpreted in expressive style and brilliant color in 1925. Drawings by Zorach, Alice Little, Mina Loy, Hildegarde Lasell Watson and Soss Melik include profile studies (poses never accepted by MM from photographers) and several which suggest repose, or at least, a moment at rest, seemingly unaware of the artist. A photo-sculpture by Betty Holliday captures MM reading at a lectern, freezing her unposed, unconcerned with the camera. The 1924 head by Gaston Lachaise, cast in bronze, gives a sharp and formal solidity to a young MM of delicate facial features and high-piled hair. And a late study in fired-
clay by Michael de Lisio suggests the angularity that MM, in cape and tricorne, presented in three dimensions.
But in whatever medium, the 145 studies made over 81 years reflect a Marianne Moore intent upon contributing her own image to the visual record.Writing to George Platt Lynes after a 1950 sitting, MM described herself as a subject: "I am one elephant of stone to convey, where intentional spontaneity is concerned . . . I thought of Myron Williams' remark about George Eliot: 'Her face was one which could not be "taken" . . . the meaning lay in the expression.'" Lynes, she thought, had "thrown in a little expression." But the record shows more than that: a kaleidoscope of expressions that both splits apart and mirrors the many images of Marianne, and then recombine them into the "one face photographed by recollection", private or less guarded, formal or informal, young or old that we know to be Marianne Moore, in her own image.
"In Her Own Image: Photographers, Painters and Sculptors View Marianne Moore." Poster from the Rosenbach Museum & Library exhibition, 24 January to 1 May 1980, with photograph on page of this issue. $2.50 plus 50¢ postage.
MM's "Hometown Piece for Messrs. Alston and Reese" with photograph of the Brooklyn Dodgers' winning team. Color poster, $3.00 plus 50¢ postage.
Both posters can be ordered through MMN, Rosenbach Museum & Library, 2010 DeLancey Place, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Pennsylvania residents please add 6% sales tax.