Editorial Reviews for this title:
In her introduction, Bonnie Costello writes:
On July 9, 1959, T. S. Eliot wrote to Marianne Moore: "One of the books which obviously must in the fullness of time be published . . . will be the Letters of Marianne Moore." We are pleased to fulfill his prediction. Marianne Moore's correspondence makes up the largest and most broadly significant collection of any modern poet. It documents the first two-thirds of this century, reflecting shifts from Victorian to modernist culture, the experience of the two world wars, the Depression and postwar prosperity, and the changing face of the arts in America and Europe. Moore wrote letters daily for most of her life--long, intense letters to friends and family; shorter, but always distinctive letters to an ever-widening circle of acquaintances and fans. At the height of her celebrity, she would occasionally write as many as fifty letters a day. Both Moore and her correspondents appreciated the value of their exchange, so that an extraordinary number of letters, approximately thirty thousand, have been preserved . . . It is Moore's poetry that draws us to her letters, of course. But in making this selection we have tried to present the life and mind of a woman whose interests extended to all the arts, to religion, politics, and psychology, to fashion, sports, and the domestic arts, moving freely between high culture and popular culture, and whose family and friendships remained as important as her professional life. Moore's correspondence is unique in the extent of its extraliterary interests and passionate engagement with the world at large. From her college adventures, her travels, and the flurry of her artistic and social activities, there seems to have been no lull. What has struck us most in reading through Moore's letters is the vitality and fullness of the long life they record.
To say that Marianne Moore was an extraordinary woman would be something of an understatement. Poet, editor, critic, and correspondent, Moore was also a friend to many of the greatest artists and writers of the 20th century, as well as an inveterate letter-writer--she sometimes wrote up to 50 letters a day. The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore
offers only some of the poet's 30,000 surviving letters, but the ones editors Bonnie Costello, Celeste Goodridge, and Cristanne Miller have chosen are among the créme de la créme. Moore, who lived with her mother and never married, wrote often to her brother John, describing both the quotidian events of her life and her deepest insecurities about her writing. Other frequent recipients of Moore's letters included poets T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Elizabeth Bishop; singer Hildegarde Watson; and close friends Hilda Doolittle and Winifred Ellerman. Then there are the letters to E.E. Cummings, Allen Ginsberg, Edith Sitwell, and more, a veritable who's who of 20th-century arts and letters.
Marianne Moore's letters are fascinating on several accounts: first, there is the originality of her prose, which is invariably charming, witty, and expressive. Then there is the delightful frisson the reader experiences from eavesdropping on other people's private conversations--especially when those people are famous. And finally, there is Moore herself, a complicated, highly intelligent woman whose letters reflect both the turbulent world she lived in and her own responses to it. From women's suffrage to Ezra Pound's treason trial, Marianne Moore witnessed it all--and then she wrote it down.
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