Holding on upside down : the life and work of Marianne Moore /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Leavell, Linda, 1954-
Edition:First edition.
Imprint:New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.
Description:xxi, 455 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Subject:Moore, Marianne, -- 1887-1972.
Moore, Marianne, -- 1887-1972.
Format: Print Book
URL for this record:http://pi.lib.uchicago.edu/1001/cat/bib/9751345
Hidden Bibliographic Details
ISBN:9780374107291 (hbk.)
0374107297 (hbk.)
Notes:Includes bibliographical references and index.
Review by Choice Review

As Moore's authorized biographer, Leavell (Oklahoma State Univ.) had unlimited access to the poet's papers, including family documents. In the first chapter, Leavell focuses on the year 1915, when Moore traveled to New York City and entered the world of modernism, meeting photographer Alfred Stieglitz and editor Alfred Kreymborg. Subsequent chapters are arranged chronologically, focusing first on Moore's childhood, including her absent father and her ever-present mother, then on the poet's literary relationship with Scofield Thayer and James Watson, publishers of The Dial. These two influential men promoted Moore's work, presented her with the Dial Award, and in 1925 appointed her editor of the prestigious journal, a position that allowed her, during her four-year tenure, to reject authors such as Hemingway and Joyce, but publish Pound, Yeats, and Stein. Throughout this biography, Leavell provides insightful analyses of Moore's poetry, which was precise, sentimental, witty, ironic, and accessible--qualities that Moore encouraged in young poets, Elizabeth Bishop among them. In her final years, as a literary celebrity, Moore appeared on talk shows and at sporting events, throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium. Like Moore and her poetry, this biography is honest, elegant, and circumspect, not controversial or confessional. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. R. Mulligan Christopher Newport University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by New York Times Review

The difficulty of explaining the great modernist poet Marianne Moore has always been part of her splendor. How does her obsession with animals relate to her life with her mother? Can her innovative syllabic arrangements be attributed to her psychological state? Biographers try to figure out why poets write the way they do - which leads to lots of explanation and equivocation, not many answers. By sifting through voluminous family correspondence, quoting liberally and only sometimes interpreting, Leavell gives us Moore as fascinating woman and poet, avant-gardist and prude, small-town girl, big-city dweller, submissive daughter and art world player. "Holding On Upside Down" is nearly as much the story of Moore's mother, Mary, as it is Moore's own. Mother and daughter lived together, mostly in cramped apartments, until Mary's death when Marianne was 59. Mary seems to have wielded a "tyrannical love," urging Moore not to publish until "after you've changed your style," and perhaps successfully suppressing any urges toward sexual adulthood Marianne might have felt. Mary also seems to have been necessary to Marianne's poems. "As constraining as Mary's love was," Leavell writes, "Marianne found in that love the artistic space she needed" and "developed her remarkable intellect as a kind of armor." The poems come to seem a fortress, in which a world of sensory, intellectual and ethical transformations take place. This smart, provocative book lets us see the woman and her work without resorting to simplification. DAISY FRIED'S latest book of poems is "Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice."

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [April 20, 2014]
Review by Choice Review

Review by New York Times Review