Although Marianne Moore referred to herself as a writer of poems rather than a poet, she is considered by many to be one of the greatest 20th-century American modernist poets.
After a childhood in Missouri, Moore entered Bryn Mawr in 1905. “This is really where she got her start as a writer,” noted K. Laurence Stapleton, Moore’s friend, biographer, and former English professor. “She felt very much at home at Bryn Mawr.”
Moore wrote short stories, poetry, and verse for the College’s literary magazine, Tipyn O Bob, and served as its editor from 1907-1909. After graduation, she continued to write and 20 works of her poetry and verse were published in Bryn Mawr’s Lantern literary magazine.
After teaching at the United States Indian School in Carlisle, PA, for several years after graduation, Moore moved to New York City, where she worked at the New York Public Library for five years, all the while continuing to write.
In 1921, her Bryn Mawr classmate, poet Hilda “H.D.” Doolittle published Moore’s first book, Poems, a copy of which is in the Bryn Mawr library collection.
Observations, a collection of Moore’s poetry, was published in 1924 and won the Dial Award from the leading literary journal. The honor led to her being named the editor of The Dial, a position she held until 1929 when the publication closed.
Over the next four decades, Moore published 11 books of poetry and continued to publish prose, plays, and reviews of other writers’ work. Her most decorated publication was Collected Poems, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1952 and the prestigious Bollingen Prize in 1953.
In 1953, Bryn Mawr conferred upon her the M. Carey Thomas Award, the College’s highest honor. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, twice granted the Poetry Society of America gold medal, and given a fellowship from the Academy of American Poets “for distinguished poetic achievement over a period of more than four decades.”
A striking and lively figure at literary and sporting events in New York City — particularly her beloved Brooklyn Dodgers — Moore remained active in the city throughout her adult life. At the age of 81, she continued to read her works aloud at the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street YMCA, and she threw the ceremonial first ball of the 1968 season at Yankee Stadium.
Marianne Moore, class of 1909, Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet
Note: Research for this profile was compiled by Emily Wiseman, as part of a Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center internship partially funded by a gift from Dick Hykes.Read more about...
125 Years of Extraordinary Alumnae