THE POEMS OF MARIANNE MOORE

Grace Schulman, Editor . Viking $40 (449p) ISBN 978-0-670-03198-6

Poets and critics now consider Moore (1887–1972) a major modern American poet, equal (or almost equal) to T.S. Eliot, and maybe better than (if nothing like) Ezra Pound. Most of her best poems appeared (just as theirs did) during the 1910s, '20s and '30s. Yet Moore left some of those poems (and most of her earliest verse) out when, near the end of her life, she prepared her own Complete Poems ; other famous poems entered that volume only in late, much-revised versions. Schulman's long-anticipated volume presents, for the first time, the full span of Moore's work, from her flirtatious, tangy collegiate light verse, through a trove of promising poems from the 1910s, and including masterpieces that for decades were available only in libraries. Moore's careful ethics and elaborately arranged stanzas seem almost more relevant to contemporary poetry than they did to poets of her own generation, though Schulman, a poet herself and the poetry editor of the Nation , perhaps overstates Moore's influence in an awestruck introduction. All Moore's well-known poems are here, of course, including "The Steeple-Jack," "Marriage," and "Poetry" ("I, too, dislike it") in both its longest and its shortest versions. The real selling points, though, are the long out-of-print poems—most of them enlightening, a few ("Melancthon," "Radical," "An Old Tiger," "Dock Rats") as good as anything she chose to keep. As Moore herself explained (in a poem she later suppressed), "Compliments are free/ To all but are not synonymous with admiration": admiration is what this volume will attract. (Nov.)

Forecast: This volume will supplant Moore's 1967 collection for course assignments, making for steady sales over the long run. Look for profiles of the poet or of the editor (who knew Moore personally) and joint reviews with the University of California's more sc holarly selection of earlier work, Becoming Marianne Moore, or with Schulman's own Days of Wonder: Selected Poems (both from late 2002).

Reviewed on: 10/06/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
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