Peter Washington

Less Is Moore

The Poems of Marianne Moore


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CRITICS IN SEARCH of a distinctively female literary voice tend to divide their models into martyrs and warriors. We can all think of examples. Marianne Moore foreshadows the distinction in two stanzas of a wonderful early poem called ‘And Shall Life Pass an Old Maid By?’

It copies to the life, some freak
Of sentiment in lavender sprigged silk; bids bloodhounds speak
From picket gates, adjuring every lonely optimist
That he press on, and hastening, be meek;

Or it depicts an Amazon
Harsh voiced and candle-cheeked, a sort of blunderbuss, a Don
Quixote, crashing wildly where incisive action is
Required – exploded – with its luster gone.

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