Oyster Boy Review 17  
  Fall 2003
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Becoming Marianne Moore

Reginald Shepherd

  Becoming Marianne Moore: The Early Poems, 1907-1924.
Marianne Moore.
Robin G. Schulze, editor.
University of California Press, 2002.
504 pages, $50.00 (hardcover).
ISBN: 0520221397

Marianne Moore has one of the most tangled publication histories of all modern poets. Given the violence that she did to her published poetry, through both revision and omission—whose ex-post-facto distortions are matched only by those perpetrated by Yeats and Auden on their published oeuvres—this volume is invaluable in restoring a large body of her work to the public eye. Up to now, the only available collection of Moore's work has been the misleadingly titled Complete Poems, which excludes vast swaths of her earlier and most interesting work and perpetrates such pranks as a three-line version of "Poetry," her most famous poem (the volume does at least include the full text of the poems in its end notes). However, Becoming Marianne Moore's size and scholarly format (not to mention its steep price!) make it rather forbidding for the reader who simply wishes access to Marianne Moore's poems. Providing a facsimile of the full text of Observations, Moore's first book, and of all the published versions of the poems included in that book (which are often numerous and drastically different both from each other and from the final text), as well as heretofore uncollected poems, accompanied by notations of every textual variation, is an essential service to textual scholars, and the work that editor Robin G. Schulze has put into assembling and collating this material is admirable. It's hard to imagine a more thorough or carefully compiled volume. (The book even includes "biographies" of the journals in which Moore's early work appeared and of her relations with those journals.) However, some consideration of what used to be called the common reader would be appreciated. I urge University of California Press to issue a more compact and more reasonably priced reader's edition featuring the poems and whatever critical-bibliographical apparatus is necessary to make their textual history and context clear, so that the reader who simply wishes to delve deeper into the work of one this century's most unique and indispensable poets may do so affordably and undistractedly.