It’s the birthday of poet Marianne Moore (books by this author), born in Kirkwood, Missouri (1887). She studied history, law, and politics at Bryn Mawr College, and though she didn’t major in science, she took some courses in biology and developed an appreciation for animals as well as an almost scientific precision in her use of language. She started publishing her poems professionally in 1915, moved to New York City in 1918, and became friends with other poets, such as William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and T.S. Eliot. She became something of a character among the literati of New York, appearing at parties in a black cape and tricorn hat. She favored the tricorn because it concealed the defects of her head, which she claimed resembled a hop-toad’s. She was a great fan of sports, and wrote the liner notes for Cassius Clay’s spoken-word album, I Am the Greatest! (1963). She threw out the first pitch for the Yankees’ 1968 season, and soon after had the first of a series of strokes that would eventually claim her life in 1972.
She once told a New York Times interviewer: “I never knew anyone with a passion for words who had as much difficulty in saying things as I do. I seldom say them in a manner I like. Each poem I think will be the last. But something always comes up and catches my fancy.”