Becoming Marianne Moore is designed to address a fundamental problem that has long bedeviled any attempt to address the rich poetic legacy she left behind. Throughout her career she revised her texts, sometimes in minor and sometimes in major ways. Moore, in other words, rarely viewed publication as merely an occasion for reproducing something that had a prior existence, an inert text. More often she viewed it as an opportunity for reshaping the artifact, for bringing it to a more polished or pointed form, or for altering it in ways that would enable the poem to exploit the possibilities of a different typographic environment. As a consequence, Moore left behind a complicated and bewildering record, one that can leave a reader feeling uncertain about the status and authority behind the poems in the much beloved volume she oversaw late in her life, the Collected Poems. Not any more.
Becoming Marianne Moore consists of four sections. The first is a photographic reproduction of the first collection of her poetry that she herself oversaw, Observations, which was published in 1924. Moore took great pains with this collection of her poems, and there are good reasons for assigning considerable authority to it. In later years, it is true that she altered some of her texts and greatly reduced or altered the notes that accompanied Observations; but there can be little doubt that Observations was a crucial work for Moore's development and for the public reception of her work during the 1920s and 1930s. Making it the core of this volume is an excellent decision—and only the first of many.
The photographic reproduction of Observations is followed by two other sections detailing Moore's evolution. The first contains the earlier presentations of all the poems that appeared in [End Page 843] Observations. Schulze has diligently unearthed the numerous periodical publications of her poems, and in her crisp and insightful notes she underscores the principal differences between those earlier presentations and the versions enshrined in Observations. The second contains all the poems that Moore published through 1924 but omitted from Observations and from all subsequent collections. Inevitably this section contains some materials that will be of more interest to scholars whose primary interest is Moore, rather than (say) Joyce, Eliot, or modernism in general. But anybody who has taken even a casual interest in Moore will welcome the opportunity to watch her development into the major poet who suddenly appears, as if fully formed already, in Observations.
In addition to these three sections, already expertly conceived and carefully executed, there is a fourth that only adds to the value of this excellent book and makes it a matter of real interest to anyone interested in Anglo-American modernism. Its title, it is true, is distinctly underwhelming: "Moore's Poems in Their Publication Contexts: A Publication Biography." A reader may well wonder just what is being designated here: what exactly is a "publication biography," or in what sense can a publication be said to have a "biography" at all? In slightly more than a hundred pages, Schulze deftly outlines the history of the pamphlet series and twelve periodicals in which Moore's early poems first appeared. Always up-to-date and conversant with the latest scholarship on every journal, Schulze provides each with a "biography," acknowledging the distinctive milieus in which they were nourished, the particular aims of their individual editors, and the overlapping audiences to which each appealed. It is telling that Schulze chooses to describe these succinct histories as a "publication biography." For most people schooled in classical editorial theory, it is the text alone—an idealized and identifiable and necessarily single set of words—that has a bios or life, not the vehicle of its transmission, the inert publication. But Schulze's entire project tacitly overturns that classical dichotomy: in her conception, the publication also has a recognizable life, and the life of the text is inextricably bound up with it. Moreover, what her volume demonstrates beyond a doubt is that this conception...