Marianne Moore’s Bryn Mawr Poetry

“Councell to a Bachelor” in Poetry Magazine

Publication in Poetry Magazine

Though the focus of my analysis is Marianne Moore’s early poems which are published in Bryn Mawr literary magazines and relate to her experiences at the College, I find it necessary for this particular poem to discuss Moore’s modifications to this poem in a later publication.

The major changes to the poem are not to the poem’s text but rather to the citation that was included with it and the surrounding publication.  Moore used the framework of the Bryn Mawr College  alumnae literary magazine, The Lantern,  to question the boundaries of access, knowledge and gender. Just as the Bryn Mawr  literary magazine provided a type of meta-title as guiding light,  Moore chooses a publication with the title Poetry to think about how we define art and what sort of limits we place on the intellectual and the imaginative by maintaining that definition. The citations that Moore includes in the later publication distinctly display that Moore has only added a second line and a title. We then begin to question what can be classified as Poetry. By submitting “Councell to A Bachelor” to Poetry, Moore makes the claim that her act of revision is poetry and by publishing it, the magazine validates her. The gaps Moore leaves for us to fill as readers are: to question our own limits of what we consider poetry and then to decide whether Moore’s poem is validated in our definition.

Moore challenges the reader to think about the constraints of the definition of poetry, and by doing so, questions the authority of the institution that upholds the idea– in this case, the magazine. Moore hijacks the motto from the keeper of knowledge at Oxford, displaces the pre-designed hierarchy of poetic safe-keeping from the publication, and grants to the power to the reader — though only if she/he  will look for and accept it.

In “Councell to A Bachelor” she does a type of curation: she collects, she edits, and names. To think about curation and anthologizing as means of poetry, the poet inherits positions of  both reception and creation. We no longer see the poet as an aloof figure, but rather engaged in every aspect of the craft; we can imagine then that the pleasure of poetry is inherent to its birth and evolution.  The framework of the magazine and Moore’s interplay with it allows her to question the position of editor, writer, and reader.