"Marianne Moore's Imaginary Gardens," 3 Quarks Daily, August 29, 2016.
In the spring of 1917, the editor Alfred Kreymborg brought Marianne Moore to a baseball game. They stood on the crowded elevated on the way to the Polo Grounds, holding the straps as the train lurched. Moore held forth on technical matters of poetics, undisturbed. Kreymborg had supported Moore’s work and held her in “absolute admiration.” He was not alone. In the early years of Moore’s career, when she circulated among the art and literary avant guard of New York, men and women alike were enthralled. Artists asked to make her portrait. Scofield Thayer fell in love with her. Even Ezra Pound sent her pages of erotically charged prose, which she ignored. Moore was intelligent, striking, and famously felicitous in her speech. “We’re a pair of tongue-tied tyros by comparison,” said William Carlos Williams.
“Never having found her at a loss on any topic whatsoever,” Kreymborg writes, “I wanted to give myself the pleasure at least once of hearing her stumped about something.” Surely baseball was out of her reach. When Moore praised the first strike, Kreymborg asked if she knew who was pitching.
“‘I’ve never seen him before,’ she admitted, ‘but I take it it must be Mr. Mathewson.’”
“I could only gasp,” Kreymborg writes.
Actually, it wasn’t Christy Mathewson on the mound that day, but Moore had read Pitching in a Pinch and knew enough to thwart Kreymborg’s sporting attempt to find the limits of her knowledge. How difficult it is to put a smart woman in her place.
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