Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

9/1/2005 - 5/31/2006

Funding Totals

$40,000.00 (approved)
$40,000.00 (awarded)

A Biography of American Poet Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

FAIN: FB-51907-05

Linda Leavell
Oklahoma State University, Stillwater (Stillwater, OK 74078-0001)

An NEH Fellowship would provide me with uninterrupted time to write my biography of American poet Marianne Moore (1887-1972). Although many scholarly monographs on Moore have appeared in recent decades, there has been only one book-length biography. It was written without the permission of the Moore estate and hence quotes no unpublished sources. Because my project has "the full support" of the estate and because I am willing to investigate thoroughly Moore's familial and professional relationships, the biography I am writing should be both more reliable to scholars and more engaging to the general reader.

Media Coverage

Bird Thou Never Wert (Review)
Author(s): Holland Cotter
Publication: New York Times
Date: 2/12/2014

Associated Products

Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore (Book)
Title: Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore
Author: Linda Leavell
Abstract: The Marianne Moore that survives in the popular imagination is dignified, white-haired, and demure in her tricorne hat; she lives with her mother until the latter's death; she maintains meaningful friendships with fellow poets but never marries or falls in love. Linda Leavell's Holding On Upside Down?the first biography of this major American poet written with the support of the Moore estate?delves beneath the surface of this calcified image to reveal a passionate, canny woman caught between genuine devotion to her mother and an irrepressible desire for personal autonomy and freedom. Her many poems about survival are not just quirky nature studies but acts of survival themselves. Not only did the young poet join the Greenwich Village artists and writers who wanted to overthrow all her mother's pieties but she also won their admiration for the radical originality of her language and the technical proficiency of her verse. After her mother's death thirty years later, the aging recluse transformed herself, against all expectations, into a charismatic performer and beloved celebrity. She won virtually every literary prize available to her and was widely hailed as America's greatest living poet. Elegantly written, meticulously researched, critically acute, and psychologically nuanced, Holding On Upside Down provides at last the biography that this major poet and complex personality deserves.
Year: 2013
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: author's website
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description:
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-0374107291
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes


Plutarch Award
Date: 5/17/2014
Organization: Biographers International Organization

PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld award for biography
Date: 9/29/2014
Organization: PEN America

Modernist Studies Association Book Award
Date: 11/8/2014
Organization: Modernist Studies Association

Finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award
Date: 3/13/2014
Organization: National Book Critics Circle

Finalist for Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism
Date: 5/6/2014
Organization: Poetry Foundation