Marianne Moore was born near St. Louis, Missouri and moved to Pennsylvania after her grandfather's death in 1894. She earned her B.A. in 1909 from Bryn Mawr and a decade later moved to New York City with her mother.
There she served as acting editor of the literary magazine Dial, and became an accepted member of the Imagist movement, along with such luminaries as Williams, Pound, and H.D.. In 1921, H.D. published Moore's first book, Poems, without her knowledge.
Moore was no unrecognized genius; she was widely read in her lifetime, and earned many honors, including the Bollingen Prize, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize.
In his 1925 essay "Marianne Moore," William Carlos Williams wrote: "in looking at some apparently small object, one feels the swirl of great events." An excellent example of this is found in her 1931 poem, No Swan So Fine, which takes as its subject a tiny decorative element in the palace of Versailles, and explodes into a commentary on the death of kings.
Moore drew on divers sources for her subjects, including historical works, contemporary newspaper and magazine articles, and classical authors like Juvenal and Herodotus. Like Emily Dickinson and D.H. Lawrence, she saw the invisible world in the life of animals, and wrote about many of them, including famously the ostrich (He "Digesteth Harde Yron") and the jerboa (The Jerboa). Like Williams, she often inserted (uncredited) sections from these sources, verbatim, into the text of her poems, creating a pastiche of textual levels.
Moore died in New York City in 1972.