Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore” as Want to Read:
Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  87 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Winner of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for biography and of the Plutarch Award for the Best Biography of 2013. National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist. To readers who know Marianne Moore as a demure baseball fan and courtly Brooklyn eccentric, Linda Leavell’s _Holding On Upside Down_—the first authorized biography of this major American poet—will come as a shoc ...more
ebook, 480 pages
Published October 22nd 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Holding On Upside Down, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Holding On Upside Down

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  87 ratings  ·  25 reviews

More filters
Sort order
James Murphy
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Linda Leavell has written a beautiful portrait of poet Marianne Moore. Perhaps she spends too much time on Moore's childhood. At least for me the biography stuttered until Moore entered Bryn Mawr and began to write seriously. After that it's a biography which is sleek and satisfyingly filled with what seems the right amount of detail and convincing understanding. Of course, Moore led a simpler life than most literary women. She never experienced the messy complications of love. She didn't have a ...more
Jenny McPhee
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing

For most of their lives, Marianne Moore and her mother, Mary, slept in the same bed. Together with Moore's brother, Warner, the family had many nicknames for each other: two favorites were "Mole" for Mary and "Rat" for Moore. In referring to her daughter, Mary usually used a masculine pronoun. Linda Leavell's new biography, Holding on Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore, provides a rich, complex portrait of an ar
Nov 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating book. This was an interesting book. I keep telling myself these things because I don't want to let my feelings about the subject of the book get in the way of my feelings about the book. Marianne Moore favorite poet. But she was a real wierdo.

I know writers tend to be strange, but Moore was strange in an offputting way. Anne Sexton, my fourth favorite poet (after Sharon Olds and Emily Dickinson) has always been my asterisk poet. She battled mental illness an
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
A poet giving a live performance has a personality and a context; we share that context as listeners and the live poet has at least some inclination to address us and our interests, in the selection and the presentation if not the original writing. When encountered on the page, as in a magazine or newspaper say, a contemporary poem usually retains some context that is shared with or recognised by the reader. Part of this context, always, is other poets, since every poem belongs to a poetic tradi ...more
Sep 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The detail can get tedious, but a fascinating story of determination to become a poet and life in NYC - west Village and Brooklyn in first half of 20th century - and friendships including Auden, Pound, Bishop, Tate, and on and on. Overbearing (bisexual) mother who would not leave her side - they slept in the same bed most of MM's adult life - and father who deserted her - but that tension makes poetry. Still cannot fully embrace her poems, though a handful hit me hard (and maybe that's enough!).
May 03, 2014 rated it liked it
I have nothing with which to contrast this, except my own decades old memories of packing up Moore's private library, and the things I learned about her doing that. It made me wish I'd been born early enough to be drawn to her, the way I was to Cummings, and to some of the books and authors she had on her shelves. It has also made me spend some time with Moore's poetry, and it is nice to have to do some work again.
Robert Vaughan
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic and insightful biography of one of America's foremost Modernists in the poetry realm. Marianne Moore's quirky, unusual life and work is not only reviewed in a careful, precise manner, but more importantly, MM is revived and placed where she belongs: in the canon as one of the finest American poets!
Joan Colby
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
A comprehensive biography of one of our most original poets Marianne Moore. While well-written by an admirer of Moore’s (as am I) what the book lacks is more samples of Moore’s poetry. Possibly copyright laws interfered, but one would have liked to see Moore’s most important and well-known poems.
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: my-books-i-read
Loved the history, but the poetry was a bit beyond me. My dad wanted me to read it and it was worth it.
Dolores Brandon
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary in every way. You don't need to be a poetry lover to enjoy this book. Fascinating, informative, deliciously detailed. Marianne Moore's life had an element of destiny in it: she was born to become a great poet and everything came into her life at the right moment to see that destiny realized. Her family was exemplary in so many ways and an inspiration to non-traditional households everywhere. They were not bound by inhibiting repressive biases. An inspiration.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An exemplary biography, "Holding On Upside Down" gets it all right, balancing the personal and the poetical, the individual and the societal. This is my third recent biography of a poet (Elizabeth Bishop and Wallace Stevens), and Leavell's is clearly the best of the bunch. Ultimately, it makes me want to dive deeply into Moore's poetry.
Dec 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, poetry
Interesting story of the life of Marianne Moore. Not the most exciting poet's life to read about, but there is something extraordinary in the ordinary with her.
Warren-Newport Public Library
Aug 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
Poet Marianne Moore (1887-1972), her brother Warren, and her mother Mary formed a tight family threesome that stuck together even through Warren's marriage and career up until Mary's death. Marianne lived with her mother for most of her life (her college years at Bryn Mawr were the only notable exception) and insisted that her mother's solicitude allowed her to develop as a writer. If that's true, Marianne paid a high price for her art.

Mary Moore was a manipulative, possessive woman who bound he
David Anthony Sam
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Leavell's account of the life and work of Marianne Moore raised some objections that it was unfair to Moore's mother. The Moore family dynamics were certainly off. But Leavell adds to the case that Moore was one of our most significant American poets.

Moore wrote without regard to labels. She was a Modernist who used a precise syllabic form and rhymes. She was a defender of the underdog, an early white champion of civil rights and of black artists and athletes who also voted Republican and defend
Ann Cefola
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fascinating look into the early modernists through the life of poet Marianne Moore, who was drawn to the ground-breaking arts scene in New York in the early century. The book balances her bio and analysis of her work against the historical upheavals of the 20th century. Thanks to Leavell's exhaustive research, I have a new appreciation for Moore, her significant contribution to the canon, and her relentless focus on craft. I too squirmed over her insular family life--yet Leavell suggests this co ...more
Nov 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've always liked Moore's poetry, having studied it in college. This biography gave me many insights into her life and influence, especially with some major American poets, such as T. S. Eliot and Elizabeth Bishop. She was also sports-minded and liked to play tennis, which is a favorite of mine. Her early collegiate life at Bryn Mawr was trail-blazing for its time, thanks in large part to the women faculty and president of that school. Moore's relationships with her mother and brother were parts ...more
Jan Larkey
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a unique story about a unique character in our literary history who changed the mode of poetic expression.

I had the privilege of sharing the development of this book during critique sessions of the Arkansas Writers' Guild. Leavell is a gifted writer. Her well documented story of Marianne Moore is fascinating.
Lauren Albert
A lovely biography of Moore. Focuses just enough attention on the poetry without losing focus on the life and personality. Leavell's discussion of Moore's relationship with her mother and brother is fair and honest. She shows the difficulties but also shows that Moore was able to write despite her lack of privacy or personal space.
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recentlyread
Wonderful, unique life, smartly and decorously told.
Nov 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Such a fascinating family. I had to keep reminding myself that this was early 1900's and not 2013. I didn't know much about this poet before reading this book, but I feel like I understand the heart and soul of her poems. A true humanist.
Julia Hendon
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
An impressive biography of an interesting talent. Moore's family was odd yet nurtured her poetic talent in a way that might not have been the case with more standard relationship. It turns out that Moore's grandparents lived in Gettysburg and the poet lived in Carlisle before moving to New York.
Tom Thompson
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Does a great job of capturing the charisma and occasional troubles (without going too far toward pathologizing) a brilliant poet / editor / mind.
Apr 30, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: pennsylvania
The poet, Marianne Moore, has a connection to Carlisle - she taught at the Carlisle Indian School. There's a sign commemorating her home when she lived here in town.
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Henry James's The American Scene was serialised in the North American Review, not The Atlantic, as the author states. I'm a little too obsessed with Henry James in general, so I had to mention that.
Alicia Austen
rated it it was amazing
Nov 04, 2015
rated it really liked it
Jul 09, 2015
Claude Peck
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Leavell revealed a distinct, very unusual literary life in a way both readable and authoritative.
Marie Sobalvarro
rated it liked it
Oct 28, 2013
Audrey Hall
rated it it was amazing
Jul 08, 2018
Curt Anderson
rated it it was amazing
Nov 06, 2013
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
Linda Leavell is a scholar of American poetry and art, especially of the early twentieth century. She attended Interlochen Arts Academy and has degrees from Baylor University (BA) and Rice University (PhD). She taught English at Rhodes College during the 1985-86 academic year and taught American literature at Oklahoma State University from 1986 to 2010.

Her first book, _Marianne Moore and the Visua
“The pluralist understands that truth is various and the pragmatist that it is tentative. The pragmatist gains knowledge not by explaining the universe with a single belief system but by seeking exceptions to one's beliefs and keeping an open mind. As in science, experience expands knowledge without ever revealing truth in its entirety.” 0 likes
“[The jerboa] survives depravity not by adopting habits of better-known species but by adapting creatively to the unique rigors of its environment. Although Moore's animals do have innately poetic qualities, such as the jerboa's rhythmic leaps, the poems emphasize what she would later identify as her most valuable assets as an artist: persistence and fortitude. Her animal poems are both instructions in the art of survival and acts of survival themselves.” 0 likes
More quotes…