Merrill Moore (1903-1957). Courtesy Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Merrill Moore
Born September 11, 1903(1903-Template:MONTHNUMBER-11)
Columbia, Tennessee
Died September 20, 1957(1957-Template:MONTHNUMBER-20) (aged 54)
Occupation M.D., psychiatrist, Poet

August Merrill Moore (September 11, 1903 - September 20, 1957) was an American poet, doctor, and psychiatrist, who was a prolific writer of sonnets.[1]


Moore was born in Columbia, Tennessee, to John and Mary Moore.[1] John Trotwood Moore (1858–1929) was a regionally prominent poet, novelist and magazine editor, who served as Poet laureate of Tennessee.[2] He was also Tennessee's director of libraries, archives, and history for 10 years, after which his wife Mary held the same position.[1]

Merrill Moore was educated at Montgomery Bell Academy, where his aptitude for sonnets was discovered by headmaster Isaac Bell.[1] Moore is said to have learned shorthand during college in order to be able to write more sonnets between classes.

He attended Nashville's Vanderbilt University, where he earned a B.A. in 1924 and an M.D. in 1928.[1] At Vanderbilt he was a member of the Fugitives, a group of then unknown poets who met to read and criticize each other's poems. Moore, the youngest Fugitive, was a prolific contributor to the group's meetings and, starting in 1922, to its eponymous journal, in which his earliest contributions were published under the pseudonym "Dendric" alongside work of John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, Allen Tate. Robert Penn Warren, and others.[2]

Shortly after the death of his father in 1929, Moore moved to Boston, where he worked first at Boston City Hospital and then in private practice.[1] Except for his military service, he spent the rest of his career there.[2]

Moore was highly regarded as a keen and effective psychiatrist, and a practitioner of a progressive directed psychiatric intervention, similar to the style pioneered by Milton Erickson. Willing to be vividly unconventional, he would walk barefoot through Boston, wearing a suit, to attend hospital and academic meetings, because he "liked the feel of grass in his toes".[2]

Moore married Anne Nichols in 1930, and the couple had 4 children: Adam, John, Leslie, and Hester.[1]

Besides Moore's medical and literary pursuits, he was close to the families of Robert Frost and Robert Lowell and an adept literary networker. It was Moore who put the young Lowell in contact with literary men including Ford Madox Ford, Tate and Ransom, and who encouraged Lowell to become a student of Ransom after Lowell's sudden violent break with his family and departure from Harvard.[3] Moore also advised his close friend Frost on the medical treatment of 2troubled children.[2]

During World War II, Moore enlisted and served in the Pacific theatre, at one point serving as a personal physician to the Nationalist Chinese supremo, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek.[4]. After the war, Moore played a key behind-the-scenes role in the Ezra Pound controversy, as a member of a group of literary men who saw to it that the modernist icon escaped a treason trial for his radio propaganda in support of Mussolini. Moore was a close friend of one of the psychiatrists on a diagnostic panel that found Pound unfit to stand trial.[5]

Moore died of cancer at 55 in Quincy, Massachusetts.[1]


Starting with the 2nd issue of The Fugitive, Moore published a total of 62 poetic pieces in its pages, 46 of them sonnets. The remaining were short lyrical pieces, all published under Moore’s pen name, “Dendric.” Moore said of his fellow Fugitives, “We all influenced each other; we all rubbed the edges off each other and knocked sparks out of each other in a peculiar way.”[1]

Throughout his career Moore produced sonnets in a very high volume. Estimates vary but, by 1935, Louis Untermeyer had counted 25,000 sonnets in Moore's files, according to a Time Magazine article that year [6]; just over two years later, a 1938 Talk of the Town piece in The New Yorker put Moore's total production of sonnets at 50,000. [7] Although some of his work, such as the posthumous quatrain collection The Phoenix and the Bees, is in other forms, the poet-psychiatrist wrote and archived his poems in a dedicated home office he called his "sonnetorium."



  • The Noise that Time Makes. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1929.
  • Six Sides to a Man: New sonnets. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1935.
  • Poems from 'The Fugitive'. New York: Beekman Hill Press, 1936.
  • Sonnets from 'The Fugitive', 1922-1926. Boston: Caduceus Press, 1937.
  • Sonnets from 'New Directions'. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1938.
  • Sonnets: Reprinted from the 'Sewanee Review', 1928-1935. Sewanee, TN: University Press, 1938.
  • 15 Poems from 'The Fugitive'. Boston: Caduceus Press, 1938.
  • M: One thousand autobiographical sonnets. New York: Harcourt & Brace, 1938.
  • Clinical Sonnets. New York: Twayne, 1949.
  • Illegitimate Sonnets. New York: Twayne, 1950.
  • Case-Record from a Sonnetorium (illustrated by Edward Gorey; additional text by John Crowe Ransom, William Carlos Williams & others). New York: Twayne, 1951.
    • abridged version published as Merrill Moore and the American Sonnet. Christchurch, NZ: Pegasus Press, 1954.
  • More Clinical Sonnets (illustrated by Edward Gorey). New York: Twayne, 1953.
  • Fugitive Sonnets. Aldington, Kent, UK: Hand & Flower Press, 1953.
  • Verse Diary of a Psychiatrist: New sonnets. Baltimore: Contemporary Poetry, 1954.
    • also published as From a Psychiatrist's Notebook. Christchurch, NZ: Pegasus Press, 1954.
  • War Diary of an Army Psychiatrist. Baltimore, MD: Contemporary Poetry, 1955.
  • The Dance of Death in the Twentieth Century. New York: Rubin, 1957.
  • The Hill of Venus: Ppoems of men and women reacting to, puzzled by, and suffering from love, its fulfillments and its frustrations. New York: Twayne, 1957.
  • Poems of American Life. New York: Philosophical Library, 1958.
  • The Phoenix and the Bees: Quatrains. Baltimore, MD: Contemporary Poetry, 1959.
  • Cross Currents: A selection of sonnets (selected by Dennis Glover). Christchurch, NZ: Pegasus Press, 1961.


  • The Fugitive: Clippings and comment about the magazine and the members of the group that published it. Boston: 1939.
  • A Doctor's Book of Hours, including some dimensions of the emotions. Springield, IL: Thomas, 1955.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[8]

Audio / videoEdit

  • Merrill Moore Reading His Own Poems, with commentary from Dance of Death (LP). Cambridge, MA: Harvard College Library, 1951.[8]

See alsoEdit


  • Wells, Henry W. Poet and Psychiatrist Merrill Moore M.D. New York: Twayne, 1955.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Merrill Moore (1903-1957), Chapter 16, December 20, 2011. Web, Dec. 21, 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Merrill Moore, Wikipedia, November 28, 2014, Wikimedia Foundation. Web, Dec. 21, 2014.
  3. Adam Kirsch, The Brahmin Rebel, Harvard Magazine (May/June 2004). Web, Dec. 21, 2014.
  4. according to the Tennessee State Library and Archives
  5. Ron Christenson, Political Trials: Gordian knots in the law, Transaction Publishers, 1999, p.93. Google Books, Web, Dec. 21, 2014.
  6. Books: Doctor's Output, Time, February 11, 1935, Time Inc. Web, Dec. 21, 2014.
  7. Charles Cook & Russell Maloney, Amazingly Fertile, Talk of the Town, New Yorker, December 24, 1938. Web, Dec. 21, 2014.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Search results = au:Merrill Moore, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Dec. 21, 2014.

External linksEdit

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