Marianne Moore (1887-1972) was a major poetic presence among the first generation of American modernists. For Moore, the thirties saw a return to the full-time writing of poetry after her stint as editor of the Dial magazine came to an end when the magazine folded in 1929.
Most of Moore's poetry, as T.S. Eliot put it, "might be classified as 'descriptive' rather than 'lyrical' or 'dramatic.'" (quoted in Gregory 320). That is, Moore's poems are long addresses about an object, frequently an animal, or a concept that is described in minute detail. They are poems that make use of structure and vocal aesthetics in order to convert the process description into an act of revelation about a deeper, hidden meaning.
Through this highly symbolic approach, Moore's poetry expresses the truths of "illusion [...] contradiction, paradox, ambiguity, intuition, ecstasy, and magic because these were far closer to the truth than anyone else's abstract precision" (Erickson 2). This sensibility encourages a universalized view of nature and history expressed through the .
One of Moore's favorite poems, "What are Years," incorporates such a meditation on the larger issues of time and mortality, but it does also bear a certain local relevance, as Moore, writing at the very end of the decade, looks back through a veil of abstraction on the temper of the Depression years.