Dr. Merrill Moore

(1903-1957)

Merrill Moore

Book of Merrill Moore's Poetry

Merrill Moore

Merrill Moore

Merrill Moore, one of the most distinguished medical personalities of his generation, led a double life: he was known not only as an original and capable neuropsychiatrist, but also as an accomplished poet and man of letters.

Merrill was born in Columbia, TN in 1903, the son of poet, novelist, and historian John Trotwood Moore. While a student at Vanderbilt University in the 1920's he be came involved with the Fugitives, one of the most distinctive and cohesive literary groups of the 20th century.

Members of this group included Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom,Jesse Wills, Walter Clyde Curry, and Laura Riding.

Merrill Moore specialized in the fourteen-line sonnet, and his output was prolific: estimates range from 50,000 to more than half a million sonnets over the course of his life. He kept a pad attached to the dashboard of his car in order to jot down lines while waiting in traffic. Literary critic Louis Untermeyer credits Moore with the creation of a distinctly American sonnet form, one that differed greatly from the traditional sonnet of Petrarch and Shakespeare. He kept the standard fourteen-line sonnet form, but wrote sonnets that featured loose, speech-inflected rhythms and jagged, even syncopated rhymes. Moore published more than forty volumes of poetry during his tragically short life-time.

Coming from a family that included several physicians, it was natural that Moore would pursue medicine as well as literature. After graduating from Vanderbilt Medical School he served a year's rotating internship at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville. He then accepted an appointment as resident in neurology at the Boston City Hopital, working under Dr. Stanley Cobb.

In 1932, he entered psychiatric training as a house officer at the Boston Psychiatric Hospital, under Dr. C. Macfie Campbell, and was subsequently appointed Commonwealth Fellow in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In 1935 Moore established a private practice in Boston. He also served as Professor of Neurology at Boston City Hospital, where he carried out important research on alcoholism and drug addiction. Moore was one of the first to attribute a physiological basis to alcoholism.

During WWII, Dr. Moore served in the US Army as a medical officer and was stationed in various parts of the Pacific theater, including New Zealand and China. Col. Moore returned to civilian life in 1946.

Merrill Moore died on September 20, 1957 of a rapidly metastasizing carcinoma after an illness of only two months. His papers, including thousands of unpublished sonnets and correspondence from some of the greatest medical and literary figures of his day, can be found in the Library of Congress.