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“Adjusting the Ash Heaps”: Extinction and the Modernist Archive

One of the saddest features of civilisation is the disappearance of so many beautiful and curious creatures from this world of ours. From all parts of the earth the same story comes; and we now seem to be within measurable distance of a time when wrecks and remnants of once compact and indigenous assemblages of organisms will be all that remain to us, and such a thing as a complete fauna will be unknown.

—Charles Dixon, Lost and Vanishing Birds, 1898

Accounts of extinction frequently combine laments for lost species with laments for lost records. Our (in)ability to process the complete disappearance of a living organism seems inextricable from our desire to collect knowledge about that organism. This rhetorical conflation of organism and archive happens even when we don’t specifically know what we’re losing. Current extinction rates far outpace the discovery of new species, which leads to the sobering conclusion that many species will disappear “before they can be recorded.”[1] Ecologist Boris Worm offers an apt example of the rhetorical crossover between biological and archival extinction: “[W]e’ve only begun to decipher the first ten books [of nature’s library] . . . . We’re throwing out entire books without having a look at them” (Watson). It’s not only the species themselves but the uncollected knowledge they represent that Worm mourns through this bibliographic comparison. Living in the Anthropocene—amidst a sixth mass extinction of our own making—we should welcome any rhetorical strategies that amplify the urgency of extinction and provoke greater engagement with conservation.

This imaginative alignment of biological and archival precarity is not new. A similar logic operates in my epigraph, where Charles Dixon warns of a near future that sounds both remarkably modern (i.e., contemporary) and modernist. Dixon’s 1898 Lost and Vanishing Birds, published 24 years before T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, presents its own version of a depleted, exhausted landscape, one scarred with the “wrecks and remnants” of once whole “assemblages of organisms.”[2] While these are not the same textual “fragments” of literature, history, and religion that permeate Eliot’s masterwork, Dixon’s fear of losing these “assemblages,” and along with them the possibility of “a complete fauna,” nonetheless communicates anxiety over the destruction of a tradition. This anxiety explicitly surfaces later in the work: “[W]e only hold the fauna of the world in trust, and it is but our bare duty to posterity to hand that fauna down as intact as we found it” (Dixon, Lost and Vanishing Birds, 28). The world’s fauna is an inherited tradition, a biological archive “hand[ed] . . . down” from one generation to the next. Dixon consequently responds to extinction curatorially, by producing a catalogue of ornithological sketches. He mourns a few species already reduced (in 1898) to “phantom records in our scientific literature” or to taxidermic specimens in museums, and he highlights other species that might soon suffer the same fate (28). He also recognizes, however, that the very desire for a complete scientific record may itself further “decimate” the archive of living species: “Birds . . . are being indiscriminately collected in the name of science” (39). The scientific archive thus both catalogues biological diversity and threatens that same diversity.

The intersection of extinction and the archive is the subject of several important poems by Marianne Moore, a dedicated practitioner of naturalist poetics (and a reader of Dixon’s Lost and Vanishing Birds).[3] In what Moore called her “hybrid method of composition,” she grafted material from a self-curated archive of literary and non-literary sources into her work.[4] Her  archive comprises “the most complete single-author collection of the Modernist era, thanks in no small part to [her] habits of keeping nearly every scrap of paper she came across and of making carbon copies of many of the letters she sent to her thousands of correspondents.”[5] This impressive collection serves as a wellspring for “scholarly detective work” aimed at tracing the sources of her poetry (Feldman and Barsanti, “Paying Attention,” 16). One area of this “detective work” surveys cultural influences on the development of Moore’s archival method. These influences range from her familiarity with “scrapbooking practices,” to her early job in a branch of the New York Public Library, to her adoption of twentieth-century “clipping bureau” techniques for data management, to her response to “the exhibitionary methods of contemporary museums.”[6] Understanding the forces shaping Moore’s production of her archive, therefore, proves as complex as deciphering the significance of that archive’s prolific contents.

Approaching Moore’s archival methods and themes through the lens of extinction reveals how her poetry, while clearly dependent on copious recordkeeping, also confronts us with the limitations and dangers of the anthropocentric archive. “The Fish” and “Black Earth” first appeared in The Egoist in August and April 1918, respectively, amidst global threats to human life in the form of World War I and the 1918 influenza pandemic. Ecological extinction also garnered greater attention during this period thanks to the much-publicized endangerment and then extinction of the passenger pigeon, as Rachel Murray and Cari Hovanec discuss in the introduction to this cluster.[7] In 1898, Dixon had included the passenger pigeon among his catalogue of “vanishing” birds, still hopeful at this point that the species could “yet be preserved” (Lost and Vanishing Birds, 246). Starting in 1909, a monetary prize was offered for locating the once abundant bird nesting in the wild.[8] No one claimed the prize, and the last known member of the species (a passenger pigeon at the Cincinnati Zoo named Martha) died in 1914. Heather Cass White surmises that “Moore may herself have been aware of the extinction at the time it happened.”[9] Given her extensive reading in scientific literature, it’s plausible that Moore, if not initially cognizant of this loss, would have heard of it in subsequent years, when it was still a popular subject for an emerging conservation movement. In a speech delivered in 1916 and published in Science in 1917, Theodore Roosevelt described “the extinction of the passenger pigeon” as “a blot on our civilization.”[10] This extinction also pressured assumptions about best practices for scientific record-keeping. Roosevelt excoriated ornithologists “who merely collected specimens of it for their collections” (“Productive Scientific Scholarship,” 11). Moore’s poetic response to extinction similarly challenges our assumptions about our knowledge practices. She imagines an ecocentric archive whose components retain their importance as part of a record, but a record not predicated on violently conforming ecology to anthropocentric structures. Such attempts to renegotiate the relationship between anthropology and ecology warrant urgent attention from readers living through the sixth mass extinction.

“Repeated Evidence Has Proved”: Critiquing Anthropocentric Archives

Moore’s “The Fish” repeatedly troubles the distinction between artifact and animal, culture, and nature:



through black jade.

    Of the crow-blue mussel shells, one


            adjusting the ash heaps;

    opening and shutting itself like


injured fan.[11]

Moore’s title suggests the object of a study (artistic or scientific), but the poem quickly shifts the emphasis to the action of the animals rather than their implied observer. This is characteristic of Moore’s rejection of contemporary museum curation practices. Catherine Paul contends that “the animals in Moore’s poems are not pinned in place like taxidermic specimens: rather than using passive language to describe them, her descriptive passages bring her poetic creatures to life” (“Discovery, not Salvage,” 94). Here the first line of “The Fish” creates liveliness by muddling the distinction between the title—useful for cataloguing the poem in tables of contents and indexes—and the body of the text, making “The Fish” the subject of the opening verb “[w]ade.”[12] However, as the poem continues, the arena of the animal’s action becomes uncertain. How could fish possibly move “through black jade”? Is this jade a metaphor for the sea, or are the fish a design element in a decorative carving? Is this a poem about an animal or an artifact? Readers who entertain both possibilities experience poetic whiplash between nature and culture.

The rest of the first stanza, which moves from the fish to the description of “mussel shells,” clarifies that the poem indeed recounts a marine scene. However, here too ambiguity, caused by Moore’s syntax and line breaks, negotiates between possible anthropocentric and ecocentric readings of the action. Who or what “adjust[s] the ash heaps”? By the end of the sentence, it becomes clear that this is “one” of the “mussel shells” already mentioned. However, line breaks initially raise the possibility that this “one” could be an indefinite article replacing a human actor on the scene. The separation of “keeps” from the rest of the clause creates space for multiple readings. The pause between “one / keeps” and “adjusting” leaves a small window to interpret “one” as a human collector, someone who “keeps” a memento or artifact “[o]f the crow-blue mussel shells.”[13] As noted, this impression dissipates when we get to the end of the sentence, so the implication of a human actor emerges and is then erased, remaining as only a ghostly presence in an imagined world where once again an animal—here a mussel—acts.

Moore’s brief evocation of a human “one” as potential collector at this point in the poem raises but then displaces a kind of trauma at the heart of the archive. In Jacques Derrida’s understanding of the archive, the construction of a unified body (of texts, of a people, of the self) requires violence: “As soon as there is the One, there is murder, wounding, traumatism. . . . The One guards against/keeps some of the other.”[14] A specific archive or identity (“the One”), in order to be self-contained, must sever itself from the rest of life (“the other”). The archive excludes everything that does not fall within its own domain. Nonetheless, such an archive simultaneously retains (“keeps”) something of that “other” as the repressed trace of its own origin. In Derrida’s words, “At once, at the same time, but in a same time which is out of joint, the One forgets to remember itself to itself, it keeps and erases the archive of this injustice that it is. Of this violence that it does” (“Archive Fever,” 51). The “other” thus plays a definitional role in the creation of the very archive which would exclude it, and the archive must bury (“forget”) this central irony or risk losing its claims to self-containment. In Moore’s “The Fish,” a self-contained identity similarly starts to coalesce around the “one,” implying the presence of a human actor (the collector) and archive (the collection). However, Moore unravels this potential instance of cultural self-containment almost as quickly as it emerges; the “one” in her poem is not a human archivist but instead a mussel shell, a part of nature—that “other” against which much of Western culture has so violently tried to define itself since the Industrial Revolution.

Moore does not remove the violence of human “archive fever” from the setting of her poem. She instead reveals this repressed violence through the implied extinction of the human race. According to Derrida, the archive can never claim “meta-textual authority” because “[t]he archivist produces more archive, and that is why the archive is never closed” (“Archive Fever,” 45). We cannot take full account of the archive—and by extension of its foundational violence—because we cannot adequately step outside of or beyond its continuous production (we can’t get “meta” enough). Moore’s poem, by contrast, allows us to imagine that there is no longer a human “archivist” on the scene, that the anthropocentric archive is now “closed,” and that this archive—as no one remains to police its boundaries—might finally disclose its violent relation to “the other.” As Karin Roffman observes, “Moore was fond of lists, anthologies, and indexes, but disliked classification systems, organizational principles (particularly those in museums and libraries), and experts” (“Women Writers,” 218). “The Fish” imagines an index without an expert, and thus serves as a necessary ecopoetic thought experiment, an imaginative journey to a post-homo sapiens era that by default none of us will actually live to see.

The ghostliness of Moore’s “one,” of the implied human collector quickly overwritten once we get further information, contributes to the poem’s overall funereal tone. As Moore continues to describe the space where cliff and sea meet, the specter of extinction, though not explicitly named, haunts the text. We learn that the movements of the one active mussel-shell leave their impression on “the ash heaps,” a description that at once evokes innocuous black sand and the much grimmer image of an area either burnt out after a fire or near a recent volcanic explosion. An “ash heap” also potentially contains human garbage. Once again—as when the fish seemed like it might be a jade carving rather than alive—the poem troubles the distinction between ecology and anthropology, nature and culture, animal and artifact. Moore reinforces this ambiguity when she further describes the moving mussel shell as “opening and shutting itself like // an / injured fan.” On the one hand, this is a precise visual analogy for the limited degree to which mussels open their shells. On the other hand, the use of the word “injured” adds to the impression that this scene takes place in the aftermath of something violent. Furthermore, an “injured”—or broken—fan is the kind of object one might find on a manmade ash heap. The comparison objectifies the mussel shell but does so in a way that also suggests the conspicuous absence of human actors from this scene. If we are present, it’s only through the shadow of our garbage.

Human archives are always at risk of turning into trash. Preservation techniques and technologies attest to this straightforward yet overwhelming fact. John Durham Peters, describing the relationship between media and entropy, explains, “We are material beings, but we have not yet found any material that can fully stop time in its disappearance.”[15] No recording medium is truly permanent. Paper and film age through use and exposure to environmental factors like temperature and humidity. Curators and preservationists can mitigate these effects, but they only slow the decay, they do not stop it. Moore’s archive is no exception. Bartholomew Brinkman laments that where Moore only “excis[ed] phrases or short verbal exchanges” for her scrapbooks, many of these smaller artifacts “are now loose in the scrapbooks, free-floating, completely cut off from both their old and new contexts, never pasted or having long fallen out of place, presenting a host of scholarly conundrums” (Poetic Modernism, 124). This is only a particularly acute instance of the more general entropic pressure on archives. Digitization of records—such as that undertaken by the Marianne Moore Digital Archive—makes them more accessible and offers a different kind of preservation by reproducing them in another form.  However, this can be painstakingly slow work. The Rosenbach Museum and Library holds 122 notebooks written/assembled by Moore; so far, only three of these have been digitized by The Marianne Moore Digital Archive Notebooks Project. The challenges facing digitization include both the number and the fragility of records, and some of Moore’s notebooks “have fallen apart and needed to be reconstructed.”[16] Furthermore, electronic files can themselves become damaged, and digital records depend on extensive server networks and other hardware for their continuing existence. The race to update existing records before their material infrastructure becomes obsolete never ends.

Beyond the entropic decay of records, there is also the problem of their sheer accumulation. We call a person who maintains a well-preserved and catalogued archive of valuable or significant objects a collector or a curator. We call a person who accumulates an archive lacking in recognizable worth or discernible organization a hoarder. Regardless of the terms we apply to their creators/keepers, all archives inherently accumulate. In Derrida’s words, “The archivist produces more archive” (“Archive Fever,” 45). Therefore, as the pile of records continues to grow, the archivist must continuously “adjust[ ] the ash heaps” or risk getting crushed. Mark Goble examines the ramifications of this material reality in the modernist period, when technological solutions were sought “to preserve and ultimately transmit a material past that appear[ed] at best an inconvenience and at worst a threat—to both itself and us.”[17] While Goble analyzes the rapid accumulation of the National Archives, it’s worth noting that even one poet’s collection can become physically daunting. In addition to the 122 notebooks and over two thousand books mentioned earlier, Moore’s archive also includes “an impressive 21 linear feet” of clippings (Fraser, “Mass Print,” 22). These clippings were themselves an attempt to manage the potential extinction of mass print items circulating in the early twentieth century, their assemblage in part “driven by the fear that the information found in these ephemeral publications would be lost or made inaccessible” (24).

The modernist fantasy (still with us in today’s digitization projects) was that technology could outpace the deterioration and accumulation of textual materials. Goble aligns Moore’s poetry with this technological fantasy, comparing her precisionist style to photography and the “highly ‘technical’ response to the management of historical materials” (Beautiful Circuits, 234). Along these same lines, we can note that Moore’s brilliant use of her journals, scrapbooks, and clippings when crafting much of her poetry proves that she was an ardent and skilled archivist. However, she also invokes the vulnerabilities of the anthropocentric archive—decay and overaccumulation, which threaten archival extinction—to imagine an alternative relationship to the world than the one circumscribed by our policing/curation of “the other.” In the second half of “The Fish,” these archival vulnerabilities become more prevalent.

Ghostly human artifacts continue to accumulate as the poem moves from the ash heaps and fan-like mussel shells to the waves and cliffside. Moore metaphorically ties additional remnants into her descriptions of various natural elements in the scene, usually with some level of violence at least implied. Thus the “submerged shafts of the // sun, / split like spun / glass” make it impossible for the “barnacles” to “hide,” and these sunbeams also “illuminat[e] // the / turquoise sea / of bodies” (Moore, “The Fish,” 43, lines 12–15, 9, 11, 18–21). While this imagery is beautiful, it is also ominous. The “sea / of bodies” exists in the turbulent intersection of water and rock: “The water drives a / wedge / of iron through the iron edge / of the cliff” (lines 21–24). The repetitious clash of iron on iron suggests industrial, possibly military action, and yet human subjects remain conspicuously absent in this crushing space. Instead, Moore provides further detail about what kinds of creatures comprise the “sea / of bodies.”  Against the iron-edged cliff, “the stars, // pink / rice grains, ink / bespattered jelly-fish, crabs like / green / lilies and submarine / toadstools, slide each on the other” (lines 24–30). The “slid[ing]” animals here—starfish, jellyfish, crabs, and more—seem always on the verge of becoming other objects and losing their tidy demarcations. We do not know if these bodies are living or dead; perhaps they are destined for the “ash heaps.” Moore’s metaphors invoke food (“pink / rice grains”) and archival detritus (“ink / bespattered”). This is a record whose boundaries blur in the iron-on-iron intersection of land and sea.

The cliff imagery brings both the poem’s archival theme and its violence closer to the surface:



    marks of abuse are present on


defiant edifice—

    all the physical features of



    of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns


            hatchet strokes, these things stand

    out on it; the chasm side is



    evidence has proved that it can


            on what cannot revive

    its youth.  The sea grows old in it. (44, lines 31–48)

The surface of the cliff keeps an indexical record of the various “marks of abuse” inflicted upon it. Moore’s choice to describe the cliff as an “edifice” lends it an anthropocentric air.  An edifice is a “building, usually a large and stately building, as a church, palace, temple, or fortress.” The word comes from Latin roots: “aedis temple, house + -ficium making.”[18] Insofar as an “edifice” connotes the potential housing of authority, it recalls the etymology of “archive,” which originates in the Greek terms for “magisterial residence, public office” and “government.”[19] Both words convey the sense of a place where power (and perhaps its vestments or documents) reside. But whose power?

Moore’s representation of the cliff, like her handling of much of the rest of this poem, slides between anthropocentric and ecocentric imagery.  While we are initially told that the markings on the cliff result from “ac- / cident,” the list of accident’s “physical features” seems distinctly manmade: “lack / of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns / and / hatchet strokes.” However, it is unclear whether these features really do trace the past activity of human beings or whether that activity is—like the “injured fan,” “spun glass,” and “iron wedge” invoked earlier in the text—merely figurative.  Moreover, even if these markings were literally produced by humans, those actors are no longer on the scene in the poem, and to describe their traces as works of “ac- / cident” is to undermine the kind of significance and intentionality we usually attribute to human actions. Once again, the poem both suggests and forfends against an anthropocentric presence.  What is clear is that, regardless of their source, these features are indices of violence.

Ultimately, the cliff serves as a dead record—“the chasm side is // dead”—a reminder that traditional archives depend on principles of fixity rather than fluidity. (As Dixon noted in 1898, scientific archives can contribute to extinction if specimen collection is not regulated.) Archives are steeped in death, both in the drive to transcend the temporal limits of an individual lifespan by preserving history in an externalized, fixed form and in the uncanniness this creates. Peters observes, “It is utterly routine to read words from people who are dead; much of the uncanniness of that act has rubbed off. . . . Recording blurs the status of the living and the dead” (The Marvelous Clouds, 265). Moore’s cliff revitalizes this uncanniness by highlighting the record’s dependence on death: “it can / live / on what cannot revive / its youth.” Whether we interpret that ambiguous pronoun “it” to refer to “the chasm side” or to “[r]epeated evidence,” it “live[s]” by virtue of death. But the record Moore imagines here, while it may bear some “ac- / cident[al]” remnants of human activity, also promises to long outlast any human archive. On a geological scale far outpacing human history, what endures at the end of Moore’s “The Fish” is the “[r]epeated evidence” produced by the meeting of the sea’s “iron wedge” and the cliff’s “iron edge.” The poem closes by affirming this massive accumulation of temporal indices: “The sea grows old in it.” Moore thereby confronts us with the limitations of the human archival impulse by juxtaposing perishable anthropological impressions with a geological index. Her poem shifts from an anthropocentric to an ecocentric perspective. Our imagined extinction decenters us.

“A Manual for the Peanut-Tongued”: Imagining Ecocentric Archives

In the world of “The Fish,” human actions remain relatively ineffectual against geological certainties. However, we might imagine that, were Moore alive today, she would recalibrate some of her poems to better account for the unprecedented effect of human activity on even such large-scale natural features. The sea contains massive levels of garbage, water levels are rising, and the Mount Rainier glaciers Moore celebrated in “An Octopus” are melting due to global climate change. That the very elements Moore invoked to overshadow human archives are now themselves under threat from us is a somber reminder of the widespread impact we’re having on the planet. But we can also look to other of Moore’s published works—those that focus her archival theme on animal rather than geological subjects—for evidence of the dangers humans pose to the natural world in the sixth extinction.

“Black Earth” originally appeared in The Egoist in April 1918, a few months prior to that same journal’s publication of “The Fish.” Beyond their similar debuts, these two poems were also at one point closely connected by Moore. In Observations (1924), “Black Earth” immediately followed “The Fish.” Readers would therefore have moved from the dead “chasm side” of the cliff and its “[r]epeated evidence” directly into the voice of Moore’s elephant speaker. Though we have shifted scale in the transition between these two poems, from cliff and sea to the body of a single animal, the title hints that the elephant of “Black Earth” is still deeply connected to the larger environment.

As with the cliffside in “The Fish,” the elephant’s skin serves as an indexical record. At the poem’s start, the animal describes its own immersion in a muddy riverbank as a process intended to produce a “renaissance,” a rebirth.[20] However, this “encrust[ing]” in “sediment” only further highlights the record the elephant carries on its body, and the mud contributes to the animal’s “patina of circumstance” (“Black Earth,” 45, lines 12, 11, 16). Without this “sediment” the elephant would cease to exist: “do away / with it and I am myself done away with” (lines 14–15). The animal and the archive it embodies are inseparable. As Moore delves further into her description of the elephant, the archival images continue to accumulate. The “elephant skin” is “cut / into checkers by rut / upon rut of unpreventable experience,” comprising “a manual for the peanut-tongued and the // hairy toed” (lines 18, 21–23, 24–25). Here we have a direct comparison of the animal to a book (“a manual”), but it is notably not a book meant for a human audience.

What information would this manual contain? As non-elephants, we don’t know. But Moore allows for the possibility of its existence. On the one hand, this elephant book may merely be a form of poetic personification (and objectification). On the other, ecocriticism gives serious consideration to the alternative cognitive and experiential lives of animals. Peters, focusing on dolphins and other cetaceans, imagines “[w]hat kind of worlds would appear to such beings” (The Marvelous Clouds, 79).[21] He speculates that their different sensory abilities could mean the “whole ocean is their auditory apparatus and archive” (96). Though a terrestrial species like us, Moore’s elephant is also able to experience a sensorium different from ours:

            My ears are sensitized to more than the sound of

the wind. I see

and I hear, unlike the

            wandlike body of which one hears so much, which was made

            to see and not to see; to hear and not to hear;

that tree trunk without

roots, accustomed to shout

            its own thoughts to itself like a shell, maintained intact

            by one (sic) who knows what strange pressure of the atmosphere (46, lines 40–48)

There is a version of the world the elephant accesses that we don’t, and the elephant is more firmly “root[ed]” in that world. Our deafness and blindness are not constitutional but cultural. Through custom—suggested here by the word “accustomed”—we are self-enclosed. We have, to recall Derrida’s discussion of the archive, closed ourselves off into a “One” at the expense of “the other” by dint of “murder, wounding, traumatism” (“Archive Fever,” 51). The elephant’s back, “full of the history of power,” carries the scars of human encounters, but the poem also questions “[w]hat / is powerful and what is not” (“Black Earth,” 46, lines 27–28). Imagined from the elephant’s perspective, humans are lost in solipsism, listening only to the echo of our own thoughts: “The I of each is to // the I of each, / a kind of fretful speech / which sets a limit on itself” (46–47, lines 52–55). Appropriately, after this point in the poem, Moore drops the use of the first-person speaker. The elephant, unlike humans, ceases to be an “I.” Our enclosure cuts us off from the world. Our archival “One” is also, as it was in “The Fish,” precarious. The elephant does not know how the human remains self-contained and imagines we are perhaps held together by atmospheric pressure, possibly on the verge of dissolution at any moment.

If humans are presented as insubstantial compared to the enduring record of the elephant’s skin, the end of “Black Earth” reminds readers that we nonetheless threaten that record. Though the elephant embodies “the indestructibility of matter” and “has looked at the electricity and at the earth- // quake and is still / here,” there is one force on the planet that might erase the elephant’s living ecological archive (47, lines 63–66). The poem’s conclusion asks, “Will / depth be depth, thick skin be thick, to one who can see no / beautiful element of unreason under it?” (lines 66–68). Moore suggests the elephant is a “manual” we can’t read but one that nonetheless has value as a “beautiful element” on its own. To recall the analogy for the sixth mass extinction that we started with, “We’re throwing out entire books . . .” (Watson, “86 Percent”). Moore’s ecocentric version of the archive asks us to reconsider how our self-contained, anthropocentric knowledge practices negatively impact the world around us and to think more deeply about what is worth saving.



[1] Traci Watson, “86 Percent of Earth’s Species Still Unknown?” National Geographic News, National Geographic, August 25, 2011,

[2] Charles Dixon, Lost and Vanishing Birds; Being a Record of some Remarkable Extinct Species and a Plea for some Threatened Forms (London: John Macqueen, 1898), 5.

[3] Alison Fraser traces lines from Moore’s 1935 poem “Pigeons” to Dixon’s Lost and Vanishing Birds. Alison Fraser, “Mass Print, Clipping Bureaus, and the Pre-Digital Database: Reexamining Marianne Moore’s Collage Poetics through the Archives,” Journal of Modern Literature 43, no. 1 (2019): 19–33, 31n9.

[4] Marianne Moore, Complete Poems (New York: Penguin, 1991), 262.

[5] Evelyn Feldman and Michael Barsanti, “Paying Attention: The Rosenbach Museum’s Marianne Moore Archive and the New York Moderns,” Journal of Modern Literature 22, no. 2 (1998): 7–30, 13. In addition to Moore’s own extensive record keeping, her archive also owes its continued existence to the critical and institutional apparatuses that have preserved her work. Alex Goody’s essay from this cluster explores the potential downside of such scholarly processes, which canonize only certain figures to the detriment of “extinguished modernist poetries.”

[6] On scrapbooking practices, see Bartholomew Brinkman, Poetic Modernism in the Culture of Mass Print (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), 127; on the New York Public Library, see Karin Roffman, “Women Writers and Their Libraries in the 1920s,” in Institutions of Reading, ed. Thomas Augst and Kenneth Carpenter (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007), 203–30, 211; on clipping bureau techniques, see Fraser, “Mass Print”; on exhibitionary methods, see Catherine Paul, “‘Discovery, Not Salvage’: Marianne Moore’s Curatorial Methods,” Studies in the Literary Imagination 32, no. 1 (1999): 91–114, 91.

[7] For further insight into how the passenger pigeon’s extinction shaped (and continues to shape) conservation discourse—both enabling and limiting our understanding of mass extinction—see the introduction to this cluster.

[8] “A Last Attempt to Locate and Save from Extinction the Passenger Pigeon,” The Wilson Bulletin 21, no. 4 (1909): 223. This advertisement of the $300 prize for finding a nesting pair of passenger pigeons in the wild also includes a retraction of an earlier $100 prize “for a freshly killed Passenger Pigeon . . . because of the great danger of complete extermination.”

[9] Heather Cass White, “‘Pigeons’ and the Future of Moore Criticism,” Twentieth-Century Literature 63, no. 4 (2017): 385–404, 403n11. Cass White makes a fascinating, extended comparison between building a scholarly apparatus around the poems Moore omitted from later collections, such as “Pigeons,” and the process of trying to reintroduce an endangered species (387).

[10] Theodore Roosevelt, “Productive Scientific Scholarship,” Science 45, no. 1149 (1917): 7–12, 11.

[11] Marianne Moore, Observations, 2nd ed. (New York: Dial Press, 1925), 43–44, lines 1–8.

[12] Stacy Carson Hubbard describes a broader trend in Moore’s work, where “titles tend to play across the boundaries between inside and outside (by doing double-duty as first lines).” “The Many-Armed Embrace: Collection, Quotation, and Mediation in Marianne Moore’s Poetry,” Sagetrieb 12, no. 2 (1993): 7–32, 8.

[13] Brinkman ties these “kinds of concealment, multiplicity, and contradictory readings” to the “strategies of pasting-over and enjambment” Moore practiced in creating her scrapbooks (Poetic Modernism, 124).

[14] Jacques Derrida, “Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression,” trans. Eric Prenowitz, Diacritics 25, no. 2 (1995): 9–63, 51.

[15] John Durham Peters, The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 313.

[16] “The Notebooks,” Marianne Moore Digital Archive, University at Buffalo,

[17] Mark Goble, Beautiful Circuits: Modernism and the Mediated Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 227.

[18] OED Online, s.v. “edifice, n.,” accessed September 21, 2020.

[19] OED Online, s.v. “archive, n.,” accessed September 21, 2020. Derrida also examines the etymology of “archive” (“Archive Fever,” 9–10).

[20] Moore, “Black Earth,” in Observations, 45–47, 45, line 10.

[21] See also Giorgio Agamben, The Open, trans. Kevin Attell (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004).