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Jessica Moore

Photo by Jacques Oulé
Jessica Moore is an award winning translator and poet. She is also a singer-songwriter and the official launch for her solo album Beautiful in Red is May 3rd. (The digital version is now available on Bandcamp.) In honour of national poetry month, Moore shares some profound insight into what went into her first published book of poems Everything, now (Brick Books), one of Salty Ink’s top 12 poetry books for 2012.

AE: What inspired you to put this collection together?
JM: Everything, now had two central wellsprings - the first was loss, after the death of my lover in an accident, and the second was my work translating the poetic novel Turkana Boy by Quebecois author Jean-François Beauchemin. Turkana Boy tells the story of a different kind of grief, through rich and surreal language and images. There was something very inspiring and moving for me in the work of translating a book about another kind of loss.

AE: Did the work come together quickly or did you really need to work at it?
JM: The initial work came over the span of six or seven months, during which I was drawing upon passages from the translation in order to spark my own pieces (my poems began as a kind of response to Turkana Boy). Subsequent revisions took much longer. I spent a long time letting this book rest, untouched, and then more time revisiting, adding to, and changing it.

“The part that was most challenging for me was also the thing that felt most essential, the thing I was driven to do - which was to sit down with my memories and write them from this new place of loss.”

AE: What was the most challenging part of the process?
JM: The part that was most challenging for me was also the thing that felt most essential, the thing I was driven to do - which was to sit down with my memories and write them from this new place of loss. It was a tricky and often painful doubling of mind, revisiting those places, but I always felt I had to do it.

AE: What was the most rewarding part of the experience?
JM: The most rewarding part for me was working with editor Barry Dempster and copyeditor Alayna Munce, who both brought such respect, insight, care, and precision to the process of revising. 

AE: What did you learn during the process?
JM: I learned that I am a slow creator! Everything, now was eight years in the making from first lines to publication, including a four-year rest period - and it is not a very long book. 

AE: What has the response been like so far from friends and family?
JM: The response has been very warm, and I would say very open hearted. People speak, of course, about the depth of feeling in the book - the sadness - but they also respond to the magical aspects or evidence of love, and this is what is most important to me. I have also had several people speak to me of their own loves and losses because of this book.

AE: What's next on your creative agenda?
JM: I am just about to release my first solo album (on May 3rd in Toronto), so my creative energy has been poured into music these past ten months. In terms of writing, I just received a small Writers' Reserve grant through Brick Magazine to work on travel / memoir pieces and I am excited to dive into that project.

AE: What made you want to be a writer?
JM: I've wanted to be a writer since I was four years old. I suppose it was a love of words and lyricism that strengthened in me over the years.

AE: What makes a good book?
JM: So many things! Risk, true curiosity and feeling, restraint, unusual images and combinations of words, skillful rhythm; I think a reader can feel when the author's heart is in it, no matter what kind of writing it is, and this makes all the difference.

“Would they have done as much moor-wandering and wonderfully melancholy, sweeping, self-reflective writing?”

AE: What are your thoughts on the state of poetry in Canada today?
JM: I can think of two things that place me in a privileged position of feeling that poetry in Canada is alive and well - living in the city where I am part of the literary community, and acting as the host of a reading series here. On the other hand, there is part of me that feels like poetry is under threat everywhere, not only in Canada, of drowning in the diminishing number of quiet moments - moments for reflection and daydreaming and creative ideas - because of all our electronic devices and time spent on the internet and social media. There is an idealist and a romantic in me that wishes for the time of the original, moor-wandering Romantic poets - I often think of what we might be lacking now if the internet generally, and Facebook in particular, had existed in their time. Would they have done as much moor-wandering and wonderfully melancholy, sweeping, self-reflective writing?

AE: Do you have any advice for aspiring poets?
JM: Write with great curiosity - I mean, with a beginner's mind as you approach your subject; write things that you would be excited to read yourself; interrogate yourself on your images and combinations of words - make them truly your own. Write with a pen on paper. Write in your mind as you walk. And don't feel that you have to know what it is you're writing before you sit down - often it is the act of writing that leads you to it.

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