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About this poet

Jim Moore was born on June 22, 1943, in Decatur, Illinois. He began writing in the mid-1960s and received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota and his master’s degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He then began teaching at a junior college in Moline, Illinois. After witnessing his students get drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, Moore decided he wouldn’t continue to accept the teachers’ deferment. He sent his draft card back and refused his conscription; consequentially, he was sent to prison for ten months in 1970. While there, he taught a poetry class to his fellow inmates, an experience that is addressed in his first three books.

In 1975, Moore experienced another life-changing incident. He was at LaGuardia Airport when a bomb exploded, leaving twelve dead. Moore wrote, “Since then, I have felt that life is much more than the interruption of plot than about plot. What choice did my poetry have, but to reshape itself around these interruptions? I try to see as clearly—even calmly—as I can how things are. Sadness is at the heart of this clarity, but strangely, consolation as well.”

In 1976, Moore received a grant from the Bush Foundation, allowing him to travel Europe and live in London for several months. That year Moore also published his first book of poems, The New Body (University of Pittsburgh Press). Since then, he has published a number of poetry collections, including Underground: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2014), Invisible Strings (Graywolf Press, 2011), and Lightning at Dinner (Graywolf Press, 2005).

According to the New York Times review of Underground: New and Selected Poems, “Jim Moore’s poems are an artful amalgam of humor and fierce attention, suffused by a passion for ancient Asian poetry. Like his sage poet-teachers he grasps the quiet power of white space, knowing that what is unsaid is often just as crucial as what is.”

Poet C. K. Williams writes, “Jim Moore writes of history, of love, of pain, of the intimate revelations of a consciousness alive to itself.”

Moore has won four Minnesota Book Awards and the 2002 Loft-McKnight Award in poetry and has received grants from the Bush Foundation, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Boards. He has twice served as the Edelstein-Keller Distinguished Visiting Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and is a teacher in the MFA program in Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, as well as a frequent visiting professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He divides his time between Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Spoleto, Italy.


Selected Bibliography

Underground: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2014)
Invisible Strings (Graywolf Press, 2011)
Lightning at Dinner (Graywolf Press, 2005)
The Long Experience of Love (Milkweed Editions, 1995)
The Freedom of History (Milkweed Editions, 1988)
The New Body (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1976)

Five Charms in Praise of Bewilderment

1

           At first when you leave town,

the dog and I maintain dignified silence.
           After no more than two hours
I’m talking to her, after three
           she’s telling me the story of her life.
I nod my head at every word,
           encouraging her
to take all the time she needs

 

2

           I have the vice

of courting poems.
           Pathetic, I know.
I also like to watch Oprah
           if no one is around to notice.
That’s right,
           I court poems, I watch Oprah,
I even let out wordless sighs late at night,
           and call them
my spring fields ploughed, my ready earth.

 

3

           Sitting quietly at dusk, I'll admit

my life goes like this:
           dark branches
scratching the still darker window.

 

4

           “How are you?”

I ask a woman at work.
           “I have no idea,”
she replies,
           sounding pleased with herself
at the heartfeltness
           of her own bewilderment.

 

5

           We don’t know,

can’t possibly know,
           never have known,
never will know.
           We just don’t know.

Copyright © 2014 Jim Moore. This poem originally appeared in Underground: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2014). Used with permission of the author.

 

Copyright © 2014 Jim Moore. This poem originally appeared in Underground: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2014). Used with permission of the author.

 

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Jim Moore was born on June 22, 1943, in Decatur, Illinois. He began writing in the mid-1960s and received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota and his master’s degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His poetry collections include Underground: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2014), Invisible Strings (Graywolf Press, 2011), and Lightning at Dinner (Graywolf Press, 2005).

by this poet

poem
1

    No, I don't know

the way to get there.
    Two empty suitcases sit in the corner,
if that's any kind of clue.

2

    This spring night,

everyone at the party
    younger than me
except for one man.
    We give each other the secret password.

3

    Tears? Of course, but also the
poem

for my mother on her birthday

     Somewhere at this very moment someone is eating peanut butter right out of the jar! He is alone and the television is off. His mother has no idea what he is doing. It is his secret. Very far away a dog barks, a horn honks. The day his grandmother died he had a crazy

poem

          He stole forsythia.
He lived for love.
          He never got caught.