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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)

So Be It

If the neighbor’s roof is a shamble of broken tiles, so be it.

If those tiles sit there for weeks. If no one does a thing about them.

If the sky is gray day after day and then snow falls and the tiles turn into
fragments of a broken alphabet traced in snow, clinging.

Darkness, then dawn.

If beauty, as hoped for; if death as promised.

There is no reason not to say it: the woman with her head bent, reading, is
beautiful.

The train rocks beneath her, but she mostly sits in stillness.

A slight trembling of the page betrays the truth of things.

Meanwhile, a window above her bent head. A river and a bridge, a sky
darkening just beyond the window.

The bridge and the sky, the slight blue of a river: a world beautiful beyond
our understanding.

No reason not to say it: the woman will look up from her book, from the calm
page, from the story not her own.

In due course will suffer before she dies.

The small blue relief of the river is a darkening song without end.

Copyright © 2017 Jim Moore. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

Copyright © 2017 Jim Moore. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

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
this being unnoticed. Sitting like this
           next to the stone lamb outside the Cathedral.
My lost soul, which prefers the stone lamb
           to the living God. Prefers these deep shadows
to the summer day. The way he took me
           all those years ago, shattered me
so that fifty-seven years later, I
poem

Did I forget to look at the sky this morning
when I first woke up? Did I miss the willow tree?
The white gravel road that goes up from the cemetery,
but to where? And the abandoned house on the hill, did it get
even a moment? Did I notice the small clouds so slowly
moving away? And did I

poem
              All modesty is false modesty
when it comes to poems,
              or to the silence
in which poems begin
              before they are words,
when they are still daisies
              at the foot of the dead Christ
in an anonymous painting,
              13th century. Not to know how to live
is one