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Jim Moore

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Jim Moore
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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)

by this poet


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


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


    No, I don't know

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


    This spring night,

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


    Tears? Of course, but also the