Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Great Canadian Writer's Craft Interview: Erín Moure

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Erin Moure

This spring, Toronto high-school students from two Writer's Craft classes conducted interviews with some of Canada's finest poets. The interviews will be posted on The Great Canadian Writer's Craft page on Open Book in June and July 2011.

Haley Coppins:

How has growing up in Calgary and moving to Montréal changed your outlook on life and altered your poetry? How has the French culture of Montreal influenced you as a writer?

Erín Moure:

Yes, the French culture of Montreal has influenced me… I learned French! And then more languages, most notably Galician. Montreal is a city that loves language and culture and I thrive there, tho I still have great affection for Calgary and Calgary folk. Montreal is close to Europe, close to NY, and very vibrant. Apart from that, many things have changed my outlook on life over time: the jobs I’ve had, the people I’ve met and tried to learn from and listen to, the books I’ve read and the joy I have in reading them! And the joy in being able to read works in Galician, French, Portuguese, Spanish in the original.


You’ve collaborated with other Poets in the past and recently you collaborated with Oana Avasilichiaoei. Do you find that collaborating with other poets such as Avasilichiaoei influences how you write? And if so, do you enjoy having exterior influences or do you try to retreat back to your own specific style?


Of course it influences how I write, what I write. I really enjoy the process of reacting to and creating with someone else. I don't think any poet has their own specific style at all times (if they did, they’d be squelching their own creativity)…it’s important to play with and create and learn from many styles. And to collaborate with another person means you have a privileged access to their ways of thinking and developing work, and it can’t help but be a breath of fresh air.


In the poem ‘Homage to the Force of the Potato” you seemed to really think highly of potatoes. I found it interesting that you wrote that a potato was more powerful then gunpowder because it is made up of fire and water. Why is the force of a potato so important? And what was your inspiration for creating Homage to a potato?


Glad you found the potato poem interesting! Potatoes feed people, nourish people, and have travelled far (they were a food of the New World that was only discovered by Europeans about 500 years ago and brought to Europe. It is an ingredient in soup, in borscht as my mother made it… all the poems in the series Homages to Water are ingredients of the national soup of Ukraine, which i chose to write about in Galician, then translate into English… I think sharing national soups is a good alternative to war!


In the book Little Theatres you often have the same poem in English as well as another language side by side. Why did you choose to present the same poems in different languages?


I wrote the poems in Galician, and then because my audience is largely one that reads in English, I translated the poems into English. Because Galician is my third language and I was not educated in it, my Galician is very simple. By writing in Galician, I caused a change in the tone and style of what I was writing… which I then tried to bring over to English. I wanted to let the readers in English see the Galician too because it is beautiful, and you don't always have to understand a language to know it is beautiful and appreciate it and feel its echoes.


You pay homage to cabbage, onion, potato and garlic. Why have you chosen to focus your attention on vegetables?


Soup! Soup is more powerful than firearms in nourishing human beings… the poems are antiwar poems… and they are all ingredients of borscht.


I understand that you will be, or are currently in the process of researching in Eastern Europe. Where do you see your work going in the future? And how do you think your time spent abroad is going to change your poetry?


I never know in advance how my time spent abroad will influence my work. The important thing to me is to be willing to move myself out of my comfort zone and open myself to ideas, ways of thinking, ways of using language, that I might encounter. It’s important to be able to take risks with one’s life and intellect by travelling: take the risk of not understanding, of being misunderstood, of realizing you need to listen and learn a lot more. It leads to a rich life, in and out of poetry!

Hope this helps!

Erín Moure is a Montreal poet who writes in English, multilingually. In her recent O Resplandor (Anansi, 2010) and — with Oana Avasilichioaei — Expeditions of a Chimæra (BookThug, 2009), poetry is hybrid, emerging in translation and collaboration. Other recent and new books include a volume of essays, My Beloved Wager (NeWest, 2009) and a reissue of Pillage Laud (BookThug, 2011). The Unmemntioable, a poetic investigation into subjectivity, immigration and the western borderlands of Ukraine, is due from Anansi in 2012. Moure also translates poetry from French, Galician, Portuguese and Spanish, and her translations include Sheep’s Vigil by a Fervent Person by Alberto Caeiro/Fernando Pessoa, Nicole Brossard’s Notebook of Roses and Civilization — with Robert Majzels — and Chus Pato’s m-Talá and Charenton. Since her first book of poetry appeared from Anansi in 1979, her works have received the Governor General’s Award, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, two A.M. Klein Prizes, and were shortlisted three times for the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Haley Coppins is a Toronto native who enjoys the simple things in life. Her family heritage lies in the country fields of Zephyr, Ontario, and the big city streets of Toronto. She enjoys playing sports, primarily soccer and field hockey, and has had success winning various championships. If not in the great outdoors, you can find her playing with children and writing short stories in her attic. The youngest of two children, she has grown up mastering the art of arguing and hopes that it will help her in a future career in law. Her mind resides in outer space, shooting for the moon but being too busy gazing at stars.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

The Great Canadian Writer's Craft

Each year, students from Malvern Collegiate Institute's Writer’s Craft class interview Canadian poets as part of a class project. The students study Canadian poetry under the collaborative tutelage of teacher John Ouzas and poet a.rawlings. We are delighted to feature the interviews on Open Book.

Go to The Great Canadian Writer's Craft’s Author Page