Into the Silence (or slaying vampires)

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I first met Kim Moore at a Poetry Business writing day about two years ago. Kim had arrived with a poem she had written on the train from Barrow on Furness where she now lives.  I’ll always remember the awed silence that followed Kim’s sharing of the poem during the workshop section of the day. The poem, later to appear in Kim’s first pamphlet, flowed so easily and naturally from one startlingly lucid image to the next.

I’ve met people who admire Kim’s work and more than one has mentioned that she is a natural, an instinctive poet. Whilst this is true I am keen to point out that she is extremely hard-working and dedicated. When I got to know Kim a little I found that she brings an intense focus to bear on whatever it is that she wishes to achieve, whether this be her music (Kim studied trumpet at The Royal College of Music) or, during her school days, her cross-country running.

Kim’s writing benefits from her energy and outlook, her constant reading and appreciation of others work.  As a figure on the poetry scene she impresses with her generosity and magnanimous attitude to others and her with her honesty and down to earth good humour.  I haven’t asked Kim for any poems to follow this interview as I would find it impossible to select a few favourites from her pamphlet due to its consistent quality. Instead, I’d like to recommend you buy a copy if you haven’t already.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Kim Moore

Hi Kim.  Your pamphlet  Smith/Doorstop Pamphlet  ‘If We could Speak Like Wolves’ has been extremely well received, being nominated for the Michael Marks award and gathering great reviews and recommendations. Has this helped you feel enabled more established as a writer? Also, along with the positive aspects of praise and recognition, were there any negatives?

Thanks Roy for saying this – yes, I feel very lucky to have had some lovely things said about the pamphlet, from writers whose work I greatly admire.  I don’t feel more established as a writer because of the pamphlet.  I see it as the start of a journey.  I do feel more confident in myself as a writer, and this has led to doing a lot more workshops and readings.  I can’t really think of any negatives that have come along with the pamphlet.  It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience, right from the first moment when I got the phone call to say I’d won the competition. 

Tony Harrison once said ‘I hate everything about writing except doing it’.
In contrast you seem to enjoy, celebrate and embrace associated roles and aspects of poetry such as promoting the work of others on your blog and elsewhere. You also lead and attend workshops, perform regularly and write reviews.  I wonder if you find all these activities complementary, and if you sometimes feel a burden of responsibility to keep all these aspects of your writing life going simultaneously.

None of it feels like a burden, otherwise I wouldn’t do it!  I love going to poetry readings – for me, sad as this may sound, this is my social life!  The same goes for performing at poetry readings – maybe this is a left over from performing as a musician – but I love reading.  I’ve only just started writing reviews for magazines, but I enjoy the feeling of giving something back, and I like writing reviews because it forces me to slow down and think – sometimes I do everything at breakneck speed, including reading.  I enjoy planning workshops, because I learn something every time from running a workshop and I enjoy spending time with people who enjoy writing.  My blog has been going a year and a half – and the regular feature of a Sunday Poem from a poet whose work I’ve read that week or seen read is probably one of the best things I’ve done.  It ensures that I have to keep reading.  It means I get to say nice things to and about other poets without expecting or wanting anything back, and again, it forces me to slow down and think about why I like a particular poem.  Sometimes it feels like hard work because it is quite a time commitment, but that is only a fleeting feeling and it soon passes.  Most of the time I really enjoy it.  The main burden of responsibility I feel is keeping the music teacher side of my life going.  I have to put as much energy and time as I can spare into this side of my life, otherwise I feel that my pupils would be short-changed. 

On a related point, do you set aside time to write, or do your poem arrive as and when they arrive?

I don’t set aside time to write.  I read all the time – but I don’t have to set aside time to do this.  I have an innate fear of being bored and I carry a couple of poetry books with me everywhere I go.  Poems come from this – as and when they want to. 

I wonder if you could identify the qualities that make for a good workshop or residential course?

The tutor being organised.  The tutor wanting to be there, and a tutor that cares about people.  A tutor that remembers what it was like to starting out.  I think the whole atmosphere of a course/workshop is created by the tutor, in the same way the atmosphere in a lesson comes from the teacher.  And the tutor has to be enthusiastic about poetry of course.

One of the things I admire in your writing is that it can be , and is I think, appreciated and enjoyed by both the poetry establishment (by which I mean editors, completion judges, fellow poets) and by the generally ‘non-poetry reading’ public.  Is this something you consciously aim to achieve? Have you ever worried that your work might become ‘poetry written for poets’ and lose this quality?

I don’t consciously aim to achieve this – so it is nice of you to say so.  I write first drafts without really thinking, as quickly as I can.  When I’m editing then I suppose I am thinking about an audience, but only in that I want whatever the poem is trying to say to be understood.  I’m writing a sequence of poems at the minute about a relationship that is shadowed or haunted by domestic violence.  Part of me is very worried about how these poems will be perceived – I have been trying to write these poems for six years.  I think I’m finally getting somewhere now – and the only way I can progress with them is to push that conscious, evaluating part of the mind into silence so I can get on with the act of writing.

That’s a great answer Kim, thanks. Just a few more questions and then I’ll let you get back to the silence! When did you start writing poetry? What do you admire in others writing? Are there any influences on your work are you aware of? Has your motivation to write changed since you started writing?

I’ve always written poetry but I didn’t show anybody my writing until about five or six years ago when I joined a writing group in Ulverston.  I admire mystery in other people’s writing.  I admire poems that make me wish I’d written the poem.  My favourite poem at the minute is ‘The Visitation’ by Maitreyabandhu.  I think this poem is so poised, and perfectly balanced, and sure-footed.  That is the poem I wish I’d written!  My influences come from what I read, but also the poets and friends that I hang out with a lot.  I know that David Tait’s love poetry and Jennifer Copley’s surrealism have been huge influences on me.  My motivation has not changed since I started.   I still write when I feel like it, and read if I don’t.  And if I feel like doing neither, I watch Desperate Housewives or Buffy the Vampire Slayer…

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