Honor Moore's Our Revolution: a Mother and Daughter at Midcentury has just been published by WW Norton and her first collection of poems Memoir (1988) was reissued last fall, The Bishop's Daughter, a memoir, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as Our Revolution and The White Blackbird (read by Stockard Channing) were released as audiobooks this spring. Moore was chief consultant for A Change of World, a podcast series and radio documentary about American women poets produced by the Poetry Foundation. She is the Nonfiction coordinator of the MFA in the Creative Writing program at The New School as well as a core faculty member.
1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?
My favorite villain is Iago in Othello– studying him taught me that villains are indirect and that stories are created by those who participate in them – a new idea when I was 20 and in college. Shakespeare’s Iago is an evolved version of a recurring character in early Tudor drama, the manipulator with a touch of the devil, a kind of sinister “show-runner” who in his lack of morality and conscience is a source of terror.
I don’t really have a favorite protagonist, but because I’m rereading The Lover by Marguerite Duras right now, I’ll say that the vulnerable “I” in contemporary autofiction and memoir is the kind of protagonist I’m interested in right now – one sees in The Lover how the narrator both forms and is formed by the story/stories she tells, moving from an “I” to a “she” voice and from past to present tense, from confessional reality to dream narrative – all in the service of telling an extremely complex story very economically. When planning a new book, and I say that I would like it to be “short”, a slender volume like The Lover, my agent just laughs. I don’t seem to be able to do it, but I long to. I've just finished a book I thought would be short and it's long… Our Revolution: A Mother and Daughter at Midcentury. It's interesting because it has two narrators in a way...and my mother whose writing I integrate into the narrative.
2. When did you know you were a writer?
I didn’t claim writing until I was in my twenties and Second Wave feminism arrived to tell me a woman could be a writer – strange I know, but there were so few contemporary American women writers then, and the prominent were often suicides (Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton) or objects of ridicule that I couldn’t yet identify as objects of envy – (Lillian Hellman). But looking back, I would say that I knew I was a writer when I wrote a novel in fifth grade and the teacher read it aloud to the class. Yikes! I was both thrilled and terrified. Also confused. Unfortunately, the notebook — old-fashioned black and white splotched cover – has been lost.
3. What are you currently working on?
Our Revolution is just out (I am virtually touring because of the pandemic) and I am close to finished with a new collection of poems. As an editor, I am collaborating with Alix Kates Shulman on Women’s Liberation! Feminist Writings that Sparked a Revolution (and still can) a collection of writings by Second Wave feminists, to be published by Library of America in 2021.
4. How has your writing process changed over the years?
I am less terrified. I’ve learned that early morning is the best and that if I don’t do it then, I’m apt not to do it at all, and that if I don’t do it, I miss out on being in the place where I’m most alive. Lately, too, I realize I have readers.
5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.
I am as direct as possible choosing language that brings the reader as close in as I can – I want to deliver a visceral experience.
Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.