THE BITTER OLEANDER AUTUMN 2018 ISSUE
Volume 24, Number 2
Andrea Moorhead was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1947, and lived there until 1962 when the family moved to the New York metropolitan area. Her early personal geography included the beaches on the Canadian side of Lake Erie and the Muskoka Region north of Toronto. Reading was a key element of family life. Her parents often shared their readings, and Moorhead heard Chaucer’s witty poems and Longfellow and the stories of Edgar Allen Poe. The emphasis was on discipline, cultivating the mind, and exploring the natural world. Moorhead’s mother and grandmother provided the opportunity to learn about music. Her Grandmother Charlotte taught her how to sing; her mother instructed her on the piano, and arranged for formal lessons when she was five-years-old. She learned how to listen to music, and was exposed to French and Italian opera, the Romantic composers, and above all, the music of J. S. Bach. The years spent studying music provided one of the significant contexts for her poetry; the musicality of the human voice is an integral part of her poems. Each text is a sound piece; the words are treated as individual notes, the lines as melodic lines or contrapuntal elements.
She is the author of ten books of poetry the latest by Red Dragonfly Press The Carver's Dream recently published in 2018 and twelve books of poetry in French, the latest being À l'ombre de ta voix published by Éditions du Noroit in 2017.
Her numerous translated texts include Red Dragonfly Press's publication of Abderrahmane Djelfaoui's Night Watch in 2009, and Guernica Editions' publications of both Madeleine Gagnon's Stone Dream in 2010 and Élise Turcotte's Dark Menagerie in 2014.
The following is excerpted from Andrea Moorhead's feature interview with TBO's editor:
The Bitter Oleander: There's no doubt that your work's grown in various ways from your early chapbooks, Iris and Morganstall and Black Rain in the early 70's to your new collection of poems, The Carver's Dream. Could you share with us how you've felt it evolve?
Andrea Moorhead: I will resist the temptation to pull out notebooks of poems from the past fifty years to answer your question logically. Instead, I'll give you my impressions. My earliest poems were lyrical, somewhat hermetic, and imagistic. Language revolved around its own centers. The poems in Iris and Morganstall are incantatory and oneiric; sound and color fields relating to an anterior inner life whose external context is the natural world. Black Rain, published four years after Morganstall, is decidedly different, both in content and theme and in aesthetic direction. The language is chiseled, almost a musical hammer to break out a series of complexly interwoven motifs. The context is ontological, the language sensual; rain is a force or manifestation of consciousness, not always human consciousness. This insistence on multiple forms of consciousness is something that has always been present in my work. Sometimes this causes problems for people who assume the voice of a poem is that of the poet and that the content relates strictly to autobiographical moments. Black Rain has a dominant Christian existential current. It occurs to me that I was exploring the interrelationships between "this" world and "other" worlds. I can also see the influence of Greco-Roman symbolism and mythology in my earliest poems.
One dominant strain in my writing is a fascination with the fluidity of genres. I have always written prose as well as poems. I really don't make a distinction between the two. The "bulkiness" of prose does not prevent the potential for elliptical expression. Through my prose writing, I explore landforms more fully than I do in my poems. Certain periods are more fertile for this kind of work than others. I see working in prose as an essential counterpoint to writing poems. The exploration that takes place in prose———grammatical, thematic, philosophical———establishes a point of departure for subsequent poems. The poems evolve in the same fluid, non-linear, physically specific and elusive manner as the prose texts.
Photograph by Robert Moorhead
TWO SELECTIONS FROM ANDREA MOORHEAD'S WORK FEATURED IN OUR AUTUMN 2018 ISSUE:
Others Could Inhabit the Rain
this gold substance you found
in the blackened corner of a fire
in the fir-lined nest
high above the rain
sun tucked into the fibers
woven as a straight-line wind
blue and steady
a perfect sphere
flattened to allow
the passage of time
If the Rain Emerges