Sort of Sorcery: A Brief Q&A with Jessica Moore

SUSAN GILLIS: The poem “In ten minutes, aside from what you write down on this paper, all your memories will be erased” emerges from a speculative proposition, assembling a wonderful (and achronological) catalogue of touchstones, playing with ideas of keeping and categorizing. I’m curious about how the poem works as assemblage. Does the act of remembering locate things in place and time for you, or does it dissolve those boundaries? 


JESSICA MOORE: I do feel a specificity of place and time with each memory evoked. But I love this question about dissolving boundaries. The question of porousness – and motherhood, art, love, self, integrity – is foremost in my mind since giving birth to my twins and thinking about what it means to be so open, as a mother, and about the dangers (physical and otherwise) that loom when there are no boundaries. In the poem, the act of remembering does the work of locating, of situating specifics, but the poem does the work of dissolving boundaries. The poem places all these touchstones achronologically, as you say, leaping around in time and space, from four years old to forty, from the desert to a far-off continent to the furnace in the basement of my childhood home. And the you in the poem is every you, dissolving boundaries between people. The poem brings all these entities and moments and people into one assemblage of brightest, strangest, most joyous points. 


In terms of keeping and categorizing, what interested me was that by choosing to keep certain memories, I was also choosing which ones to leave behind. And it really did feel like a sort of sorcery: if I could keep this but not this other part (the whales, but not my mother’s remove, for example), I could smooth out some of the most ensnaring moments and keep the euphoric ones. Poem as edit to life. But at the same time, by including on the page the memories that are ‘left behind,’ the poem becomes the kind of container I aspire to be myself – spacious enough to hold it all.


Re-reading it, I can really feel my mind moving around, roving over memory like a riverbank, peering around at first, and then becoming more breathless. But even as the poem picks up speed I see my mind pausing in pleasure, sitting down for a moment with this one or that one.


Poem as spell, to cast off the power of what was banal or painful; poem as a reminder of the shockingly sweet and simple pleasures of life – not abstract “life” but this one, this life I’m living.