a key reconciles/
green words on a black screen. But nothing merges/
painlessly enough with memory. I/
could cook a lambchop or murder mosquitoes.
Though she has been widely published and anthologized (I can't get enough of "My MOther's Moustache), Memoir is Moore's long-awaited first collection. Waiting itself becomes a force in the book, transforming incidents into self-knowledge, and that knowledge into tradition. Take "Dream." written, the inscription tells us, after a lecture delivered on Emily Dickinson by Adrienne Rich (to whom Moore owes a great deal).
I move closer, see your face/
focus, dissolve to your/
mother's face: her face, your face,/
hers, yours, hers, until you merge,/
say to me, I will not go away.
Most of the poems in Memoir are in traditional forms--sapphics, sestinas, and a hendecasyllabic arrangement that looks like a recurring hourglass. And since forms, like contracts, best frame certain styles of discourse--hendecasyllabics hold the long narratives, sapphics lend a unifying music to shorter ones--the service Moore performs by concentrating so much on the stubborn sestina is that she's coaxed pleasure from this recalcitrant form....
Moore has a special place in the community of poets and writers not only for her craftsmanship, but also for the scope of her attentions--both public and private domains. Her vision of family and friends render their microcosmic embodiments of a larger world. On public issues, as in the two poems that frame the book like a pair of broad shoulder--a long poem, "Spuyten Duyvil," about nuclear holocaust, and an elegy to a friend dead of AIDS--Moore is intensely personal.
"Sober you can/
do anything," you told Joan. Jimmy said/
your last days the virus at your brain had you/
>in summer at the door on Fire Island/
offering refreshments as guests arrived,/
beautiful men, one after another.
Moore has also been willing to write of intimate relationships with both men and women, making her one of a very few poets whose work flows transexually, so to speak. She advocates love in the context of public courage, as in "Spuyten Duyvil":
I am not afraid to begin to love or/
to keep loving. Even in this fire,/
it is not fear I feel but heartbreak.
Village Voice, VLS, Robyn Selman -- Publisher Comments
From the Back Cover
Remarkable, in Honor Moore's Memoir, how the power of loyalty--to parents, to siblings, to her own body--generates that other power, the power of longing, of desire, and of bestowal. No poet makes clearer the organizing capacity of want, round which, like iron filings in a field, are disposed the sensual patterns, colors, smells, tastes. Recurrence, then, is her Muse, shadowed--as Proust says--by girls in bloom; acknowledged, cherished as her own. Richard Howard
As if excavating her life, Honor Moore has uncovered with care the artifacts of the heart, and with deep intelligence explored the fissures in common speech and the shiftings of consciousness beneath them. At memory's insistence she has written this book, which opens with one of the most important poetic meditations on nuclear war to have been published during the last decade and concludes with an intimate, almost epistolary poem about a friend who died of AIDS. We are thus in the presence of a poet who can be praised not only for the eloquence and musicality of her voice, but also for the courage of her moral engagement. It is not only beautiful work, it is brave. Carolyn Forche