Author Q&A: Open Book with Jean P. Moore

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Tyringham part-timer Jean P. Moore has had her poetry published in journals such as upstreet, SNReview and Adanna over the years. But "Time's Tyranny" (Finishing Line Press, 2017) was her first collection of poems.

The book's Berkshires influence is apparent even before the reader opens it.

"The cover is from Tyringham, and many of the poems that are included in here were inspired by Tyringham in one way or another," Moore said.

Moore was a winner of the 2015 Independent Publishers Book Award for contemporary fiction for her novel, "Water on the Moon." Her next novel, "Tilda's Promise," is due out in September.

Moore, who also lives in Greenwich, Conn., answered some questions by phone. Her responses have been edited for length.

What is your favorite poem?

This goes back many years because I think my first love — well, I have two, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, right from the standard canon of American literature — I think I was most taken by "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman, which is a collection of poems, also. But his expansiveness and spiri,t and ability to just speak to people directly as a poetic voice was just startling to me when I first read him.

Who is your favorite contemporary poet?

Well, my poetic taste runs in two very different directions: either very academic, in one sense, [or] very popular. So, on the more esoteric side, I am, again, like Walt Whitman, just startled by the talent of Maureen McLane. She's a National Book Award finalist, and she is either just achingly emotional and personal or achingly esoteric, so that you just know that there's a brilliant mind there that you can't follow, at least I can't. But for the poems of hers that are, to me, accessible, they're just stunning. So she's on that one side of the continuum. And on the other side, I think more like the kind of poetry that I write, which is pretty accessible, is ... Mary Oliver, the contemporary poet who writes very accessible, but heart-felt poems — not doggerel, certainly. She's a wonderful poet. She's a real poet. But you can get into [her poems], and they're often about nature and nature as it reveals itself to her in very personal ways. I love her poetry.

You've been involved in activism. What is your favorite work of activist nonfiction?

[Moore couldn't think of one during the interview but later mentioned that Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "enlightening, prophetic work" in an email.]

I know you have experience working with executive management. What's your favorite book about leadership?

You're going to make me go there! Oh, let me see. When I first started with that, it was almost like the beginning of these kinds of books that became bestsellers, and I can't even remember the names of them now. I know I was not that taken with the GE guru [Jack Welch], but there was Warren Bennis. I really liked Warren Bennis. He just really said so much that needed to be said to corporate America at the time. And it was also the beginning of all the collaborative learning, where it became popular, that is, on the corporate scene: collaborative learning, team-building, more horizontal organizations rather than vertical.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I did not come from a family of readers, so, for me, I remember this vividly as a 6-year-old, going into the school library and just being amazed by all the books that were surrounding me and just thinking [that] it was like a fairy tale. I must've been directed by a librarian — she's not in this vivid image I have in my mind — but I walked over to a shelf and picked up "Winnie-the-Pooh" [by A.A. Milne]. That was the beginning of my reading. I started reading with "Winnie-the-Pooh," and then I became a pretty avid reader in my family. We were not a family of book readers. I was the only one who read books.

What books are currently on your nightstand?

There, again, I have like two different sides of me. There's the more academic side and the more popular side. Just the way my tastes run in poetry, it runs that way in literature, too. I have slowly been making my way through "The Odyssey," the new translation of "The Odyssey" by Emily Wilson, which is a revelation. I recommend it heartily to people who even think they're not readers of poetry. This translation is in iambic pentameter, and it's eminently readable. It's an eye-opener for a new way of looking at the Homeric legend. The way that she has even translated some of the words is very different from the way that these words have been translated in the past, so it gives a very different view of Odysseus and the kind of hero that he is, and his men. It's wonderful. I'm really thoroughly enjoying that. And then on the other side ... I just recently read "Little Fires Everywhere" [by Celeste Ng], which I really enjoyed. On my list right now is to read "An American Marriage" [by Tayari Jones], which has been getting a lot of press and is new. I was completely bowled over by George Saunders' "Lincoln in the Bardo." He's a short story writer, and this is his first novel. It is an incredible masterpiece. It's so imaginative and so incredibly beautiful and well-done.

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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