Rappahannock Review Contributor Spotlight:
Interview with Sara Moore
Kaci Sutton, Assistant Editor, Rappahannock Review: What attracted you to the historical figure Anne Askew?
Sara Moore: Anne Askew was so bold and so highly educated, I think it’s hard not to be attracted to her. As a girl growing up in a strict religious tradition, I often engaged in heretical thinking, often expressed. And then there’s a morbid fascination that comes from finding a historical kindred soul, then seeing her subject to such a horrible, torturous fate—to be tortured and burned. I remember hearing about her within the context of the early protestant reformation, and she always kind of stuck with me. It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve read her writings.
KS: This poem’s title adds so many layers, shifting it from a dramatic monologue in Askew’s voice to that of a speaker’s rebirth into a doomed body. What led you to this approach?
SM: Anne spoke about her disbelief in transubstantiation, which triggered the image for me.
I also think it’s true that the longer tradition of feminist thought and writing has been blotted out in many ways, as Adrienne Rich writes about in On Lies, Secrets, and Silence, directly referencing Anne Askew as part of that. I think subconsciously in some ways I wanted to deepen the connection between myself and her. To erase some of what Rich writes is a “serious cultural obstacle encountered by any feminist writer,” that we all seem separate from each other, the disconnection (On Lies…11).
But as a lyric poet, I wanted to come from my own interior place, so she was reborn there. I think it’s about that silencing, and what often comes with being heard.
KS: There’s such a tradition of poets speaking for the disenfranchised. Rukeyser comes to mind, though of course many other examples abound. Do you see a particular connection between poetry and advocacy or sharing underrepresented stories? Does poetry have a special role within literary genres in this regard?
SM: Yes! Especially poetry which, as Horace so famously said is “what oft is thought but never so well expressed.” I think poetry, through being able to draw on and express more accurately a common feeling of the disenfranchised can get at the heart instead of just coating or inflating an intellectual idea. The reader can engage in a small moment and be changed.
With regard to stories, Harryette Mullen comes to mind. She is one who can take any number of narratives (from slave to fairy tales), and expose and deconstruct them using language—and it it’s new, and it speaks something new.
I think you must speak for what you are and what you know about the world, what you’ve learned. It can be through an exploration of language, of self, of history. For me as a woman, as a single mother, as a descendant of Appalachian Native Americans, I want to explore voicelessness, and to speak those stories, because that is what is around me.
KS: Which authors have most influenced your writing?
SM: Ah, this is a tough one! From an early age, the big influences were Adrienne Rich, Olga Broumas, Sylvia Plath, and H.D. I think, in very different ways, they all influenced me, whether through pushing me toward research and learning, giving me more confidence in my voice as a woman, or by way of simple inspiration.
I’ve grown to really enjoy L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry, particularly Lyn Hejinian—my study of this feeds my love of words and sound, which I think has really taken my work to another level.
But also, I admire poets like Mark Doty for his concentrated, simple emotive poems. Also—Carolyn Forche is a big one for me. Her Angel of History is stunning.
I’ve studied under Larissa Szporluck, Mary Ann Samyn, Matthea Harvey, and most importantly Kelly Moffett, and they have all taught me to revise my work, and they’ve given me new poetic mentors and perspectives.
KS: What are you working on currently?
SM: In May I finished a large poetry project for my masters degree which focused on various folklores. Right now, I am revising that and playing with new ideas. “Reborn in the Body as Anne Askew” comes from the experimentation I’ve been doing lately.
Sara Moore’s work in Issue 1.2: