Retooling for a Figurative Life
Vallum Chapbook Series No. 32
In Retooling for a Figurative Life, Erín Moure blurs the physical and the linguistic. She conducts an investigation of material life and its linguistic manifestations: bridges, rivers, and punctuation marks all receive equal footing and care. Each of the short poems bears a one-word title, beginning with the notion-in-question and journeying through other entities. In “Girl,” a speaker considers her mammalian body, and watches the sun rise. In “Sky,” she approaches mortality with frank irritability: “I am going to die but it annoys me / that it has to be every day in the news.”
Moure catalogues the joys and disasters of life, as well as the natural and political cycles that knit our lives together. She pauses on firefighters and their failed rescues; a house with a broken fence, preserved online; bees, buzzing in an apiary. The simple disappearance of a hat can be devastating. Moure does all this with a sharp sense of humour and inviting imagery: “temperance, intemperance / unglued like a bar-code sticker / on a plum.” Ultimately, she insists on possibility, and the importance of ground and sky: all that they generate, and all that returns to them. “Every bit of matter counts,” she writes, “no matter / how small.”
Erín Moure has published forty-nine books to date: poetry, essays, memoir, as well as translations and co-translations from French, Spanish, Galician, Portuguese, Portuñol and Ukrainain into English. Recent works are Planetary Noise: Selected Poetry of Erín Moure (Wesleyan, 2017), Sitting Shiva on Minto Avenue, by Toots (New Star, 2017, tr. French by Colette St-Hilaire Toots fait la Shiva, avenue Minto Le Noroît, 2021), Wilson Bueno’s Paraguayan Sea (Nightboat, 2017), Lupe Gómez’s Camouflage (Circumference, 2019); a co-traduction with Roman Ivashkiv of Yuri Izdryk’s Smokes (Lost Horse); In Leaf, an annotated edition of her translation of Rosalía de Castro’s New Leaves; and her own The Elements (Anansi). 2020 saw Moure translations of Uxío Novoneyra’s The Uplands: Book of the Courel and other poems (Veliz), Juan Gelman’s Sleepless Nights Under Capitalism (Eulalia), and Chantal Neveu’s This Radiant Life (Book*hug). Moure holds two honorary doctorates from universities in Canada and Spain, was 2017 WPR Creative Fellow at the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard, 2019 international translator in residence at The Queen’s College, Oxford University, a 2020 Kelly Writers House Fellow at UPenn and gave the 2021 Leslie Scalapino Memorial Lecture at Naropa University. In fall 2021, her translation of Chus Pato, The Face of the Quartzes, will appear from Veliz Books, and she will be the Jake MacDonald virtual writer in residence at the University of Winnipeg. She lives in Montreal.