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Now for the Visual Experience in Erín Moure’s The Unmemntioable

By Harriet Staff

After a strong encouraging from Ron Silliman in his Attention Span list that we read poet Erín Moure’s translations of Chus Pato, the “Galician separatist adult education teacher producing the most intense literature on a world scale in a language most Americans have never even heard about,” we turn now to Moure’s own work. A lovely sample of her book The Unmemntioable (Anansi 2012) has just been posted at Canadian blog The Tailfeather. More:

I’m reading Erin Mouré’s book The Unmemntioable. No, that’s not a typo. (I still keep checking to see if that’s what she titled the book.) It should give you a clue about the nature of her poetry, if you are unfamiliar with Mouré. I think this is what you call “experimental”.

Reproducing her work is next to impossible without putting up her pages as images, but this example should give you a taste. Even if you generally want poetry that is essentially a rhyming story, I encourage you to get a book of hers and have a look. They are little mixed-media packages of verbal/image art.


Gorgeous! And memntioable! rob mclennan wrote about the book in May:

In The Unmemntioable, Moure includes a study of Sampedrín alongside her own grief, taking her mother’s ashes to (as the back cover writes) “the village where her maternal family was erased by war and time. There, watching E.M. through the trees in a downpour, an idea came to her: she would use E.M. to research the nature of Experience.” The nature of experience, as the book explores it, is multi-faceted, and somehow complex enough that it actually becomes more readable. How does that happen?

My intention was just to write at the desk in Bucureşti, but this notebook paper turns into a plant again damp with sap and fibre and breaks the nib. Perfumes anarchic tendency and a way with words, fallen down on crested birds.

“The smell of hay at the look of god”
the pen writes.

“We wept our gifts for you, dear mother, our treasures. Waking up in the night and wringing out the shirt. Even then, the tumor was growing in the blood.”

(Tomasz’s shadow bent long from the doorway to the forest, but it’s just the noise of darkness and the gate banging shut in wind)

This notebook is arresting sleep (lying face-down in a pool of snow). When I look up, a siren, and the light of the ambulance flashes off the walls at it streaks down Matei Voievod in the dark…. but who does it carry? And repeatedly? E.M.? Has she eaten a peanut again?

Over the course of Moure’s trilogy of poetry books O Cidadán (Anansi, 2002), O Cadoiro, poems (Anansi, 2007) and O Resplendor (Toronto ON: Anansi, 2010), as well as her Little Theatres (Anansi, 2005), where we first met the writer and translator Sampedrín, Moure has worked increasingly complex book-length collages of essay-poems, lyrics, arguments, questions and prose-lines, all while adding layers and nuance to Elisa Sampedrín. It is as though Moure works hard to diminish or even erase the narrator/author, even while building up the hetronym of Sampedrín. And why is Sampedrín so argumentative in this collection? We’ve seen Sampedrín be argumentative before, certainly, challenging the narrator in all sorts of ways, but this collection almost sees Moure’s hetronym downright hostile in places. Exactly what is happening between the narrator and hetronym, two elements of the author herself? It would seem that, although the questioning is sometimes harsh, the collaborations remain.

Where Moure’s previous trilogy focused on “the citizen,” her new collection, The Unmemntioable, turns the same gaze sideways, writing out her mother’s Ukrainian background quite specifically, and exploring how the experience of this particular citizen and her forebears produced the woman that Moure knew as her own mother.

If anything, it’s the fault of reading. When Chus Pato’s poetry appeared on my desk, I decided to give up writing poems. I moved to Bucureşti to see if I could free myself from this crisis of experience, this excision of language. Then I saw Erín Moure in the park at a café table, looking at me. Why did she come here?

Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.