More on Moran

by Martin Veres


I wish I could say that I had the pleasure of sitting down and asking a few questions of Bill Moran, but he's currently in the States, and flying me out there to chat with him was somewhat outside the SCWC's budget. Instead, I had the pleasure of pitching him a few questions over the ol' email, and he was nice enough to send back some great responses. That's Southern manners for you.

But enough cultural stereotypes. Below you'll find my interview with Bill, as well as all the important details about his upcoming poetry workshop on August 15, presented together with Enough Said Poetry Slam.

NOTE: Bill's interview responses may contain traces of American spelling. I have left these unedited for the sake of authenticity. I am simultaneously hopeful that this will not confuse or upset our readership, and flagrantly unapologetic if it does.

MV: Why did you choose to hold this workshop in Australia? Did you just want to get as far away from the circus of US politics as possible?

BM: I’ve toured through Australia once a year since 2014, and y’all have been so gosh darn good to me that I just can’t say no to returning. My workshops, like my performances, are getting less and less “by the book” and a bit more daring, and I have your community to thank for that. 

In Melbourne and Wollongong and elsewhere, I’ve walked out of my own workshops feeling like I was just one drop of water in a flood - that in the span of a couple hours, we worked together to think through hard questions, put pressure on prescriptions of what our writing should or should not be, leveled the playing field, and cleared a path to make the kind of art we want to make. If the workshop is a thinking machine, I’ve noticed that my cogs typically fall right into place in Australia, especially in Wollongong. So, after the past couple months of performing and teaching in the US and Europe, fine-tuning the workshop as I go, I’m so happy to return to Australia to see what big things we build with these little tools we call words.

And if US politics is a circus, then it’s a traveling circus because the anxiety tends to follow me around. So, if I have to worry about my almost-expired health insurance plan, I wouldn’t mind doing so on an Aussie beach.

Editor's note: Had this been a proper interview, I may have at this point quipped about it being winter during his visit, but oh well.

MV: Texas gets a pretty bad rap, I think, and it's not exactly what first springs to mind when you think of creative writing and poetry. What's the literary scene like out there?

BM: Thank you! It does get a bad rap, which I both regret and welcome, because it’s in this American cultural blind spot that we have the space to write and perform some very surprising, important work. The South, and Texas specifically, isn’t exactly under scrutiny for what we write or how well it adheres to what others think poetry should be. It opens up a nice space in which Texan writers can write about what we want, how we want. This, I think, is why we have over 12 national poetry slam teams, poetry readings every night of the week with full crowds, new poets reading for the first time on a regular basis, top-notch poetry festivals such as the Texas Grand Slam and Southern Fried, mutual support between academic journals and local open mics, and so on. 

Of course, this is a double-edged sword. If you’re not the first-in-mind for the arts, you’re probably not that for funding either. Of course there are people and organizations here who scaffold and support literacy in the South, and do really amazing and difficult work. But it does feel a bit like an uphill battle against state and local governments who are much more comfortable talking about the arts as an unnecessary luxury, and I think we’re a bit more sensitive to it here - where in the cultural imagination of America, the South is still seen as twenty years behind the North. But, in spite of and against these circumstances, we are here and we do some really great work with the tools we have. And I can’t begin to describe the love and support that Texan poets and audiences pour out for each other and for visiting writers. It’s a beautiful and vital thing.

MV: What do you think of the literary scene down here?

It’s such a wide net to cast, but I’ll say it often feels like visiting a best friend from college. We pick up exactly where we left off. I don’t have to brand or market myself, and I don’t have to sell my audience on poetry in the first place. We’re on the same page, and I can yell my weird poetry to a room full of strangers who more or less understand what I’m trying to do with it, and appreciate the risks I’m taking. I don’t mean to understate the influence of the literary tradition and canon in Australia, but I haven’t seen many young artists in Australia taking their cues from what has come before them. 

I feel like Australian and Texan artists are operating inside a similar social framework, and it feels we have permission to try new and uncertain things with our work. Want to play a synthesizer along with your poetry? Great. Want to pour water onto the audience when you’re done reading? Excellent. Stir the pot. From Melbourne to Wollongong and so on, it feels more like anything goes, and it’s in these cities that I’ve felt like I’ve had room to stretch my creative legs, and grow in my own poetry and performance. I’m trying out new things on this tour - namely, performing with a keyboard and loop pedal and video projector – and I find myself referencing past shows in Australia, when I need to drum up the confidence to make these wild ideas happen. I’m really grateful for this, and I’m excited to hear some wildly new work that will hopefully turn the gears of my brain again.

Bill Moran B

Winner of the Salt Lake City 'Literary Death Match', Bill Moran

MV: What have your previous performances and workshops in Wollongong been like, and what are you anticipating this year?

BM: I’ve performed in Wollongong a few times now, and it’s been an absolute gem each time. Lorin, Bella, Kurt, and the rest of the team at Enough Said poetry slam go out of their way to roll out the red carpet for me, and I can’t thank them enough. They know how to treat visiting writers well, and even more so, they work so hard to cultivate a thriving community, and open up a space for new and veteran writers alike to share their poetry. They set a high standard for poetry and poetry events, and I expect to walk out of my Enough Said show in August feeling ten feet tall, yet again.

MV: How did you become acquainted with the SCWC?

BM: Through Lorin, who helps organize the slam and open mics at Jane’s. She’s a superhero! I can’t wait to be back in town, and to get a little glimpse of SCWC and the local writing community outside of the strictly-slam and spoken word crowd. At the very least, it’s more friends I’ll have whenever I maybe, hopefully, eventually move to Wollongong :)

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Bill's upcoming poetry workshop is presented in partnership with Enough Said Poetry Slam, and will take place right here at UOW on 15 August, in 19.G020, from 5.00pm - 8.00pm, and will focus on poetry techniques and theory. The cost will be $25 for SCWC members and $55 for the general public.

The workshop will involve an in-depth look at poetical techniques and prosody, as well as a critical discussion of theory, the writing process, and editing for performative elements. Moran imagines the poem as "not only as a fixed object or artifact of the self, but as a space of becoming, in which we wrestle with the world and the self. We will think through the function of poetry and art in relation to its author, push and poke received myths about poetry's content and form, and generate art that is both performative and transformative."

For more information, or to book your place, please contact the South Coast Writers Centre here.

Written by SCWC

Posted on June 13, 2017