In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Lori Anderson Moseman
1. Tell us about your fiction piece in Volume 21, “Double Jack Slip Jig.” How did it come to be?
Moseman “Double Jack Slip Jig” is the opening chapter of a novella, Snippet, that I wrote to inhabit/explore the aftermath of a murder-suicide. Before Google, the only information my family had about my great grandfather’s life in mining camps was an 1857 newspaper which revealed that as a one-year-old, he witnessed his aunt get murdered for refusing a marriage proposal. The spurned miner shot her with a revolver, then finished himself. Pure fiction, “Double Jack Slip Jig” imagines that one-year-old on his 18th birthday. In her introduction to Volume 21, Mary François Rockcastle refers to the language of this short story as “dizzyingly original.” That is because word choices are highly processed. Early drafts were written as prose; then, I broke the sentences into verse, rationing each page to seven stanzas of two lines each. To make those lines more musical, I limited each line to a set syllable count. Editing to meet these formal constraints forced me to clarify the sequence of action and to better parse exposition. It also created a violent concision. Then, I put the text back into paragraphs.
2. What excites you as a writer? What turns you off, makes you turn away or stop reading a piece of writing?
Discovery excites me as a writer and as a reader. I cherish new information or innovative techniques. When I read, I often place more intent on formal structures than on experiencing catharsis. Certainly, I resort to experimental reading if I am tempted to close a book. I will skip ahead or hover somewhere making haikus out of each page. Impatient with one book, I got out colored pencils and started drawing so as to group words into meaningful patterns. Words are inherently exciting. If I am bored, I am not working hard enough. Contemporary poetry practices like “erasure” or collage allow me to treat anything I read like an improvisational score. Jorie Graham once asked me, “Where do you get energy to write?” “From reading,” I said.
3. What was an early experience that led to you becoming a writer?
Do you mean childhood traumas like watching a mother wade waist-deep into a muck pond screaming for her kid, certain water had swallowed him? It had not. Or, watching a kid jump off a cliff and crack his skull open? Right now, I am flashing on my four-year-old self writing my first word (“bob”) in the margins of a Bible my grandmother had given me. Was that supposed to be “God”? To this day, I still flip pot-belly letters. I didn’t dare to write on the blank lines embedded in ornate pages between the testaments, but clearly, I was supposed to someday fill those in. Clearly, all God’s children are supposed to become readers and writers. In my house, books were holy, but not so holy you couldn’t interact with them.
4. Do you practice any other art forms? If so, do these influence your writing and/or creative process?
Art play has been part of my creative process since the 1990s when The Little Magazine went digital. I was part of a pioneer crew of writers at the University of Albany exploring new media. Suddenly, we needed images and sound to accompany our words. At first that art was digitally generated, then I started making art with my hands. You can find my recent Vispo in my book Light Each Pause (see excerpts online at Gramma and Really System). Playing with mixed media and photography creates energy that I can take to my writing even if it is not part of the final product. But the most generative endeavor is to collaborate with professional artists. Check out my recent collaboration with Sheila Goloborotko at the Talon Review. Goloborotko is working with me on Snippet; in a skype session, I read a chapter aloud and she draws. Within days she has artwork for the book.
5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?
Because Snippet is fiction, I need a textual space in which to process all my research that doesn’t add up to a story. I am constructing a hybrid book, FED, that examines the settler colonialism and ongoing environmental degradation that my ancestors (and I) participate in. A kind of bricolage, it weaves family artifacts, cultural propaganda, and book critiques. The setting of Snippet—the landscape my ancestors invaded— is home of the Newe (Western Shoshone) and Numu (Northern Paiute). Some of the mines my ancestors labored in and land they farmed were encompassed by the Project Faultless Atomic Explosion Site north of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. Did you hear the Department of Energy just secretly shipped a half ton of weapons-grade plutonium? Two books I am currently reading for this project The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez and Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.