In The Field: Conversations with our Contributors–Michael Kiesow Moore
In The Field is a series devoted to highlighting the writing life and artistic process of our contributors.
1.Tell us about your essay in Volume 20. How did it come to be?
“Manning Up in the 21st Century” is a collection of three short creative nonfiction pieces. With “Metamorphosis” I was thinking about how I was changed over time—especially as a result of being bullied when I was young—to fit culture norms of what it means to be masculine. I sometimes wonder how I would present myself as a “man” today had I not been so molded. While writing about this topic, the incident I relate in “Displays of Masculinity at the Saint Paul Farmers Market” occurred. Everything happened exactly as I relate. Not a single detail is made up.
As all this was landing on the page, transgender issues were becoming more widely discussed, especially laws being passed to force anyone transgender to use bathrooms that only match the gender assigned to them at birth. I have many trans friends, MtF and FtM, and for a brief moment I envisioned what it must be like to stand in their shoes.
2. What was an early experience that led to you becoming a writer?
My first toys were books. The first piece of furniture my parents bought when they were married was a bookshelf, which says something about the priorities I grew up with. My parents also purchased the entire set of “The Great Books of the Western World,” a collection of 54 leather-bound volumes of writing that spanned from Homer’s Iliad to Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Even when I didn’t know how to read, I pulled the books from the shelves and surrounded myself with them. Most boys my age built forts out of sticks and stones. My forts were made out of piles of Aeschylus, Gibbon, and Tolstoy. It was perhaps my destiny to be a writer.
3. How has writing shaped your life?
The aspect of writing that shapes my life more than anything else is the people my writing life brings to me. These are my teachers and mentors, my students and readers, my fellow writers I meet along the way, the audiences who attend the readings I give, curate, or host. The very good friends who now make my life a blessing.
There is nothing in the world more solitary than the act of writing itself. Yet in all the spaces that are off that blank page where writing lands—where human connection happens—there is a lavish paradise filled with marvelous people giving back a hundredfold.
4. What books, writers, art, or artists inspire you and your work?
I am always turning to poetry for inspiration, and the short list of poets I frequently turn to include Federico Garcia Lorca, Tomas Tranströmer, Pablo Neruda, as well as our local luminaries such as Deborah Keenan, Jim Moore, and Thomas R. Smith.
5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?
I just self-published a chapbook called Whimsies, which is a collaboration between myself and my mom.My mom’s art is featured in the book, along with my poetry inspired by each image. I’m finishing my next full-length collection of poetry, and also have in the works a middle grade fantasy novel and children picture books.