In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Rachel Moritz

by | May 21, 2019

1. Tell us about your essay, “Memory Palace,” from Volume 21. How did it come to be?

I wrote “Memory Palace” to explore my experience of teaching poetry to older adults with memory loss, as well as the way memory has shifted in my own life through parenting a young child. I wanted to pay tribute to some of the individuals and life stories I’ve witnessed in teaching—their grace and sheer presence. At the same time, my neurological wiring has changed dramatically through parenting (and middle age). Time feels different. So many memories and former selves have long disappeared. The essay is one way of reaching this question of how we say goodbye to others, and to ourselves. And what we embrace by letting go.

2. What excites you as a writer? What turns you off, makes you turn away or stop reading a piece of writing?

I read primarily poetry and nonfiction. In both, I’m excited by lines or sentences that bring the writer’s consciousness into sharp relief, as well as the human and natural world. I’m drawn to slant and strangeness. What turns me off? Melodrama. Lack of awareness of political or social contexts beyond yourself. Narrative only. Too much positivity or closure.

3. How does the current political climate influence your art or creative process?

I wish I could say I feel emboldened by late stage capitalism, the extremes of climate chaos, or the cruelty of our current administration, but I’m more aware than ever of how little one voice matters. I write less. Perhaps another way to say this is: I know it’s more important than ever to fight the power with creativity and spirit, but I’m also aware of this hall of mirrors aspect of American life right now. I think we’re all talking too much, and about ourselves. I aim for hope and balance. I’m also working on daily practices to get off my screens and into the (remaining) natural world we have left–whether that’s my neglected garden or a single tree on our city boulevard. I think that world desperately needs us to pay attention and wake up. And getting off a screen feels like the ultimate creative act for me right now.

4. What books, writers, art, or artists inspire you and your work? Do–or have–you had any mentors in your writing life?

Inspirations change with my reading list! This month, I’ve been inhabiting Richard Wright’s Black Boy, Ed Bok Lee’s Mitochondrial Night, Brian Teare’s Doomstead Days, and Amy Fusselman’s The Pharmacist’s Mate. Poets Deborah Keenan, Mark Nowak, G.E. Patterson and Elizabeth Robinson have been particularly generous teachers or mentors, as have the peers who’ve inspired or held me accountable to a regular writing practice.

5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?

I have a poetry manuscript and a prose chapbook under development. I’m probably writing about the same thing in both: how to be a good relative to my ancestors (the past) and to my son (the future).

Visit Rachel’s website, and check out My Caesarean: Twenty-One Mothers on the C-Section Experience and After, a collection of personal essays which Rachel co-edited, recently published from The Experiment.

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