The Undisciplined Poet: An Interview with Moira Walsh

An interview by Anam Tariq

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, Anam. Thanks for your patience in finding a time to connect. I was born in Michigan, near
the Motor City (Detroit). Now I live in the metro area that’s home to Mercedes-Benz, Porsche,
and Maybach. The funny thing is, I’ve never even owned a car. I don’t drive. As for writing, I
guess I’ve always been a writer in some way. I feel most comfortable expressing myself in
writing. I don’t keep a journal, but I do write ‘decentralized’ observations, reflections, and
stories: on postcards, in the occasional letter, and in poems.

2. Can you tell us more about your poetry collection Earthrise? What themes have you explored in it?
I want you to read it, then tell me [laughs]. A few months ago, a dear friend wanted to know
what Earthrise is about, and my response was: “I hate that question, but since you asked: It’s
about living well with depression.” She and I both have experience with the illness. So my
answer was for her, specifically. There are as many themes in my book as you can find. Each reader completes each poem in their own way, bringing their whole inner life – their yearnings, aspirations and associations – to the lines on the page. That’s why I dislike talking about the book. I want readers to make their own discoveries. Then we can sit together and talk about the form, the language, and what it evokes in us.

Hint: Readers could examine the cover and the title, and the order of the poems, the poem titles, the formal elements. Ideally, they will find themselves writing their own poems [laughs].
Seriously, that would be the biggest compliment. The biggest joy. Real success!

3. Can you tell us about your writing rituals?

I write sporadically. But when I write, I write a lot. It just pours out of me. This summer I
returned to Michigan for the first time in six years and visited a writer I admire. I hadn’t seen
him for ages, and the last time we met, I was not yet calling myself a poet. It was a huge relief to
hear that he also has no rhythm or ritual. We now call ourselves The Undisciplined Poets

4. What are the best and hardest parts of writing?
The best part is simply writing a lot, freely, without any expectations or deadlines, when I feel the need to write. And the hardest part is feeling the urge to write poetry but being too tired from
my day job, or too distracted by media.

5. What are the things that spur your imagination?
The small and large existential questions. Light through leaves, water in every form, being in
love. Wanting to get to the root of a difficult situation. Plants, insects, music, food. Anatomy. Autonomy. All that good stuff.

6. What was the process of getting your book published? Was it a challenge?
Working with Penteract Press was fun, freeing, respectful, and satisfying! The previous years were a different story. From 2020 to 2022, I garnered a total of 128 rejections for a bunch of different poetry manuscripts. Zero acceptances.
I made Earthrise in 2022, specifically for Penteract’s open reading period, and I only submitted it twice (to them, and to the lovely Osmosis Press). By the way, Penteract Press no longer accepts unsolicited manuscripts, but please do follow and support them. I’m also a guest on the
Penteract Podcast: Series 3, Episode 2. Check that out, too!

6. In your opinion as a poet, what is more important — to get your book of poems out or to get published in more and more lit. mags.?
Do you want my earnest answer? The most important part is whatever brings you joy. For most writers, that’s writing. Writing – not necessarily publishing! But if you want to engage with any part of the publication world, you’ll need to find a way to enjoy the push-pull of failing and trying again. And again. And again. Finally, if you stay persistent, you will start to fail better (to
paraphrase Beckett). Maybe you’ll make a sport of it, using the gut-punch of rejection to bounce back and move towards your goal, whatever that may be.

7. Would you like to give some tips to aspiring poets and writers?
If you are looking for validation, adoration, fame, ask yourself why. In my experience, “getting published” may scratch that itch, but it certainly won’t heal it.
If you want to feel less lonely, find your people, your community. Start today. Read lots of different authors, cast your net wide. When you find the writers that grab you, dive deep. Research their lives and contemporaries. Don’t forget, you can reach out to living authors directly. Tell them what you enjoyed, what you discovered. Offer to interview them. Make sure your library carries their books. Write thoughtful reviews and submit them to lit mags. Your circle will grow and you’ll connect with a larger world of beauty-seekers, truth-tellers, art-
makers. Finally, take your time. Getting published (or deciding to publish your own work) takes energy
and courage. It is a threshold moment in which you declare, “I have something to say, and I want to share it with you.”

Moira Walsh, originally from Michigan, makes her home in southern Germany. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Earthrise (Penteract Press, 2023) and, with Wilfried Schubert, Do Try This at Home (Femme Salvé Books, 2024). Moira’s poems can be found in Bennington Review, Hanging Loose, Poetry Northwest, and Stone Circle Review. A founding member of Kollektief Dellgart, she has co-translated work by contemporary poets Olja Alvir, Ken Mikolowski, Mariia
Mykytsei, Halyna Petrosaniak, and Maë Schwinghammer.

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