Tuesday, November 27, 2012

sixteen: rachel moritz

Rachel Moritz is the author of Night-Sea (2008) and The Winchester Monologues (2005), both from New Michigan Press. A third chapbook is forthcoming from Albion Press in 2013. Her poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Aufgabe, Cannibal, Colorado Review, Iowa Review, TYPO, and Volt. Rachel edits poetry for Konundrum Engine Literary Review and publishes WinteRed Press, a Minneapolis-based chaplet series.

Tell us about your relationship to your art.

I’ve always written, since I was a little girl. However, writing poetry began with seriousness in my early twenties. It continues to be my most passionate engagement.  I find myself more alive and more fulfilled when I’m regularly writing poems. I suppose it’s a spiritual practice, along with trying to love people well, stay in the present as much as possible, etc.

What's a project (yours or another's) that has been exciting you lately?

At the moment, there are many poetry books on my to-read list; I’m way behind. But in my own work, I’ve been tinkering with picture book stories and taking a break from poems. It’s fun to try my hand at a new genre, and also, to view the books I’m reading with my two-year-old son as a continuation of my writing life. This experiment may not lead anyway; still, the chance to be a beginner again feels enlivening.

Tell us a little of your motherhood journey.

My motherhood journey has not been simple. I always wanted to have a child, but found myself at age 30 in a relationship with a woman, which changed the course of this path. My partner wasn’t planning on parenthood; it was a conflict we navigated for several years. I was 37 when I gave birth to Finn, and though this was a dearly sought after dream, the process was complex. I resisted many aspects of the journey, and I regret that. But resistance seems to be part of the parenting experience. As is learning to accept that I dislike many things about being a parent, just as I love endless things about my son. Overall, I’m grateful to be Finn’s mother both because I get to know and love him and also have the chance to seriously grow up. Not that parenthood is necessary for this, but it’s definitely whipping me into shape.

What are some crucial elements of your process?  How has that changed since having children?

I’m not sure that my process has changed much since having Finn, except that I write less frequently. I’ve also found that short solo retreats have been necessary to draft substantial new material. And I’m probably even more of an unconscious writer; I often don’t know what’s there until I sit down at the blank screen (or notebook).

What are some of the ways your family and your art interact?

My partner is a writer, too; we divide up our weekends so both of us have creative time, and we use the upstairs apartment of our duplex as studio when it’s not rented out. This means that Finn is used to spending time with one or the other of us, and sometimes it’s sad not to have family weekend activities. But if I didn’t have an uninterrupted half-day of solitude every week, I wouldn’t write. I also know that I’d feel like I was going nuts. So I’ll take it!

Do you find your attitude towards your art might be different because of your parenting / has it changed since you became a parent?

I suppose I acknowledge more the importance of solitude for my creative practice, and for my life. I understand in a really practical way how difficult it remains to grow and develop an artist when you’re working to earn money and working at the role of parent. There’s only so much time and energy in one human body. I’m more motivated to figure out, long-term, how to create a life that supports my growth as a writer. How will I “fund” a sabbatical when I’m not a professor, etc.? What do I really want to accomplish as a poet? I find myself more fiercely an advocate of arts funding, of individual fellowships to artists. It’s all just more real. At the same time, I believe that relationships are the most humbling work we undertake in our time here on earth. As much as I value writing, there are many days where it doesn’t seem that important. So I’m trying to keep things in perspective, too.
Are your children ever subjects in your art? 

Finn as a symbolic figure, child, makes his appearance in my poems. I feel that artists generally use and don’t use the literal substance of their work; both seem important, and necessary!

How does travel figure into your art?  Do/did your children come along?  How has that worked out?

When Finn was an infant, we were able to retreat to a few cabins and break up the mornings or afternoons so that one person could write while the other cared for him. This is less doable with a toddler. But when he was 18 months old, we all spent a week in Nova Scotia. One poet/mother whisked him away for a morning while the other person wrote. It sounds blissful, but Finn didn’t sleep well on that trip and we were zombies  most of the time! Still, I’m excited to do more traveling as a family—and travel filled with better rest—as Finn gets older. He loves trips, and I hope we’ll have many adventures during his childhood.

What about promoting the arts with your own children--any fun projects to share?  

Finn enjoys music of all kinds, so we spend a lot of time singing or listening to songs. We read many books; we’ve also enjoyed the wonderful puppet shows at Heart of the Beast Theater (in Minneapolis). I hope our forays into art-of-all-kinds expand as he grows older.

How do you escape?

Reading, walks by the river, a glass of wine with a good friend.

What advice do you have for expectant mothers in your field?

People (at least Americans) are a little pollyannaish about parenting; most people don’t prepare you for how difficult it is. Or, maybe not the difficulty but the intense journey from one state of being to another, and the loss involved.  Find people who will be honest with you. Also, find folks who can support you in practical ways. And for yourself, know that your job—at least for a little while—is as much about acceptance and letting go as striving toward your own goals. I wish I’d been a lot less hard on myself during the first (and now, second) year. I was so tired, and my expectations—not necessarily for things I’d accomplish but for things I wanted to maintain in my life—were too high. If I’d watched even more tv than I did, it would have been just fine. Also, read Adrienne Rich’s, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution!
Just as relevant now as the day it was published.

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