Poem of the Week: Erín Moure from The Acts


compression. To use a kind of compression, so compressed that the links between the image/phrase break down, but the whole poem still retains its connection.
inter-text. Using and repeating my own and others’ earlier texts. Pulling the old poems thru the new, making the old lines a thread thru the eye of the words I am sewing. Sound & sense. The eeriness.
everyday event. Must take and use the everyday connection between things. Not talking a philosophical language. Watching terminology. Make the compression so hard that it functions as terminology, and I can just use the ordinary words in their street clothes.
physical body. Image of the whole physical body must always be there. Not truncated, not synecdoche, but the physical image speaking directly the entire body at once.


Combining the colloquial expression with the words of intellect. In one poem. To show how when counterpointed it is those colloquial expressions that are contextually the most pure. & at the same time so idiotic we must laugh. This is juxtaposed.

I am tired of the same old interrelated logic of the signs that we insist upon as if it were true. Ain’t true. Truly. True blew.


The slow singing of the evangelicals outside my door, their linguistic intrusion. There are days I want to give up my head. To whom am I being charitable. To whom will I offer it?


It’s the way people use language makes me furious. The ones who reject the colloquial & common culture. The ones who laud on the other hand the common & denigrate the intellect, as if we are not thinking. The ones who play between the two, as if culture is a strong wind blowing in the path of honour. It takes us nowhere & makes me furious, that’s all.


The poems are called Pure Reason.

BECAUSE pure reason in the end is beyond all logic, and beyond the signs. Logic is just something imposed upon reason. It’s one kind of connectedness, that creates points of conjunction and reference that may not be true, & may not have helped us much as human beings in the end (and certainly not as women). From where we are now.

PURE REASON is, of its essence, UNreasonable; it can’t be itself reasoned or it wouldn’t be pure reason. PURE REASON is the source of our reasonableness; our reasonableness (which may or may not be “reasonable”) is its flaw. A leak. An uncontrolled space, at the edge. Where the so-called “purity” is already broken.


PURE REASON would be the source of Intelligibility, and Cause too. It must have to do with love, at its root. No matter how it is obliterated after that.


The perfect flatness of ordinary language, our ordinary saying of it, radio & electrodes, to use this flat surface to open the deep emotional current that lies just beneath its surface, that some people deny because the surface is so flat.

This emotional current is pure reason. Before reasoning. Before the word “reasoning”, which is only a social convention and has nothing to do with pure reason at all. It contains the ordinary flat language, but not necessarily the converse. The ordinary language is just a surface pushed up & flat from underneath. This surface is not “content” in the same way that we normally use the word “content”. It can be form, as well.

How in the poem the animals hold the emotional current and are a vessel for it, carrying it through two time zones. Because the poem is not about animals at all, but about the fantasies of the audience, and this content lies under the flat surface of the poem. So that the surface content is actually a form for the real emotional “content” of the poem. 


To do this again. To keep this door open & my hands in it, writing. Making the voice speak what the hands have already spoken. The embrace, before the utterance. 




We’re talking about two different things. Taking a lot of common locutions & using them over & broken in the piece, the sound of them being important, and the sense not at all. Because everyone knows what they mean & refer to. The poem doesn’t have to defer.


As in what ancient ways: the opening up of sense perception is an opening of the powers to heal. Referentiality distorts more than it conveys, it injects us with the comfortable. I crave instead images that “act within a context but do not refer to it” (Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred).



Then if the surface haunts me. If there is name surface then what else is there. Is what is “different” from the surface depth or is it another surface. The language imposes dualism on our thought. Which must be broken, so to, speak. How when the line is written there is blank page below, into which the signs are moving.

Can I, in writing the next line, refuse what haunts me on the surface of the page, with its easy affirmation. Be lyric. In my image. In my image. Forty lifetimes in the desert with the mouth pushed shut…  


The emotional “depth” under the surface is NOT the culture that occupies the page, inherited from the visible only. It is behind that. Either we pass behind or are we excellent beings.  


Or sexual. If our “depth” is choked at the surface, becomes a sexual problem. Lady MacB. saying ye gods unsex me now. Where our female sex is without consequence we must cast it off to act, to speak. Or wear the cast the culture offers us:  the surface of the page. 

The blind calf with the membrane over its head, tottering in the darkness, the wall of the house near it, it feels the warmth of indoor heating. The membrane choking in its mouth, should it choose to eat it? Its mother still labours, giving birth to its twin. Smaller, lighter, shrivelled. If the blind calf lives it is because it learned inside its mother to take that space from its own twin. Inside the womb. Where it was so dark, does it ever need vision again?

–Erín Moure


1-6 of “The Acts” is taken from Erín Moure’s essential collection, Furious, House of Anansi Press 1988. Published here with permission from the author & press. You can also find a selection of “The Acts” in Planetary Noise, Selected Poetry of Erin Moure edited by Shannon Maguire and published by Wesleyan University Press. Check back in the new year for a review of that book.

You can also find poems and essays by and about Erin Moure in our archives.

Laura Broadbent reads Erin Moure

Erín Moure: Кaпycтa / Kapusta

Erin Moure reads Nicole Brossard

Erin Moure reads Lisa Robertson

Geneviève Robichaud in Conversation with Erín Moure

Top Ten Things Wrong With NP’s Critique-let of Erin Moure