In Their Natural Habitat – Robert Moore
A little over two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Moore. Having never taken an English course in University, meeting Robert through his wife, Judith, was my first introduction to him. Thank goodness… he probably would have thought differently of me after reading one of my term papers.
Last Friday I dropped by Robert’s home on Autumn Street. I interrupted his reading time.
Keeping with the theme of creatives living and working in Saint John – Here’s Case No. 7. Robert Moore in his Natural Habitat.
Hi Robert! Tell me about yourself and what you do.
Hello Barb! Professionally, I’m a professor of English at UNBSJ, and have been since 1990. My areas of specialization are American poetry and prose, film, creative writing, and literary theory. I’m also a poet, which naturally accounts for the bulk of my income (irony alert). I also do an occasional stint as an actor (you may know me from such deathless commercials as “How am I going to pay for my retirement now?”) and a director for Saint John Theatre Company. I’m also co-owner and Chief Taste Control Officer for TUCK (irony alert #2), a design studio Judith Mackin and I opened in SJ last fall.
This may sound odd, but I really don’t think any of the above describes my ‘self’ in any meaningful way. I bet if you woke me up in the middle of the night with a flashlight in my face demanding an explanation of who I am I’d say I’m a reader. And I’d say that because it’s what I do for the better part of most days. Right now, for example, I’m reading a book by the poet Denise Riley,The Words of Selves, which, coincidentally enough, concerns the problem of saying ‘I’ with any confidence or authority. This is Riley quoting Hegel on the self: “Everyone is a whole world of representations, which are buried in the night of the ‘I’.” Isn’t “buried in the night of the ‘I’” a terrific image? I must steal it. Night of the Eye would make an excellent book title. Wait, I’m going to google it. (Pause) It’s still available. Yesss!
What is the main function of your work?
The main function of the work I do depends on what I’m doing. When I’m teaching, my job is to instill passion and respect for literature; to embody for my students what it means to lead an examined life. As a poet my function is to reinvent myself every time the blank page and ‘I’ close to grips; to treat creative writing as a blood sport. When I’m acting or doing voiceover work, it’s to make everyone love me.
Who is your typical client?
I’m not sure I have clients per se. I do have students, editors, readers, fellow actors, audience members, and the odd customer (the latter only if I’m caught in the Studio alone and there’s no one else available to serve them). If I had to generalize about that entity you’re calling a client, I’d say that what makes them typical is their curiosity. Much of what I do falls under the rubric of performance; I spend a lot of time in front of audiences of various kinds. What makes this sometimes fraught work worthwhile is my assumption that I’m engaged with humans who are as curious about life as I am.
What is the coolest thing to have happened to you in the past year?
The very coolest thing was the birth of my first grandchild, Jack. Second coolest was the launch of my fourth book, The Golden Book of Bovinities. Third coolest was opening TUCK in our fabulous new home. Fourth coolest was going on a half-year sabbatical. Come to think, it was a densely cool year.
What’s a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me these days involves about six hours of reading and two hours of writing, beginning about ten minutes after breakfast and ending about 5 p.m., at which point the mouth of the wine bottle begins to whisper my name. Mind you, I’m on sabbatical, so I’m under an obligation to read and write at a greater rate than when I’m teaching. Evenings tend to be fairly social, married as I am to a woman who’s held the All-Maritime title of “Extrovert of the Year” for sixteen consecutive years.
How can people stay in touch?
The question very generously assumes that people would want to stay in touch. I’m on facebook, at least for the time being, and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I dislike the phone, so if you call and I happen to pick up (probably because the Extrovert of the Year isn’t home) our conversation will be as brief as good manners allows. Email is by far my preferred medium.