Published November 2, 2011, in MSUM’s, The Advocate
Inspiration comes in many forms – one being poetry. For various students, this literary art form flows freely through their day-to-day lives.
Travis Moore, a senior majoring in English writing, is one of many aspiring poets who is also a full-time scholar at MSUM. Moore, along with several other students, has high hopes of others reading and appreciating his work. Those aspirations are beginning to be fulfilled.
Last March, Moore submitted a few of his poems to the Lake Region Review’s first literary journal. By late July, two of his pieces were selected to be published and Moore was invited to read them aloud to a group of nearly 200 listeners. Moore was the youngest poet selected.
“I felt like I was infiltrating some sort of senior writing guild,” Moore said with a laugh.
The journal aimed at highlighting local writers, mainly from the lakes area, but also highlighted poets from other areas in Minnesota.
“I’m from Fargo,” Moore said, “but I go to school at MSUM, which is a Minnesota school, so it’s kind of spotlighting area talent.”
Mark Vinz, a prominent regional poet and MSUM professor emeritus, spoke during one of the day’s workshops on the importance of place. Another workshop dealt with haikus. The haiku workshop opened a flood of memories for Moore, a haiku being the first type of poetry he had ever written.
“I wrote a haiku about stepping on a leaf and I got so much praise from my seventh grade teacher about it, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m really diggin’ this poetry thing ’cause I’m getting praise from my teacher,’ who I also had a crush on,” Moore said. “The poetry wasn’t even an artistic thing.”
A change in heart, writing
After those first successful, heart-driven cracks at poetry, Moore moved on to writing comics to amuse his friends. It wasn’t until later in high school that poetry would once again enter into his existence. When Moore was almost 19 years old, a traumatic experience proved to change his life and his writing. It carried into his first years of college.
“The catalyst was when my friend committed suicide,” he said. “I just kind of stayed in my dorm room and filled a notebook of poetry. It hadn’t come that easy to me before, but it was kind of the emotional catalytic poetry that comes out of you in times of stress or sad events. Nothing that I would probably want to get published,” Moore said. “Then I started writing poetry all the time after that, and I dropped out of my major, which was to be an agronomist, and became an English major.”
Moore has never regretted the change in occupational directions. Not a day goes by where words are not written down or typed.
“My poetry now is much more emotional. There’s not one central theme. I feel like poetry should also be fun for the reader to read. It can still spread a message if someone’s looking for a message or a meaning.”
The poems written by Moore are thought-provoking and emotionally charged, but humorous tones are dispersed throughout the lines. In one of Moore’s most recent poems, the moon plays a major role.
“It started out as the moon getting drunk on tumblers of dusk. See, it’s just weird,” Moore said. “But people want to read weird stuff, and you have to have a different style nowadays. You can’t just be like, ‘The grass turned blue and I cried because the sun reminded me of you.’ I mean, that stuff has been done already.’”
The purpose: Art or fame
Moore said his main purpose in writing is not solely to gain recognition, but after being a published writer he provided a colorful comparison to explain the excitement and drive one feels from the aftermath.
“It’s kind of like, you go into a pet store with a really wrinkly dollar bill and that’s your poem. You think, ‘Maybe I’ll get a little puppy,’ but you come out with a box full of ponies, and you think ‘Whoa! What am I going to do with all of these?’ All of a sudden you’re going to have to change your lifestyle because you’ve got something you didn’t really expect but you’re going to really enjoy. So, there’s always going to be that striving now to get published again because I do want people to read my stuff,” Moore said.
Many writers say they don’t care about getting published – that they write exclusively for their own amusement and inner completeness. Moore had other theories.
“I think people lie when they say ‘I don’t want to get published,’ or whatever because there’s a certain sense of desire, like a fulfillment you wanna get when you’re creating something,” Moore said. “Like, why do I write my journals and keep them in my closet if I don’t want someone to see them someday? Someday I’ll die and someone will go through them and think, ‘Wow, what a weirdo,’ or whatever, you know? And so, I think any type of art, painting, writing – even if it’s subconscious – it’s like trying to fill a void a little bit. I think artists, writers and sculptors can draw from that emptiness, and that’s how they fill it with this piece. It’s like the puzzle piece that’s filling up something inside of them, and to be recognized is almost like icing on top of that. Once it happens it feels really good.”
The hopes of a poet
His goals change almost daily, but one that does not is Moore’s desire to continue writing – getting his take on the world saved on his computer or written down in the small notebook he always carries in his pants pocket.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to make a living writing poetry. I mean, c’mon. It’s 2011 now. People aren’t going to Barnes & Noble, ‘Did you get the new Travis Moore poetry chapbook?’ I’m not going to be able to sell 100,000 of those,’” Moore said. “I mean, it would be great, but poetry, I think, has a select audience. I want to write no matter what.”
Even though Moore is not expecting national fame, everyone appreciates positive feedback and a few loyal fans.
“To someday have some college kid walking around campus saying, ‘Have you heard about that Travis Moore poet from Fargo?’ and they’ll be like, ‘No.’ That’s all I want is to have that one obsessed person that quotes my poetry when they’re downtown at Dempsey’s.”
Advice for fellow writers
Though Moore himself is a young poet, he had some words of wisdom to bestow upon other writers pursuing their literary goals.
“Write. I really dislike when they’re in love with the lifestyle of a writer and not in love with writing. If you want to be a writer, you have to write,” Moore said. “You can’t just write two good lines of poetry, put it in your back pocket and walk around and be like, ‘Hey, I’m the next Dominique Lowell.’”
“Also, write what you want to write. Sometimes when I’m writing poetry, I’ll revise so much because I’ll be like, ‘Oh, no one’s going to like that and no one’s going to understand that,’” Moore said. “Well, sometimes you just got to be like, ‘No,’ and just leave it.”
Another bit of advice he encouraged is to submit and submit frequently.
“I always submit my stuff to like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and I’m not going to get selected, but it’s just fun to know that a high-up editor is reading some boy’s crap from Fargo,” Moore said. “Be patient and don’t be afraid to spend a lot of time alone with just your notebook or computer. Look around you, use human conversation. Be topical.”
Advice from other student poets
Additional students with published poetry had advice and inspiration to offer fellow composers of language. Kait Moessner, a senior English major with an emphasis in writing, has had a few of her poems published in the Fine Lines literary journal based out of Omaha, Neb. Her advice is to not take rejection personally.
“When they say, ‘No,’ it’s got nothing to do with you or your dog or your common sense or your choice of entree at Olive Garden,” Moessner said. “You’re not a bad writer, they just have a swamping of submissions and yours was probably the last one to get cut. Keep trying around.”
One way for students to begin fulfilling their goals of getting poems published is to begin by submitting to the Yellow Bicycle, a literary journal that is published once a week and highlights MSUM student writers.
One student who has utilized the Yellow Bicycle as a means of getting her work noticed is JaNae Boswell. She has also submitted poetry to online newsletters, like fargomoorheadminority.com.
Boswell accumulates inspiration from daily experiences.
“Life – it’s so beautiful. I think about how hard it can be but how amazing it is because it’s the reason we are all here,” Boswell said. “Life is everything – love, loss, family, friends – just everything. It can be beautiful and it can be ugly, but it’s real and I love to write about it all.”
Do Moore, Moessner and Boswell, among other masters of creativity and wordplay, have a particular reason for writing poetry?
“Honestly, I don’t really have a purpose for writing poetry. It’s who I am,” Boswell said. “I’ve been a writer since I can remember. So if I had to have a purpose it would be freedom because that is what poetry is to me.”
To submit poetry or prose to The Yellow Bicycle, visit TheYellowBicycle.com.
BY MEGHAN FEIR