Interview w/ Poet Bethany Moore
Recently, I got a chance to interview Bethany Moore about her works of poetry. Bethany is a Denver based poet who recently published two books of poetry. Hope you enjoy this format, and be sure to let us know what you think of it, on Twitter and Facebook @wordswithwayman
When did you get your start in poetry and how did you find it?
I’ve been writing poetry since I was a really young child, and thankfully I feel I’ve improved in my style and technique over the years! It was one of the ways I entertained myself as an only child, in addition to writing and singing songs and dancing and other theatrics. I’ve always been one of those expressive types.
I remember writing little stories in Kindergarten, and later being strongly encouraged by my 5th grade teacher in Southern Maryland of Hollywood Elementary School, Ms. Betty Brady, to pursue seriously writing poetry. As a teacher and member of the community, she was a great leader for literary programs like poetry festivals in our school. I was so impacted by her encouragement in elementary school that I remember her influence all these years later, and I included her in my dedications in my second poetry book, “Weather Magick”.
Thanks to the magic of Facebook, we’ve been able to stay in contact after all these years (I was her student in 1992–1993) and she was so pleased to hear I’m still writing and that I’ve published some of my work. I sent her a copy in the mail recently, too, and it was a nice feeling to see that kind of positive influence come full circle in a way after, oh, twenty-five years.
Throughout high school, I was all about the after-school poetry club, which we all referred to as “The Writer’s Society” — and yes, we were certainly a crew of eccentrics and misfits. Then, in my early twenties, I participated in open-mic poetry events in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C., for many years. I lived in Portland, Oregon, for a stint in 2009–2011 and enjoyed checking out open-mic readings and even hosted a couple of “Retro Speakeasy”-style poetry and jazz events during my time there. For the last three years here in Denver, Colorado, I sometimes hit the mic on Sunday evenings at the Mercury Cafe and other venues like Mutiny Information Cafe.
Poetry has always manifested as a quintessential part of who I am in my identity all along, to be honest.
You’ve released two books of poetry lately “The Cicada and the Firefly” and “Weather Magick”, how did these books come about and why now?
It was always my intention to publish my collection of poetry from throughout the years I’ve been writing, at least since I was an adult. Last year, in January, I finally set a goal to publish my first collection on or before my birthday in late September. So I researched online self-publishing tools and settled on Amazon’s CreateSpace platform and began going through my collections and formatting the pages.
It was the end of March last year in 2016 when I got very sad news about a close friend of mine that I’d known since I was fourteen years old. His name was Benjamin Johnson, Benny, and he was very influential on my life as a kind of soulmate. Unfortunately, he struggled with demons such as drug addiction, and met his untimely death last spring when he was struck by a car. Honestly, this was the first time someone close to me had passed away, and I grieved deeply for quite awhile. During the grieving process, I dug up every poem and journal entry I could find that referenced my feelings for Benny, or our experiences together, over many years, dating back to when I was a teenager. I compiled them and formatted them into their own collection as a way to honor him and our relationship together. It was important to me to prioritize this collection first. I published by mid September. My soul had to release it out to the universe. Because of the nature of how he came in and out of my life, which you can read about intimately, you’ll understand the reference to insects in “The Cicada and the Firefly: a study of love and insects” when you read through the storyline in real-time poetry and prose.
As for second book published on October 31, 2016, titled, “Weather Magick: a collection of poetry and witchcraft”, it is a selection of 31 poems from my general collection, which you’ll find references to nature, both serene and disastrous, and the emotional turmoil involved in growing up and maturing in a world of life, love, and spiritual journey. I reference ritual and alchemy, and other Pagan concepts are easy to find in my writing if you’re an adept. As this writing is an outlet that helps with my spiritual and mental balance, it’s just as important to share this writing with others as it is to produce it for my own catharsis to begin with. I hope and wish that this display of my journey, the joy and pain and everything between, provides a realm of understanding and language for others seeking to know that they’re not alone in this world.
Who are your poetic influences?
My quick three responses are Emily Dickensen, Sylvia Plath, and Dorothy Parker. I also find myself inspired by Margaret Atwood, and then a dive back into the works of the Sufi poet Rumi. When I was younger, back in Ms. Brady’s fifth grade class, I remember being greatly inspired by the work of Langston Hughes.
How do you write? Do you have a time of the day that you are most productive or do you wait till it comes to you?
It’s difficult for me to write at home, actually, so I find myself at coffee shops and local brew pubs to get that time out of my daily routine and usual pattern of function in order to get the headspace to reflect and write in my handwritten journals. So, weekday evenings at pubs, for sure, and weekends give me more flexibility for the coffee shop writing sessions. Bonus if the weather is nice and I can sit outside for the writing process.
How does being a witch influence your poetry?
Being a witch influences my writing more and more as I accept it as not only a part of who I am, fully embracing this part of me while being brave against a world that may not understand me, and also allowing my poetry to channel the voice of the witch without fear or perhaps concern that the symbolism or concepts won’t translate to the general public. I’d like to think that those who gather Pagan spiritual concepts will recognize those patterns and references in my writing, but also that those who aren’t adept in such practices will still be moved and perhaps intrigued by the archetypes and metaphors presented enough to find inspiration.
How do poets look at the world differently from other people?
I can’t speak for other poets, but for me, I know I feel this world, every experience, every insecurity, every possibility, every dynamic, more intensely than most in this world. For those of us who need to express ourselves and be heard, to bear witness to the complicated suffering of this world; words, prose, and poetry is our gospel to the universe.
How did you find and begin to practice paganism as a child?
The short answer is that I was an odd child who found the cool part of the bookstore in Barnes and Noble at an early age. I was easily interested in subjects like astrology and faery lore and animal magic by the age of ten or so. By age twelve, I was reading books on more intermediate subjects like Celtic magic and crystal healing and the Tarot, mostly a self-taught solitary student, though by age fourteen, I started working and studying at the local Wiccan shop in my small rural town that opened up called ‘Keepers of the Moon Garden’, and there I was mentored under the wing of the shop owner, Theresa, and thus began my more formal and serious study of Paganism by a state-recognized circle. My parents were, thankfully, very supportive. My father does woodworking as a skilled hobby and even built my spiritual altar which has a dark-wood inlay of a pentacle on the surface. I am blessed to have had such support when so many of my peers were being rejected by their families and loved ones for their ideas and beliefs along the Pagan path.
What do you want your books to do for people?
This is a great question to consider. Somewhere between the exhibitionist expressive artist, and the confessional, sometimes commanding mystic, I suppose I simply wish to share my experience as fully and wholly as I can with anyone who seeks to commiserate or feel they are not alone in this complex human existence. Perhaps to learn from my pain and my experience, so that others can maybe suffer a little less.
Have you ever performed your poetry in front of people? And if so, how did it feel to perform words you wrote to an audience?
Yes, many times, in many capacities, and I still feel that nervous reaction each time I begin, blushing cheeks and quivered-voice, worry of sounding ridiculous or worse, but I’ve continued to be brave and follow my truly fiery inner need to share my words with the world, so I power through, sweaty forehead and all. The reward begins with the release, and then anyone who relates to you therein gives you reassurance on occasion. The most important part, however, is that you are brave and give your voice the volume of sound it deserves.d
Denver is getting more and more expensive, is it hard to be a creative person there these days? Are you full-time poetry or do you work a day job?
Yeah, definitely, I think about it often and it’s difficult to know where the benefits of the rental versus ownership market lands for most of us here. I proudly and very gratefully have been a full-time employee of the National Cannabis Industry Association since January of 2014 where I do communications, media, and public relations projects. It’s a non-profit trade association, so I don’t make big corporate bucks, but I do make a decent living and love working hard in an industry where I have roots in the activist movement before it even really became an industry. There are good people shaping the roots of the cannabis industry, and as a healer and activist, doing this work is greatly rewarding in my path. I enjoy multimedia production, managing website content, managing and hosting our weekly podcast, and working with video content, so that allows me a path of creative expressiveness in my routine work, which is pretty exciting.
My career in non-profit political and social justice issues as well as my personal activism and artistic endeavors have kept me busy through the years, and I certainly prefer it that way. “Idle hands…” and so on, perhaps. So I do my best to make time to show up at open-mic nights when I can, and I am planning more opportunities to reach out to various venues and book stores to share my work. It’s so cool to see the culture of Denver in particular with the cornerstone neighborhood bookstores that create welcoming environments for local authors to participate in the literary economy.
So I’m selling poetry books independently as an artistic revenue income stream in my spare time. I self-publish through Amazon’s CreateSpace. Through that platform, the revenue percentages that I see are about half the retail price the author or creator assigns. Author’s copies can be ordered for a reasonable charge which allows for direct personal sales, though shipping charges apply. There’s math involved, and it basically comes down to an occasional flux in a boost of sales which gives me a nice few dollars of sales here and there. But I’m also issued tax-related forms from these sales which are accounted for when I file my yearly taxes.
But there you are, marketing yourself, responsible for all your sales and taxes when ordered online. It’s just one avenue to get one’s art out there, knowing the risks and losses and work involved. But I just couldn’t wait anymore. It was time for me to publish. It was overdue, so I made a resolution to do it, and I did. I set out to publish one book of poems, and as it turned out, I published two. And it feels right.
Five years from now, best case scenario, what does your life look like?
I appreciate the gravity and hopefulness of this question so much. I’ve been blessed to have on my resume several roles throughout the years as I grew at companies and organizations that have facilitated great change and impact on our society in America, and perhaps beyond. And in my growth as a person and spiritual being, advocate, activist, artist, and whatever else I think I am, I just hope to continue to find roles and opportunities where I can have an impact for the greater good. I know I’m an odd duck, a strange bird, but I think most people by this time in my life understand what I stand for and what kind of help and strength and offerings I have to give. I just want a role in five years where I can give all my best talents and skills and strengths into some greater good. I’d also like to see more progress toward my goals of “house, hound, husband, and happiness.”
Where can people find your stuff on the internet?
Well, I’m active on most social media including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and I’ve also created a Facebook author page specific to my poetry publications. I’m very active, I always have been, on social media and I do post about my professional role in the cannabis industry as well as my Pagan-centric spirituality. It’s in my nature as a communications and media person, as well as an artist and activist through the years. So, to find me on most social media platforms, I go by ‘Beatnik Betty’. And I love to connect with friendly like-minded artists and activists.
I’d also love if folks interested in supporting my poetry by purchasing my publications would please find them on Amazon.com.
Thanks so much for allowing me to share my work with your audience. My message is that there are many of us out here that want to create a better world, who wish for healing and transformation, and you are not alone. Just as I seek my particular flavor of love and purpose, I hold sacred space, and know of many who hold sacred space at this time as well, with all pointing toward a greater reality. Now is the time when we must find each other and connect and share now more than ever before.
Be well, and Blessed