Born in Calgary, Alberta, Erin Mouré is a the author of 14 books of poetry. Her poems are philosophical and challenging, and they are often informed by her work as a translator from French, Spanish, Galician, and Portuguese. She has received the Governor General’s Award, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the A.M. Klein Prize, and has been a three-time finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize. Mouré lives in Montreal.
Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager that you remember well?
Yes, I read a lot of poetry in high school. We had an anthology of poetry called Impact, published in Toronto by J. M. Dent & Sons in 1968. It held works by Canadian, American, and British poets, mostly men. Randall Jarrell’s “The Truth,” Stevie Smith's “Not Waving But Drowning,” and Kenneth Patchen’s “The Orange Bears” (!) were among my favourites.
Sometimes you can find the book used…
It’s really worth owning. When I die, I hope at my farewell party people will read the book out loud from beginning to end! It doesn’t matter that nothing by me is in it… it is just such a great book, and that poetry exists is, well, so amazing!
When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?
When I learned to write as a small child, I tried writing some poetry, as I liked Mother Goose a lot. I wrote poems in rhyming quatrains and made them into books cut out of paper grocery bags and bound by hand. I have never really thought of myself as a poet, but as being employed by poetry. Though sometimes I do call myself a poet. I think of myself as a writer and translator, and as an allergic person.
What do you think a poet’s “job” is?
To delve in language, and let words adjoin. And make space for others who are doing the same, and in as many languages as there are in the world.
What inspired you to write "Homage to the Mineral of the Onion (1)"?
It is part of a series of poems that are homages to the ingredients of borscht, the Ukrainian national soup, but written in Galician, the language of folks who live in the NW corner of Spain. They were only translated into English later. As such, “Homage to the Mineral of the Onion (1)” is actually a translation of a poem. Translations of poems are still poems, but are different.
If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?