Nationality: Canadian. Born : Calgary, Alberta, 17 April 1955. Education: University of Calgary, 1972–73; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 1974–75. Career: VIA Rail Canada, Customer Services branch, Montreal, 1976–95. Since 1996 freelance editor, writer, and translator. Contributing editor, Raddle Moon, Vancouver, 1998. Awards: National Magazine award (gold), 1983; Pat Lowther Memorial award, 1985; Governor General's award for poetry, 1988; National Magazine award (silver), 1994. Address: c/o The Writer's Union of Canada, 24 Ryerson Avenue, Toronto M5T 2P3.
Empire, York Street. Toronto, Anansi, 1979.
The Whisky Vigil. Madeira Park, British Columbia, Harbour, 1981.
Wanted Alive. Toronto, Anansi, 1983.
Domestic Fuel. Toronto, Anansi, 1985.
Furious. Toronto, Anansi, 1988.
WSW (West South West). Montreal, Vehicule Press, 1989.
Sheepish Beauty, Civilian Love. Montreal, Véhicule Press, 1992.
The Green Word: Selected Poems. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1994.
Search Procedures. Toronto, Anansi, 1996.
A Frame of the Book. Toronto, Anansi, 1999.
Pillage Laud. Toronto, Moveable Type, 1999.*
Manuscript Collection: National Library of Canada, Ottawa.
Critical Studies: "Changes the Surface: A Conversation with Erin Moure" by Robert Billings, in Waves (Richmond Hill, Ontario), 14(4), spring 1986; by Dennis Denisoff, in Canadian Writers and Their Works, edited by Robert Lecker, Jack David, and Ellen Quigley, Toronto, ECW, 1995; Search Proceures: Carnivalization in Language-and Theory-Focused Texts of Four Canadian Women Writers (dissertation) by Eugenia Sojka, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1996; "Amen, She Said: The Language of Religion/The Religion of Language in Erin Moure and Lola Lemire Tostevin" by Karen I. Press, in West Coast Line, 32(25), spring 1998.* * *
Erin Mouré's poetics, strongly feminist and deconstructive, work to disrupt the status quo and dismantle systems that perpetuate stasis. Although this is evident in early collections, her later poetry goes further in its subversion of the normative structure of language. By so breaking up the "surface of sense," Mouré's poetry allows previously repressed voices to come through and speak against social strongholds of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Part of the process is syntactic, whereby she questions the validity of "correct" linguistic form by privileging a previously suppressed or submissive form. In Furious, Mouré exemplifies this by focusing on the preposition as a central figure of syntactic construction, as, for example, in "Rolling Motion":
Your face in my neck &
arms dwelling upward face
in my soft leg open
lifted upward airborne soft
face into under into rolling
over every upward motion
rolling open over your
Face in my neck again over
turning risen touch billows
my mouth open enter
dwelling upward face
in your soft leg open
lifted upward airborne soft
face into under into motion
over every upward open
rolling open over
your Face in my neck again
To complement the poems in this collection, Mouré includes a final section entitled "The Acts," which serves partially to document the writing process of particular poems and to describe her technique. On "Rolling Motion" she writes,
It is the force of the preposition that alters place! Can itsdisplacement of the noun/verb dis-place also naming, displacing reality? Even momentarily. Make a fissure through which we can leak out from the "real" that is sewn into us, to utter what could not be uttered in the previous structure. Where we have not been represented, except through Dominant (in this case, patriarchal) speaking, which even we speak, even we women.
Mouré enunciates her feminist project by refusing to accept structures that either reinforce or, at the least, do not question assumptions that privilege the belief system of the dominant order. Part of this process is the reflexive questioning of the poet that focuses not just on obvious power positions but also on the reader's readily made assumptions of the act of interpretation. In WSW (West South West) Mouré "responds" to the poem "Tucker Drugs" with a series of possible readings in "Naming a Poem Called Tucker Drugs," printed on the page facing the poem:
In which we don't know what weather is.
"A poem in which the weather is not mentioned."
"A poem with a dog, a car, a drug store, and a
mother in it."
"A poem in which there is not much weather."
"A poem in which the possible weather is limited by the
presence of a consumer object."
"A poem with a dog in it."
People may make a mistake if you call it this. With
naming being what they are, don't confuse people.
With such a tongue-in-cheek reference—the poet wants to, if not confuse, then seriously question the singularity of vision so often brought to a text—Mouré introduces a sense of plurality to the poem. The suggestion is that under the surface is a surfeit of voices, despite the apparent rigidity of "representation & naming." This rigidity of discourse, and the concomitant hegemonic values assumed by the dominant order, is further questioned in Furious in a pair of poems that play off each other. In the first poem, "Pure Reason: Science," the poet narrates the story of laboratory animals protesting their treatment:
The day the animals came on the radio, fed-up, the electrodes in
beaming, small tubes leading into their brains where chemicals enter,
& the bubbling light from that, the experiment
the washed fur on their faces & in their voice
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog is a comparison
Such already bleak, fantastic humor is effectively blackened, however, when Mouré turns her attention in "Pure Reason: Femininity" to the feminist project and the very real and utterly humorless situation of women in a male-dominated society:
The day the women came on the radio, fed-up, electrodes
in their purses
beaming, small tubes leading into their brains where
the bubbling light from that, neuronic balance, the de/
pression of their inner houses,
washed skin on their faces & in their voice
She belongs to a certain class of women whose profession
is to promote lust is a comparison we reject,
they say to the judge.
While the humor of the first poem does not completely elide the danger inherent in oppressive power, its purpose here is to act as a palimpsest for the painful issue of patriarchal dominance and misreadings. Reading this latter poem, a person is made deliberately aware of the former, and the insinuation is that control and domination are exercised by gender as well as species, perhaps in a far more insidious way.
Through her deconstructive verse Mouré rigorously questions current and accepted political structures, taking them to task for their subjugating power. By playing with polyvocality in her poetics, she sets up a reflexive dialogue with herself and her reader. Mouré's rejection and deliberate complication of conventional narrative structures enable her to create a new vision that empowers those voices traditionally silenced. Hers is a poetics that rails against the dominant in order to effect change, to validate the subjugated, and to dismantle and alter static, unreflexive, and oppressive systems.