Helen Moore is the award-winning ecopoet and community artist/activist who has recently been appointed the first Bristol Pound Poet in Residence. Her debut collection, Hedge Fund, And Other Living Margins, published by Shearsman Books in 2012, was short-listed for the Poetry Can SW Poetry awards. ‘Earth Justice’, described by Michael Mansfield QC as “an epic masterpiece”, won 3rd Prize in the Second Light National Women’s competition 2013. The poem will be included in her next collection, ECOZOA, which responds to Thomas Berry’s vision of the ‘Ecozoic era’ – this proposes an alternative to the ‘Anthropocene’, which scientists say we have now entered because industrialized human activity is detrimentally impacting every aspect of our planetary system.
Helen’s essays and reviews also appear in a range of international publications; and she has extensive experience in leading writing workshops within continuing education, schools and community arts programmes.
In developing a new artistic sensibility in response to ecocide, Helen has explored other art forms too. In 2011 she directed the Web of Life Community Art Project to raise awareness of mass extinction. ‘Greenspin’, a video-poem made with film-maker Howard Vause, exposes the language of corporate advertising and ‘greenwashing’, and won 3rd prize in the Liberated Words International Poetry Film Festival in Bristol, 2013. FFI: www.natures-words.co.uk
We caught up with Helen at the £B Christmas Drinks last Friday, to find out who she is and what makes her tick.
What will you be doing during your time as the Bristol Pound poet in residence?
A grant from Literature Works Grassroots fund is going to enable me to run creative writing workshops in different parts of the city. In these workshops we’ll use a variety of creative exercises to explore the often socially taboo subject of money and people’s relationship to it. And we’ll also consider the value of the Bristol Pound and the kinds of social and ecnonomic transformation it can achieve.
What’s your favourite thing about being a poet?
I love the variety of my life, the freedom I have to follow my interests and to explore my creative responses to the world around me. But my favourite thing is when someone gets deeply moved by my work – perhaps it articulates something they couldn’t express themselves, or it gives them hope. That means everything to me!
What role could the Arts play in creating a fairer & more sustainable economy?
I think the arts can play a significant role in society generally, but are often terribly undervalued. When austerity kicks in, arts budgets are often the first to be cut, and yet community or participatory arts in particular have so much value in supporting people, in building their self-expression and their self-confidence; and this can then lead them on to contributing more effectively to their communities or to their local economy. The arts also help us to question our values and to explore other ways of being or doing. As an ecopoet, ecological sustainability is my primary focus and I want to use my skills to help others see how the dominant economic mode/”business as usual” is contributing to the terrible harming of our planet and of ourselves. I believe that it’s only a lack of confidence in the capacity of their imaginations that stops people from seeing what a fairer and more life-enhancing world could look like!
What do you most like about about Bristol?
I love the diversity and dynamism of Bristol… there are so many brilliant projects going on, it feels like a radically exciting place to be. Most of all is the sense that it’s cutting edge for green projects, which is evident with Bristol being voted European Green Capital in 2015. I’m really looking forward to contributing to the cultural life of the city in whatever way I can!
And to finish (for now) here is one of Helen’s wonderful poems:
Pale Spock-ear of cotton, a pocket’s always turned inwards; and when creased between hip and thigh, is deaf to all but mumbles. A hand’s span, with one edge curved, the pocket sinks towards a point, where it gathers dross, broken, dysfunctional items, which rarely represent us; the kind of chaff that congregates out of sight of the general public – like arms dealers, corporate lobbyists & government ministers.
Sometimes, whilst doing laundry, I check a pocket hopefully for banknotes. Invariably empty, but with my hand inside, it soon becomes a puppet. Jawing mutely, it goes through the motions of listening, but in the end ignores me. Often a pocket has already been stitched up.
And yet, don’t we all rub along together? From outer space we see the pale cloud, and here and there the holes. If Earth were a fist balled up and thrust in a pocket, the atmosphere would be as thin as that cotton fabric. Our lungs know this. Drawing 20,000 breaths per day, these twin inflatable pockets point towards the element on which they depend.
Oxygen dances in from wherever the wind has blown it. Moments ago these atoms stepped out of a leaf. The air we breathe is shared by Doves, Pigs, Cheetahs. Arms dealers, corporate lobbyists & government ministers.