How It’s Made: moira j’s Bury Me In Thunder
We’re so happy to have had the chance to look under the hood of moira j’s Bury Me In Thunder, their debut collection, published by Sundress Books. With our How It’s Made series, we endeavor to take away some of that ever-present mystery of how a collection comes to being—in this interview, we learn of how moira’s anaphora of memory, their management of the balance between intimacy and privacy, and their favorite music albums that helped shape the book’s journey.
What were the most joyful moments of Bury Me In Thunder’s journey to publication?
moira j: I tried to find joy where I could. Writing this book was challenging and ultimately finished during one of the most difficult years of my life. I felt new bursts of joy as I would re-edit it, seeing it become clearer on what it was saying, being able to map out these stories in a way that needed to be told. Of course, the day it was accepted I was bursting with joy. My joy is also a process of deep reflection, often I think about the people who appear in this book that are no longer alive. Joy, ultimately, is a complicated experience when my intent was to radically confront fear and find acceptance. And in a way, that brought a joy of its own.
What were the toughest moments you faced while getting the collection to the world and what have you taken away from them?
Of course, there are the submission fees and finances required to try and get a book into the world. However, for myself, a bigger challenge was vulnerability with storytelling. I’m a very private person, I don’t like to share many details of my life or my family outside of close relationships due to trauma I experienced as a child. Writing this book meant I had to create a precarious balance where I could work through the pain within my family and not feel like I was exploiting my people or negating my own boundaries. Safety was one of the biggest factors I kept in mind. How could I heal through the act of release, while protecting myself and the people I care about at the same time? It pushed me to come back to the pieces regularly, to be mindful of how everything read, to examine the intent behind what was created. I wanted the readers to witness the storm without having myself be drowned by it.
An author never really works alone—without whose support would BURY ME IN THUNDER not have made it across the finish line?
There was such variance with the support I had for this book. Of course, my mother and partner were my two biggest champions. My mother, who still hasn’t read any part of the book, is consistently supportive, curious, and enthralled by the process. She said it inspired her to write a book, which she has always wanted to do, and it became a therapeutic activity for her. My partner consistently made sure I had what I needed to be okay while writing this book. Often this meant taking me to where I could reconnect with the land, whether it was a hidden lake or driving me late at night up to the mountains so I could observe the stars over without interruption. There are, of course, the many writers and editors in the community that helped sponsor, edit, and spread the word about this book. I think about the incredible Indigenous writers, creatives, and educators that I looked to as I wrote this, which would be too many to write here but are all listed in the Acknowledgements section of my book. I returned to a sense of respect and thankfulness for all the beings that anchored me during this process.
What did you learn about writing and poetry over the journey of this book?
That as much as the land is not linear, neither will be the process of writing. I discovered the ability to explore geographical memory and emotion. How I could find different parts of myself within these places, where my queerness bloomed and was hidden, the places where I fell in love or connected in ceremony. How my heart is still returning to these places, even riddled with its pain, to find place of remembrance. The anaphora of memory shifts and brings new language.
What was the favorite piece of media or art you consumed while writing these poems?
I’m awful at answering any type of “favorites” question because my answer could differ depending on the exact minute and where Saturn was currently aligned in the universe. My writing routine typically involves listening to music as background noise. When putting together this book, much of what I listened to reflected the emotional states of the manuscript. Soon after I had moved back home to take care of my mother after her stroke, which most of this book is based on, Mount Eerie’s album A Crow Looked at Me was released. Listening to Phil Elverum be so bereft in grief mirrored my own process of grappling with anger, depression, and anxiety around the looming possibility of my mother dying since I was a child and watching her come so close to it again. Other albums I became immensely attached to during the development of this book included Mother of My Children by Black Belt Eagle Scout and Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa by Jeremy Dutcher. I truly cannot get through a song on Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa without crying. The tenderness and love felt from Dutcher towards his ancestors is palpable, it feels as a homecoming to the heart. The other albums I listened to during the development of this book: Crawl Space by Tei Shi, Everybody Works by Jay Som, We Are the Halluci Nation by A Tribe Called Red, Medicine Songs by Buffy Sainte-Marie, A Seat at the Table by Solange, Puberty 2 by Mitski, Anti by Rihanna, and Little Dragon’s self-titled album.
Write for yourself first, prioritize your boundaries and listen to your needs above all else. moira j. is an agender writer of Dzil Łigai Si’an N’dee descent. They are the winner of the 2018 Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize and are Frontier Poetry’s 2019 Frontier New Voices Fellow. Their work has been featured with many publications, including The Shallow Ends, WILDNESS, and Prism International. They currently live in Massachusett, Nipmuc, and Wampanoag land. You can find more of their work at www.moiraj.com.
Write for yourself first, prioritize your boundaries and listen to your needs above all else.
moira j. is an agender writer of Dzil Łigai Si’an N’dee descent. They are the winner of the 2018 Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize and are Frontier Poetry’s 2019 Frontier New Voices Fellow. Their work has been featured with many publications, including The Shallow Ends, WILDNESS, and Prism International. They currently live in Massachusett, Nipmuc, and Wampanoag land. You can find more of their work at www.moiraj.com.