All for love

Terry Moore

Photo By Larry Dalton

Terry Moore is on a mission—he’s going to make us believe in love again. Armed only with irrepressible confidence and a prolific supply of love poems, he’s vowed to carry love’s message to the jilted and jaded masses. He pays the bills working in genetics at UC Davis, but even on his lunch breaks, he’s writing lines like, “Inside, the flicker turns to flame whenever you’re in view.” Look out, cynical Sacramentans! Cupid is coming for you.

You’ve been writing poetry since 1985. What happened that year to make you a poet?

I wrote a poem for an ex-girlfriend. She showed her friends and her friends loved it. They all asked me for copies. I ended up making about 20 copies of that poem. Once that got out, people starting asking me, “Can you write something else? Something for my mom?” I found it was a good emotional release. All the stuff in my head—I can put it on paper and get it out of my system.

Men are stereotyped as emotionally unexpressive. Do you think that’s true?

I get teased a lot by guys, but then when they get in trouble [with their girlfriends], I’m the first one they come see. They might point and laugh at me, but then it’s, “Hey, man. I need one of those poems.” I think men don’t really express themselves, but I have a hard time keeping it in. It helps me. You have to have something. Some people go to drugs and alcohol and that’s their release. Poetry is my release. I think it’s healthier.

Is all your poetry about love?

My books are 70 percent love poetry. But I don’t want to bore people, so I always throw in something else, something crazy.

How do you get inspired?

Most of my friends are female, so they’re always telling me about their break-ups or what they want. I also think about what I want when I get married and I also use my past experiences, stuff that I couldn’t deal with a long time ago. Now I can put it on paper and somebody else can learn from it. It’s beautiful to me now, all the experiences I’ve had that have taught me so much about love.

You’ve self-published 12 books?

Yes. I didn’t really know how when I started. I just knew I didn’t want to pay a lot of publishers and end up with 1,000 books in my garage. You sell half of that and you’re still in the hole. So I decided to make my own. I found out how to do the binding myself. I thought, “I’ll put out 25. If they don’t sell, oh well. If they do, I’ll make more!” I sold them to Tower Books on consignment and they sold out like hotcakes. I do everything myself. That’s worked for me through twelve books.

How did you become the host of the annual “Brothers to the Sistahs Poetry Reading” at Carol’s Books?

Somebody invited me to come read in it, and I had no idea what it was. It’s African-American men reading poetry to African-American women, but at that time they were reading about all kinds of stuff. You know, “My brother died last year and here’s a poem about it.” I thought the purpose should be different. Last year, I complained so much that the guy who hosts it said, “Why don’t you host it then?” So I’m taking over for the next two years.

African-American relationships suffer. A lot of African-American women are known for having a sassy attitude and African-American men are known for being players. At the reading, we pick 12 men to say, “We’re not like that. We want to communicate with African-American women in a positive way.” We’re going to have balloons, candy, flowers and cards. We’re going to give away our books. We want to make a communication, close that gap and give them something positive that African-American women can say about the men.

You’ve opened for The Temptations and Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind and Fire. Is it difficult to connect with large audiences?

No, because the bigger the crowd, the bigger the applause. When they applaud, it’s a roar. When they laugh, it really gives you energy. A small crowd is where I get nervous because you’re looking at 10 people and they’re looking at you. When they clap, you don’t really feel that energy. Plus, a lot of my stuff is really positive and I want to get the message out, so I’d rather speak to 1,000 people than 20.

Do you ever get heckled?

I’ve done about 150 readings and it’s only happened twice. One time these guys were talking and laughing while I did my routine and I actually stopped my act and said, “I’m trying to do the best I can up here. Can you give me respect?” That made the audience jump on them.

Does being a love poet draw a lot of attention from the opposite sex?

I get a lot of attention, but I try to keep what I do separate from that. If I tried to take advantage of every opportunity I got from my work, I’d be running myself ragged and ruining my reputation. I don’t want to do that.

What is your mission?

I’m hoping to put out a message that love is a beautiful thing and that love can always work, no matter what. … I want to tell people who have been hurt to try to hang in there and stick with it, because love is the most powerful thing on earth. Love should be the most cherished thing we have.