Indigo Moor, Sacramento’s new poet laureate


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Indigo Moor, poet, playwright and author, was recently named Sacramento’s poet laureate—a title he will hold for the next three years. Moor’s poetry authorship includes the books Tap-Root and Through the Stonecutter’s Window—which won Northwestern University Press’s Cave Canem prize. Moor has a third book, In the Room of Thirsts & Hungers, which will be published in July. Moor is also an accomplished playwright and musician—his musical weapon of choice being the upright bass. A North Carolina native transplanted to Sacramento since 1999, Moor has been making his mark on the local scene and beyond.

How does it feel to be named poet laureate of Sacramento?

Luckily, I have a lot of time to think about it, it’s not something that comes out of the blue. The stake is up. At first, you’re wondering, “Is this something you can handle?” Because it’s not as if there’s some set rules or things that you have to do. You come up with your plan and what you’d like to present … after you get it, the first thing I believe everyone would probably say is, “What the hell have I done? Am I even going to live up to what they want of me, or require of me?” Because there’s no set way. You go about it based on your own personality and what you feel that you can provide. At this point I feel very comfortable with what I’m providing. Which means I’ll [be] pushing for more at some point and fail miserably. But it’s better to fail miserably and aim high.

What’s it like being a poet laureate during the Trump administration?

It actually has a lot to do with why, especially near the end … why I wanted to do it. I’ve had a very diverse background. At a time like this I think showing how poetry and the literary arts and arts in general are more a part of our lives than a lot of people—and perhaps our current administration—might … think it is. [I’m] reaching out to different organizations and bringing poetry in to help them unify certain things.

Are poetry and politics intrinsically linked?

No. But they can be. Every time you go to a different event you’re choosing what you want to read and what you want to present. If I’m going to a place where I know the people don’t normally listen to poetry, I may be reading poetry about family, and also … reading poetry about war. [Its about] bringing in a human face to many things. … From that I get so many people who will come up—God, I sounded like Trump when I said that, didn’t I?—so many people will come up to me after readings and tell me, “You know, I never really thought about poetry before but now I’m thinking about it more.” And that’s what I’m looking for. To get them to understand that art isn’t just something that a few people are doing, it’s something that’s intrinsic to their lives. It gives them a chance to explain things that they’ve never thought about explaining or never found the words to explain.

Are you still playing bass?

Sporadically, unfortunately. There’s only so much time in the day.

What’s the hardest thing about being a poet in Sacramento?

Sacramento—it’s not as if it’s San Francisco or San Jose or you’re going up from Washington to D.C. I don’t want to say it’s a way station, but it’s far away from everything. Many of my friends, some prominent poets, when they’re talking about going to the West Coast for a tour … they may head out to Nevada City or Tahoe or something, but they don’t think of stopping in Sacramento; it’s on the way to somewhere else. That makes it a little more difficult because you don’t get a lot of the main poets … but it’s an energizing thing when they come here.

What’s the necessity of poetry in 2017?

I have a hard time thinking that anything is really necessary besides food and water, but if we’re talking about poetry itself and why do I feel it’s necessary—it brings about the human nature, the humanity in what we’re doing. It’s so easy to get caught up in, “I have to make a living, I have to maintain safety, I have to protect what I’m doing.” If you repeat that you start losing humanity—the face to all of this, and poetry helps remind us of that.

Are you currently working with any musicians?

Gerry Pineda. Yes, quite often. At the inaugural reading he was there. It’s always a blast to get a chance to work with him because we sync very well. What I do is, I’ll make an audio of what I’m going to read in the exact order and I’ll send it to him and let him compose whatever he wants with it. When I get to the reading I have no idea what he’s going to play—but we’ve done this so well together—there’s a trust in it. There’s a wonderful journal of jazz literature and interviews and essays called Brilliant Corners. Of course, it’s named after Thelonius Monk’s Brilliant Corners, and to get in that magazine, that journal, you have to be writing about jazz and to a lesser extent blues. I know there’s more than enough people in this area, and on the West Coast, who have been in that journal, and I’m so looking forward to getting myself and a bunch of others at this jazz place in West Sacramento. We just started Brilliant Corners night once a month where poets and jazz musicians will be playing together … it’s in the works now.