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01 Thurston Moore_Vera Marmelo
Vera Marmelo

Thurston Moore's Crash Course in Poetry

The Sonic Youth frontdude has been quietly brewing a bedlam of sweet, sweet poetry

Huzaah for Thurston Moore: as well as being a fully paid-up linchpin of one of the greatest cleverclogs rock bands ever, the Sonic Youth frontdude is also a staunch and proactive promoter, editor, publisher, reader, writer and performer of poetry. He's been quietly producing and publishing his own verse for the last three decades, and his insatiable enthusiasm for the form led him to found the brilliant Flowers & Cream Press – an indie publisher that puts out devilishly handsome limited editions of the work of young and emerging poets. This weekend sees old talley-pants schlep all the way from Massachusetts to sleepy Suffolk to do a reading, when he appears in the Poetry Arena at the Latitude festival this Friday. We talked to him ahead of his big gig.

Dazed Digital: Have you always been heavily into poetry or are you a recent convert?

Thurston: Someone somewhere once referenced to poetry as the essence of writing, and perhaps it’s that quality that attracts me. I see poetry more like the song, and as a songwriter I find immediate influence from reading and studying the history and forms of poetry. I became seriously into collecting and archiving underground, post-war poetry from the USA, UK and abroad at some point in the early 90s and crash coursed myself into finding out about the developments and relationships between the primary figures (Ginsberg, Corso et al) and most interestingly, the secondary and tertiary people – all who were responsible in keeping the work alive through self-produced mimeo magazines.

DD: How did Flowers & Cream Press come about?

Thurston Moore: I wanted a press that would focus on newer poets working in the lineage of the writing I was most allured to – New York School of all-ers and the contemporaries in the Midwest USA, west coast, Canada, UK – anywhere. A significant entry point for me was the early 70s imprint Telegraph Books, as edited by Victor Bockris and Gerard Malanga. It prefigures a punk aesthetic with a modest cool cut size and uniform black and white covers. One of Patti Smith’s first publications, Seventh Heaven, was issued by the press.

Poetry is distinguished by an artful mind/heart/visual aesthetic and is not reliant on narrative so much as energy, pure and personal

DD: Do you aspire to do bigger print runs one day, or is making the books limited editions integral to the project?

Thurston Moore: It’s really a matter of knowledgeable demand and of financial ability. I like the idea of the books having limitation knowing that it creates a bit of preciousness but that’s hardly integral to the intention. It’s easier for me to sell 300 copies of something, make the money back and invest in the next project thus.

DD: You publish some really handsome-looking books. Do you think poetry 'works' better in print than online?

Thurston Moore: I like poetry as ink lines on parchment, though I have no discrimination with the poetry in linguistic form or otherwise existing and working in any spatial factor. [...] Poetry is distinguished by an artful mind/heart/visual aesthetic and is not reliant on narrative so much as energy, pure and personal. Something I believe is enlightening to readers in exhaustion from digital convenience overload.

DD: What's more nerve-wracking for you: performing with your band or reading your poems in front of an audience, solo?

Thurston Moore: I love reading aloud and trying to be respectful to the line which only the reader sees and how it can be translated into verbal performance for the edification of anyone curious enough to actually make it at a poetry reading.

DD: Are you looking forward to Latitude? What can people expect?

Thurston Moore: I’ll read a selection of pieces I’ve composed through the last thirty years – but I would never tell anyone what to expect.