Marie-Caroline Moir is my personal stylist at Armoire, a Seattle-based clothing rental service for women that I have been enjoying since 2017. Caroline and I meet every month in Armoire’s offices in the Riveter on Capitol Hill when I take a break from my writing desk to walk over to their styling room where Caroline greets me with a rack full of colorful clothes, a big smile on her face, and news or questions about writing.
Besides being a Senior Stylist at Armoire, Marie-Caroline Moir is a poet. She holds a BA in English Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry, from the University of Washington. For the past ten years, she taught composition, creative writing, and literature at Seattle Central College, and likewise established the Writing Center there. She is formerly City Arts’ Style Editor. Marie-Caroline recently read at the Bellevue Arts Museum for Bellwether, and her poetry was published in journals such as Golden Handcuff Review, Salmagundi, and The Seattle P.I.
Here are the highlights from our conversations inside the Armoire’s dressing room.
I read in an old interview with you that your mom, as well, is a writer. Did she pass on her passion for writing early on, or did you discover it yourself later in life?
I didn’t write poetry until middle school, but my childhood was extremely informed by language-play and lots of Shel Silverstein. We made up words for everything and those words became our private vernacular.
What are the themes you play with these days? What is it that feels urgent to you, about which you must write?
I write mainly about how I feel about the nexus of the poem; I comment on that first couplet, that first lyric, the seed that signals a poem is emerging.
How does your writing process look like? Do you have any routine or you wait until a poem comes to your mind? Do you write down notes when something strikes you in the middle of the day?
I write only sporadically, and usually in a fragmented fashion. There is no routine to my writing at the moment.
One time you told me that you don’t read as much poetry as poets you know do. You said you like to read other forms. This was interesting to me, and I thought about it later. Growing as writers, we are always taught to read in our own genre, and to explore in which box our voice could fall into, where we can see ourselves on a bookshelf. Being a writer in search of a literary agent, I’ve been resenting those inevitable comparisons that people from the industry insist on – who do you compare yourself to, what is your box. I’ve always wanted to be different and not alike, so for me, this is a complicated question. Knowing you, and your style, I can say the same for you. But what I like to ask writers is who your imaginary mentors are? Whom you admire? Who would you like to dine with?
My imaginary mentor is my grandmother. She wore fuschia suits and died when my mom was six. I often imagine that my inclinations come straight from her; I’m a partial voice to someone who was robbed early of life and experience and I often feel myself to be her vessel or conduit somehow.
Very unlike a typical Seatlleite, you own a daring voice in fashion, and you express yourself through colors, and hats, and unusual shapes and accessories. How do you see poetry and fashion connect in your life? How is your poetic style aligned with your style in fashion?
I think I’m a collagist at heart. Not only is collage my favorite art form in which to work, but the idea of making disparate elements into something wholly new, cohesive, and unconnected to the original components, is so aesthetically exciting to me. I approach dressing as I do
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion means very little to me, whereas style means everything. Style conveys identity and information about the figure within the clothing; an adherence to fashion signals much less to me (mostly how much you spent).
Did your style (talking about both poetry and fashion) change over the years? And what is that that usually incites a change?
I used to try desperately to write in others’ voices before I realized I just couldn’t. That is to say, I can’t speak from an imaginary character. Even if I do have a particular nebulous character in mind when I write, the character’s voice seems always uncannily to sound just like mine.
One of my favorite American contemporary poets, Maggie Nelson, writes about colors, her poetry collection Bluets is a book about the color blue, everything concerning the color blue. I have published a book of poetry in the Serbian language titled My Shade of Blue, and it is about first love, that in my mind wears the color blue. How do you see and interpret colors? Do they match your emotions? Do you need to express them through your clothing?
I find that certain colors elicit much more emotional responses than do others, and for various reasons. In my work, I notice themes of sourness, bitterness, and sickly things, so often, yellow is a color that crops up if you scan a range of poems at once.
What are the details you always notice in the world around you or on people? The images that find their way into your poems.
I’m much less image-driven than I am language driven. I notice what people say, not what they look like, or how they move. I’m never quite able to capture those details.
Do you think that today, there is a specific fashion in poetry one must follow to be noticed? What do you think about poetry on Instagram? About the trend of publishing short poems and focusing on visual qualities of images attached to words rather than audible attributes of poetry.
I think any attention paid to poetry is a good attention, but there will always be micro-trends and easy-to-swallow styles that dominate the presses for a time. Right now, I’m a bit tired of the overly disjunctive, almost Beat-like style that seems to be popular.
I know you love to read your work in public, which I still consider the best way to deliver poems to the audience emotionally and viscerally. Could you describe the rush of feelings when you are on the stage?
First nervousness, then a complete sense of forgetting myself, which in my life, is a precious gift.
What do you dream about?
I dream about moving things around– packing, putting things in boxes, and never having enough time to do so.
Please, find Marie-Caroline Moir’s poem Far Out in the poetry section.