J.L Moultrie is a native Detroiter, poet and fiction writer who communicates his art through the written word. He fell in love with literature after encountering Fyodor Dostoyevsky, James Baldwin, Rainer Maria Rilke and many others. He considers himself a literary abstract artist of modernity.
Why poetry/writing? What pulls you into the page? What poets/writers first inspired you?
I first began writing poetry as a makeshift form of therapy around ten years ago. I try to compose whenever I’m “feeling it.” Now, I find writing to be useful as a mode of self-expression and as a way to decompress and process the intense experience of being human. When a combination of words exhibits a certain emotional quality tied to sincerity and strong images, I have to put it down on the page. It’s difficult to define the impulse that compels one to write; the results are tangible when they manifest, but the origins are virtually inaccessible. The work of Fyodor Dostoevsky, James Baldwin, Rainer Maria Rilke and Hart Crane had and continue to have a profound impact on me. Their works remain relevant and deeply humanizing because they both unsettle and illuminate.
What are you currently working on, and do you have anything coming up that readers should know about?
I recently finished the first draft of my debut poetry chapbook. I’m currently revising and tinkering with it, trying to make it the best it can be. In the coming weeks, I’ll search for compatible publishing presses to submit to. It’s an exciting time.
What was the first thing you had published? How has your writing or focus changed since then?
The first writing I had published was five poems in Rigorous Magazine, around two years ago. Since then, I feel my poems have become more unified, focused and emotionally direct. I feel like I can get my point across in fewer words while adhering to the same creative DNA. I’m now more patient, restrained and detail oriented, which comes with time. Now, I’m more focused on not getting in the way of the words and just letting ideas and concepts flow.
What would you say is the center of your work? What motivates you? Where does a new poem or piece begin for you?
I try to keep sincerity and integrity at the center of my work. By that, I mean exploring themes, ideas and topics that I have a genuine interest in. When writing a piece, self-fulfillment is always at the forefront of my mind. As Baldwin said, “I want to be an honest man and a good writer.” A new piece usually begins with an image, a short combination of words or fragments of both flitting around in my head. From there, I’ll usually write the first line or two and see where the momentum takes me. It’s a spontaneous and unique experience each time.
What space does or should poetry/writing occupy right now?
I think writers have always played the role of shaping public sentiments and deepening our collective understanding. I feel poets in particular have a great responsibility because they are the backbone of any society in that they teach us about what it means to be human. I feel writers are the last bastion of integrity, courage and truth-telling in any sustainable culture.
What advice would you give to a writer just starting out? If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
I would tell them to try to be patient, hone their craft and trust in the development of their own voice. I would also advise them to read voraciously and broadly. I would tell myself not to lose heart and continue producing work despite any hurdles and challenges that may come.
If you were the last person on earth, and you pulled the last book from a pile of ash and cinders, what do you hope it would be? Why?
I would hope that it was The Dhammapada – it’s a Buddhist text that contains hundreds of sayings the Buddha uttered. I often read it to gain clarity and insight concerning my own existence. I would hope it was the Dhammapada because I would solely have myself to contend with and I would want that relationship to be as strong as possible.
You can read J.L. Moultrie’s work in the eighth issue of Night Music Journal, which will be released November 27th.