Samantha Ainsworth: Your writing surprises the reader with visceral, gritty elements and is non-apologetic to the squeamish. Can you speak about this aspect of truth-telling, and the importance of being true to oneself?
A.F. Moritz: It’s good of you to take such a golden attitude towards this aspect. I often find myself glancing ahead through a poem I’m planning to read to an audience, and thinking, “Uh oh, maybe I’d better turn the page, or at least give an advance warning: X-rated”. There’s a poem of Hardy’s in which he’s responding to the charge of pessimism he always received, and he says that to see the best “exacts a full look at the worst.” Czeslaw Milosz says in one of his poems, “What has no shadow has no strength to live.” Well, everything has shadow, but human cussedness can and does try to eliminate it from the things under our control, and succeeds in doing so, for a time and to the extent possible.
This may wind up ruining the earth. At the very least, one can get a bowdlerized life. In the streets: death hidden away behind walls or moved to elsewhere. But everyone will have to face it. The only choice is whether you do it willingly or you refuse until dragged to it by time and events, and even then closing your eyes. This is a choice between living your existence and trying not to.
In books: the evil and the problematic can be left out, or, more frequently, changed into a cartoon reduction, and one result of this is a picture of human triumph that is a joke, because everyone can see that the resolutions come against paper tigers and straw men. The other result, which culturally we suffer from very badly today, is a constant fishtailing between ridiculous extremes. First, a reduced art that only pretends to address reality. Then, in reaction, an enraged art so hungry to shout sex and violence that it thinks that’s enough. Then, back to the cute and clean. And so it goes.
- A.F. Moritz, in interview with Samantha Ainsworth for The Malahat Review. You can read the full interview here.