The Writer Writes of Change: an Interview with Bryce Moore

The Rebel Poet. Those were and still remain the first words I associated with Bryce Moore. Not because it was his username on Instagram, but because the word ”rebel” continues to reference moments where a person attempts to create positive change, inclusion, and prompt awareness of topics many of us, undeniably, choose to dust under the rug and step over daily. The bump in the rug grows bigger and bigger, yet we continue to climb up this now behemoth hill with a sense that it was meant to become a hill because a hill, of course, is expected to grow. But why don’t we uncover the rug? To me, it is not because we don’t care or have time to pay attention to occasions of social injustice or discrimination, but because many of us have become comfortable with this metaphor. Comfortable, in a sense, where a person is too scared to speak up or too tired to keep trying for change.

This is not Bryce Moore. For he has chosen to lift this same rug up from its resting place and dust the hardwood floor it once shadowed from the light.

I have been following Moore for roughly 2 years now. And if this number is not accurate, it surely seems to be the case. Moore was one of the first people I came across on social media when I began sharing my work on a platform known as Instagram. During this time I remember seeing a lot of things in the writing community. First and foremost, and most evidently, there was the poetry. Some referenced periods of love, or at least bittersweet memories of it. Others, including myself, often recorded scenes of the environment, giving plants and the moon and sun personalities—and even casting them as the main character in a story of trial and triumph. But Moore’s work was different. And what struck me was not his reflections on the social climate of the United States, or even his confessions regarding mental health or personal relation to the LGBTQ community, but the fact that there wasn’t as many poets out there (at least on social media), both of light and brown origin, who were consistently doing the same. As of today I will say these numbers have slightly changed, but Moore, in my opinion, remains as one of the few people who’s ripples in the water have continued rippling.

His contributions to the community are evident. His presence on platforms such as Ink Innovators and Poetry Battles is undeniable. And as the bio of his Instagram claims, he truly lives up to the word ”advocate.”

Yes! Advocate of various things in various forms. That is why I was excited to hear back from Moore that he was in fact interested in diving into his creative roots (among other things).

And so, the rest is as followed . . .

The Interview

Hughes: Tell us about yourself. What was your childhood like? Do any particular memories stick out?

Moore: I’m a 21-year-old college student still in the process of becoming, stuck in what I like to call the in-between. I grew up the only child of a single mother, so I’ve always been alone in some way. Which makes sense because that’s how I spend a lot of my time as an adult. I didn’t have many close friends growing up. I was very introverted and shy. I was bullied pretty heavily until I reached high school. I don’t know that I have many memories that stick out.

Hughes: From my understanding, you currently live in Mississippi. Can you describe your relationship to the state? Your experiences as an African-American?

Moore: That’s a very tricky question. I often say I have a love/hate relationship with my state, but my feelings towards it are mostly negative. I appreciate the experiences that I’ve gotten to have from this state. It shaped a lot of who I am today. But, racism and homophobia are very prevalent. Being a gay black man in Mississippi is hard. I try my best not to let it affect me. I am eagerly awaiting graduation and when I can leave Mississippi because it really is a toxic environment for me.

It is not a place where my dreams can flourish, and I can grow.

Hughes: (In relation to the previous) What would you say to Mississippi if it were a person sitting across from you?

Moore: This is an interesting question. I would probably say how ashamed I am to come from Mississippi. The racism, discrimination, homophobia, sexism is just disgusting. It is hard to be around and live in. I look forward to the day I get to break up with it haha.

Hughes: Is anyone else in your family creative? If so, do you believe this individual inspired your own ambitions?

Moore: No, it’s just really me. My family values sports. That’s what they get excited about and love. I’ve got the only one who doesn’t. My mom is probably the closest to creative other than me in our family. She directs plays along with me. She hasn’t allowed her creativity to shine through or carved out time for it.

Hughes: What would you consider your biggest influence as far as the imagery found throughout your poetry? For example, some writers say they find it easier to write about topics that impact others as oppose to reflecting on things that would potentially magnify their personal life.

Moore: I can write about anything. When I started out, I preferred writing about other people’s experiences and struggles. But as I wrote longer, I began to realize the importance that sharing my story has and how inspiring it can be for others. It has also been incredibly empowering for me and has helped me to heal.

Hughes: Describe your first memory of writing something that caught the attention of others. What was going on in your life? Did you intend on sharing this piece?

Moore: Honestly, the first thing that I wrote that really caught the attention of others was not even a poem. It was a play. I always say I’m a playwright turned poet. Being a director and playwright, it’s truly an amazing experience seeing others person your work and getting to lead them through the entire process. When the first play that I wrote was performed, it was a humbling experience.

”Seeing others blessed by your work is one of the best feelings in the world.”

Hughes: You seem to carry a deep passion for politics, civil rights, social justice, and equality (just to name a few!) Where did this derive from? Can you take us along the timeline of events?

Moore: This deep passion for politics and social justice has definitely gotten me into trouble a few times haha. I really was not nearly as passionate about politics and social justice issues until after the 2016 election. After seeing this country elect a man like Trump, it was really a wake-up call to me and let me know how deep racism and homophobia and transphobia and sexism and all the phobias and isms run in the country.

So, I decided that I would step into my boldness. I would speak out and use my voice when I could to speak for those often unheard and ignored. It is still a work in progress for me learning when to speak up and when not to.

Hughes: The following is a quote by American novelist, playwright, and activist James Baldwin: ‘’Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’’Do you find accuracy in this? If so, support your answer with a brief reflection on modern political conversations.

Moore: Absolutely, I believe this is true. It’s very important for us all to stand up for the things that we believe in. And if we don’t, there is a chance that they won’t be changed. Sure, you can still face things and they not be changed. But, if you never take that chance, you will never know. This relates to a lot of political conversations because there are many relevant conversations that we haven’t had that need to be addressed. I’m glad to see that many of them are now being talked about.

Hughes: Is there a backstory behind your Instagram username @therebelpoet_?

Moore: My username was a work in progress. I originally just posted quotes on my page. Then, I started poetry, and I knew that my username would need to change to reflect the direction I was going with my writing. I brainstormed some new names for my page, and the word hat stuck out to me was “rebel.” I am a rebel, and I always want to stand up for what I feel is right and be bold. So, my username The Rebel Poet was born.

Hughes: Discuss the artistic difference between the words ‘’novelist’’ and ‘’poet.’’ For example, what might a novelist or poet have an advantage of that the other may not? Or is there any difference at all?

Moore: A novelist, much like a poet, is a storyteller. The difference between them is how that story is told, but it doesn’t make either any less valuable. I think a novelist doesn’t have to worry necessarily about sounding poetic. A poet doesn’t necessarily have to worry about length.

Hughes: Although modern (American) society seems to be highly active in political conversations, movements, and hot topics, there are many occasions when different groups clash. This is primarily linked but not limited to race, generation related differences, and overall lack of awareness on history and culture aside from one’s own. With this in mind, how do you think we SHOULD approach complex discussions? How should we NOT?

Moore: I think it’s important to have these complex conversations, but we should have them with respect and continue to always approach them with understanding and compassion.

Hughes: The following is a quote by American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer Mark Twain: ‘’It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.’’ How might this relate to social justice? Injustice?

Moore: Social justice issues are a fight. Often times, you don’t always win, even when you are fighting for what is right. But, it is important to remember to keep fighting and never give up.

”Successful movements were created by people who failed but who were determined to achieve.”

Hughes: I recently discovered you’re vegetarian too! Why did you make the change?

Moore: Yes! (I need to get recipe ideas from you haha).

Honestly, my mom has greatly influenced that decision and vice versa. I started off giving up pork at a very young age. It was really a choice my mom made. Then, she decided to try to give up beef, and I did as well. It was tough at first, but I found that I was healthier. Then, I randomly decided to give up the only other meat I was eating, chicken and turkey, just to see if I could go without it. I was able to and didn’t miss it. After a year, my mom joined me (though she still ate fish). Now, my mom is actually vegan. I don’t think I’ll follow her on that path.

Now, I’m focused on eating fewer carbs and trying more recipes.

Hughes: How important is it for the youth to explore literature and poetry that reflects on cultural experiences? Do you think they are already doing this? Or are we (as a society) subconsciously losing grasp of these voices from the 20thcentury?

Moore: Any history and art forms of the past are important to learn so that we do not repeat the mistakes made by the previous generation. We can also learn a lot from those who came before us. I would say in reference to literature and poetry that it also helps to make you a more well-rounded individual. There is a lot of wisdom that the greats have to teach us, and it often lies between a poem or a book. I think that schools can definitely do a better job of embracing that culture and art.

Hughes: Name one favorite poem of your own. Why this piece?

Moore: That’s hard. My favorites are not posted on Instagram. I’ve performed a few. One is called “My Imagery Friends”. It is about depression and anxiety in the Black community. It’s special to me because I have gone through all of the experiences described. But, also, my favorite poems include the ones about my experiences (like my mother not accepting my sexuality or the black or gay experience).

”It’s because I’m completely vulnerable about myself, my life, my feelings. That’s something that used to be very difficult for me to do.”

Hughes: Describe the moment when you were first moved by the written or spoken word. Who was the person speaking? Why did you feel this way?

Moore: Often, it was seeing spoken word poets from Button Poetry. I used to be on the Speech and Debate team in high school and the first part of college. I was just amazed at how raw and real they were able to be. I was also impressed by the creativity. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be like them. And years later, I still do.

Hughes: When I came across Ink Innovators about a year ago, one of the things that struck me with surprise (and excitement!) was the genuine amount of diversity, discussion board posts, and guest live streams. Can you discuss the origin story of the page? For example, what continues to make its presence unique?

Moore: I’m so glad! That was my goal. I really wanted to shake things up with the poetry community. It can be so clique-ish and lacks diversity. I wanted to create a page that celebrated diversity and innovation, that brought excitement back to poetry and reminded people why they fell in love with poetry in the first place. I, furthermore, wanted to create some relevant conversations that needed to be had.

That originally wasn’t  the vision. We first began as Writers’ Hub with a team of 15 poets from around the world. It was very different. We had to develop and evolve into where we are now. I think we’ve begun to accomplish our goals, but we have a long way to go. I’m excited about the future.

Hughes: (In relation to the previous) Based on your current observations, do you believe the writing/publishing community as a whole is upholding these same values? If not, what SHOULD we address? How should we go about the ‘’rebuilding?’’

Moore: No, and the blame must be placed on the gatekeepers (editors and curators). And let me be clear, I don’t think editors or curators are intentionally avoiding featuring diverse poets. But, this issue goes beyond just the number of POC poets are featured. You have to be intentional about featuring diversity. If you’re not, then your page winds up being yet another community where POC poets feel they don’t belong.

Another issue I’ve noticed is that many communities are comfortable featuring ”we” type of poetry (those about love or heartbreak or finding yourself or ones with flowers). They like posts that are cute. My poetry is not cute. It is ugly and messy and real and raw because life isn’t cute. People take issue with writers who are rebellious. That’s just the type of writing I’m trying to showcase. I want to encourage these type of poets that if they feel no one else sees them, our community does, and we’re ready to grab a megaphone and amplify that issue too. I think some people take me calling out these issues as an attack. It really isn’t. It’s all about accountability, and that’s what makes a good editor.

”If you can’t look at your community and reflect on where you can grow, then you are to blame for the stagnation.”

Hughes: The following is a quote by American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist Nina Simone: ‘’I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear!’’ Do you agree with this? If not, how would you define freedom?

Moore: Absolutely! Nina is preaching. Freedom is being yourself completely and fully. No limitations. No fear. I try to emulate not being fearful because this cold world can often be fearful and dark.

Hughes: Describe yourself using three adjectives.

Moore: Bold, Resourceful, and Passionate.

Hughes: Now for a fun one! Extraterrestrials have invaded Earth. Their leader approaches and demands for you to recommend one person who can give one reason to abort their mission of destroying mankind. Who would this be? Why did you choose them?

Moore: This is the hardest question for me. I may be breaking the rules, but I am The Rebel Poet haha.

I would say Anne Frank. She is someone who faced so much hardship and discrimination at such a young age and still said that she believed that people are good at heart. I think that is really beautiful, even if I may not fully agree with her. Someone that warm and kind and loving could make any person (or alien) not destroy mankind.

 

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