Category Archives: what others say…

niall o’sullivan | on todd moore

Tim Wells, Todd Moore, Niall O’Sullivan. London 2006.

I had the honour

of hanging out with Todd Moore for a couple of days when he came over to London a few years back. All I really knew of Todd Moore was from the terse Dillinger vignettes that appeared regularly in Tim Wells’s Rising magazine. The poems seemed to scan the contents of a moment, much like a haiku, usually a violent one. If the moment wasn’t violent then it involved a brief chunk of time when something was said or done by a protagonist that cut through all the bullshit. His poetry was about action and movement rather than contemplation or navel gazing. It took no shit and it took no prisoners. There was no sermonising or hand wringing, just a pared down description of one moment following another and then vanishing forever. From his poetry, I expected a short fused, abrupt person that didn’t suffer fools gladly. While the latter part was certainly true I found Todd Moore and his wife Barbara to be warm, humble and gentle human beings, a delight to hang out with. This has often proved to be the case with poets, those that write the edgy, hard edged material tend to be very personable, while those that write the sermonising, hand wringing guff tend to be preening egomaniacs.

Moore chose Dillinger, or Dillinger chose him, as the vessel for his great American epic. The poem Dillinger has been published in rare instalments via books and chapbooks for the past few decades and was estimated by Moore to be over a quarter of a million lines in length. The fact that at least half of these lines consisted of two stresses or less doesn’t do much to soften that number. The style and the content chose each other, Dillinger was the light footed outlaw, the machine gun antihero who leaped over bank counters and was gone again in minutes. Moore’s style moves at breakneck pace, moments and memories flying by as the poem speeds onwards.

Moore commented on the short line style of his poetry in interviews. He said that the energy always escaped from the long line, but with short lines the energy had nowhere to go but downwards, to be channelled into the momentum of the poem. One doesn’t have to dabble in mysticism to understand this. The line break is all about the moment when the eye flies off the end of the line and draws itself back into the poem. The longer the line, the greater the momentum built up but also the greater momentum that gets lost when returning to the next line. Todd Moore found the way of building the momentum and keeping it, make the line short enough for the eye to take in at a glance so all it has to do is move downwards. Of course, in hindsight, the momentum gets lost in the page turn, but pages are longer than they are wide so the logic is sound. Perhaps the best way to take in the Dillinger epic is via the down scrolling e-reader, though the energy built up by that sonofabitch may be too much to bear.

During his stay in London, Todd read at an event alongside Hugo Williams and Phil Jupitus on the Friday and at my own venue on the Saturday. Todd read out a long Dillinger poem called Death Song, it was the first ever reading of this work and I was honoured to have it read at my venue. When he turned up on Facebook, I was very chuffed to see that Todd’s profile photo was taken a the Poetry Cafe, with the Cellar’s chalkwork behind him. Barbara later told me that it was one of his favourite career moments. That welled me up a little. The reading of Death Song has been up on The Cellar’s myspace page and will remain there for as long as Murdoch will let it. Unfortunately, the original recording travelled out of my living room window under the arm of a very small time Dillinger a few years back. So, because of the work of the small time crook and my lack of trust for big time crooks like Murdoch, I ripped the audio and you can listen to it right here, right now by pressing play on the player below.

Todd’s death has illuminated many things for me, as has his life. His work points out another way to poets lost between the twin poles of performance poetry and academic poetry. By academic I mean the mainstream rather than the UK avant garde that seems to subsist off the teat of academia, with no community sustenance despite its Marxist proclamations. Otherwise we seem to be stuck between the wine circuit (prize winning poetry set on some verander on the continent in the company of someone terminally ill while eating an exotic lunch before someone says something profound in French) and the resurgent Spoken Word/Performance Poetry scene (“Look at all the problems of the world, I worry about them, love me, I have suffered profoundly, love me). Okay, I have greatly exaggerated two aspects of poetry, but I do so only to point out that there is another way, poetry that expresses the excess of life without having to prove its erudition or moral aptitude. Todd Moore called this the Outlaw way. We can cast a critical eye on this and point out that plenty of Outlaw Poets are guilty of a juvenile need to shock and a lack of editorial intervention, but Moore was not one of them. His work may have been vital and energetic, but it was also tighter than a gnat’s chuff. As the page/stage fissure seems to once again be appearing across the landscape of the UK poetry community, and factions are falling back on their old cliques and attitudes, I’m glad Outlaw pioneers such as Todd Moore have shown us that there’s always another path: your own. His spirit shall endure. — Niall O’Sullivan

listen to Todd Moore | The Death Song

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alex gildzen | todd moore’s desk

I spent the day in Albuquerque beginning the pre-cataloging of his papers. I filld 9 boxes with correspondence & manuscripts. there were letters from Paul Metcalf, Jonathan Williams, Theodore Enslin, Kell Robertson, Tony Moffeit. & thousands of poems handwritten in notebooks on sheets of paper on almost anything he had handy — from napkins to cash register receipts. — Alex Gildzen

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daryl rogers | near full moon | …for todd moore

Near Full Moon

White-blue print
in mid-afternoon
talcum-blue sky
trees budding
daffodils yellow
crocus limp and
dying tree buds
red lewd bulbs
bring forth life
Todd Moore is
dead film noir
minimalist poet
making lines
of blood fire
gun shot sores
knife wounds
Dillinger gods
black and white
bullet holes of
vice and hatred
cinematic verse
stapled on paper
punk rock poet
unaware of his
connection to
the sad clueless
kids he’d fathered
like me but true
to the form he
pioneered with
Lyn Lifshin
Tony Moffeit
The Ramones.

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tony moffeit | the language of death


todd moore died friday, march 12, and after recovering from the devastation of losing a close friend to a sudden death, i couldn’t help but realize the irony of his death at a time when he had written so thoroughly about the death experience. for i have not known anyone who wrote so intensely about death and particularly in recent years. no one who approached the dying experience from so many different angles. no one who transferred the experience of dying like todd moore in his writings. it was almost as if death itself were talking through todd. two of my favorite death pieces are in a three poem collection, THE DEAD ZONE TRILOGY, st. vitus press, 2005. the first piece is the corpse is dreaming, which is about the dreaming corpse of john dillinger:

at the biograph theater
& the dream is a broken
sledge hammered into
one hundred thousand
shattered like glass
& flickering
in the heat
& the dark

for me, the corpse is dreaming is a poem which challenges the motion picture as an art form, for it is a poem-movie that in many ways is superior to the actual motion picture and the subject is death:

& who sez that i’m dead
what is dead
is it like when yr
sleep sleep a
i can feel my bones moving
but are they my bones
what is a bone
tell me my name
where is my face

it’s as if todd is talking to us before and after his own death through the mini-movie that is the poem. dillinger talks about his ghost brother, lawrence, who has a face that resembles his, and in one of the most poignant passages in poetry, he makes the poem-movie come alive:

my mother used to call him
she’d used to stand on the
back porch at night &
call him lawrence
or was that johnnie
come on home to supper
come home so she can eat
she used to call johnnie
& then the neighbors wd
call across the field to
& they’d talk abt weather
& clouds & crops & the
way the days were
getting long from winter &
the dark like a huge
round bullet rising

this poem is about the dream. this poem is about the movie. this poem is about the dream that is a movie and the movie that is a dream. this poem is about life. this poem is about death. this poem is about the life in death and the death in life:

i don’t know how long i
can hide in the dark
& i am dark w/water
dark all over
or is that blood
& where is dillinger
who is lawrence
how is the other
& i’m in the biograph
theater when the lights
come on & i can’t
recall one scene from the

this poem builds with characters and internal dialogue to give a stream of consciousness that is a new movie, a poem-movie. it is better than a movie because it immediately enters the unconscious and plays there. todd moore, through dillinger, talks to us about death:

does anyone here know the
language of death
the movie screen’s a mouth
it wants to eat every in
the bone thing here i am
& i’m sitting here talking
to dreams
they gather around me
i’m calling them out just
as tho they are my
i’m calling them to
the supper of my body

in this poem todd moore is destroyer and creator. “the dream is a broken movie sledge hammered into one hundred thousand fragments.” and then out of the destruction comes a new art form: the poem-movie in which new levels of consciousness are reached. the poem-movie in which death talks from a dreaming corpse.

todd moore knew that the only way to whip death was to transcend death through language. and his most intense transcendence would be the language of death. the corpse is dreaming is a new art form, the poem-movie, in which death talks from a dreaming corpse. a second poem in the collection, the night corpse, is just as revolutionary in terms of language. it is black energy. it is pure, subliminal force, and the poem carries the force. the line is stripped down to its essence. the poem is stripped down to its essence. it is the black hole of language. in the condensed line of death with tourettes syndrome:

that dill
of their

death is talking again, but this time in fragments, in semi-consciousness, in an even more subliminal language, where everything is stripped away but the bare bones of words. and the reader must enter the maze of syllables to decipher the heiroglyph:

ger al
had his
as tho
make a

this is a rare stretching and breaking and condensing of language. death is speaking through the unconscious of dillinger:

move for
the mo
self al
form of

i have never seen anyone burn with creative passion as todd moore did in the years prior to his death. he had always been productive, but he reached another level of creative energy in those years and went out in a flame, a blaze, a fire. he was about constant creativity. he was fascinated with death conversations, thoughts and ideas in the process of dying. he imagined these interior monologues and dialogues through the figure of john dillinger in his poems. i have never seen death as such a dynamic force. in the poems of todd moore, death and the language of death become something else. they become a final and lyrical chant for life.

Todd Moore | Tony Moffeit | Lawrence Welsh

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dave roskos | found myself…

Found myself in Los Lunas a few years back, outside Albuquerque, not far from Santa Fe. Spent a wonderful afternoon at Kell Robertson’s place in the high desert. Ken Greenley, Matt Borkowski, and Michael Darrah came along. It was one of those rare magical afternoons that only happen a few times in a lifetime. at one point a hummingbird fluttered a few inches in front of my face & looked into my eyes. magic.

Couple days later Michael & I visited Mark Weber in Albuquerque. Mark & I had been penpals since the 1980s but had never met one another in person. To my surprise, Todd Moore was in the house. Todd & I had corresponded a little bit & he had been in a few issues of Big Hammer. Another magical afternoon ensued. For all of the violence in Todd’s poetry, the man that I met that afternoon was a kind, generous, gentle soul, a Listener; a stand-up guy. (And I got to ask him if he was a Jim Thompson fan. Sure enough, he was.)

After our meeting we continued our sporadic correspondance & worked on a book together. He was very generous. The news of his death felt like punch in the stomach. It knocked the wind out of me. We have lost a good friend & one of our most hard working poets & advocates.

Dave Roskos | march 23, 2010

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jared smith | I learned of…

Todd Moore’s death only this morning from poet Michael Adams, whom I was having coffee with. Michael, who has a book upcoming with Lummox, and I were both looking forward to reading with Todd later this summer. I was unable to take it in at first: life comes at you like bullets, and it takes a few minutes to realize that you’ve been hit. This is the email I sent Mike a bit later in the morning. You can print it on the site if you wish. I probably won’t write any essays or reviews of his work for awhile because it is the nature of things that there will be a great up-swelling of such writings from people who come in to gather at the wake. I am less public and need more time.

The email I sent on learning of his death:


That was very sad news this morning about Todd Moore. I was stunned by it, feeling somewhat as though a hole had been cut into our current literary life and not knowing how to respond. How terrible and predictable our news media is in that I had not yet gotten word, and even today in coming back to look on-line I can find little detail on how he died. I hope that it was quick and as peaceful as can be, but the end is never peaceful–it is the final apocalyptic battle for each of us.

We talked very briefly about what made Outlaw Poetry outlaw, and started out of course by saying there were different visions contained within it and that often those who were considered participants within it disagree as to what it was. A key, though, was the intensity…whether Kauffman or Moore or Weber or me or you. That and the feeling that it is so vitally important to understand our visions and that those visions reflect the world about us in all its grit and pain and glory and sweat. And that we have dedicated ourselves so strongly to our craft as well as our visions that we can capture the right organic structures on paper to reflect the natural rhythms or cut bullets or shards that properly portray our visions and encapsule the intensity of the life we write of.

I was very sorry to hear that he had passed. It makes us poorer.

Jared Smith

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lawrence welsh | outlaw waiting

1994 | Todd Moore and Lawrence Welsh read together at the PEARL MAGAZINE PUBLICATION PARTY and CHARLES BUKOWSKI TRIBUTE in Long Beach, California. | Photo: Lawrence Welsch


for todd moore

perhaps a yes
perhaps not

perhaps a gasoline hand
or the drought
to still his moves

give cold machinations
and turnkey privileges
on the plain:

it’s staked
it’s stalked

the coolness
and no regret
his squinting eyes

1994 | Todd Moore and Lawrence Welsh read together at the PEARL MAGAZINE PUBLICATION PARTY and CHARLES BUKOWSKI TRIBUTE in Long Beach, California. | Photo: Lawrence Welsch

1994 | Todd Moore and Lawrence Welsh read together at the PEARL MAGAZINE PUBLICATION PARTY and CHARLES BUKOWSKI TRIBUTE in Long Beach, California. | Photo: Lawrence Welsch

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mark weber | march 17, 2010, 4:30pm albuquerque new mexico

Todd Moore, Tony Moffeit and Mark Weber. 8 august 1992. Important: These Fugitives Should Be Considered Dangerous And Might Possibly Be Armed. NEVER Attempt To Arrest Or Apprehend These Subjects Yourself.

I spoke

with Todd’s wife Barbara this morning, and finally Todd’s body has been released by the coroner’s office of Tucson, who apparently loves red tape and confusion and making things complicated. Today, as I write this his body is flying back to Chicago, and Barbara and the family, Todd’s two sons, Theron and Jason, and their wives and children will fly tomorrow.

The funeral will be Monday in Freeport, Illinois, Todd’s old hometown. Rt. 20 heads due west out of Chicago and 65 miles down the road Todd will ride through Rockford where he taught and lived for 30? years before they moved to Albuquerque in 1994? 1993? I don’t remember exactly. And then another 25 miles west to Freeport.

We’ll have a memorial gathering at Todd & Barbara’s house in Albuquerque in a few weeks.

Todd died of a cardiac event precipitated by his long-time stomach ulcer. Barbara said Todd was perfectly normal all day as they explored Tucson with her brother and sister-in-law. I think she said they played cards that night after a dinner out. It was only later in the evening that Todd said he didn’t feel well but wouldn’t let her call for a doctor. They went to bed but by 4am she had to call 911 emergency and an ambulance took him to hospital. His blood analysis at that time showed high concentrations of acid most likely originating from his ulcerated & necrotic part of his intestine which initiated the septic event that stressed the heart and he died around 6:30am Friday March 12. He was a brother and a friend. We still have cans of Sprite in the refrigerator we kept especially for his visits. I’m going to miss him.

Mark Weber | March 17, 2010, 4:30pm Albuquerque New Mexico


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rd armstrong | todd moore and lummox press

RD Armstrong, Annie Menebroker and Todd Moore at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento, May 21, 2009

I first corresponded with Todd Moore back in 1997. I heard about him from Mark Weber, whom I had interviewed for my mag, The Lummox Journal. Initially I just wanted to interview him, not knowing who he was; but after a while I realized that I had tapped into a major powerhouse of thought and ideas. Over the years, Todd contributed essays on the style of poetry that he called “Outlaw” to the Lummox. He was also a regular contributor of poetry to the LJ. In addition to that, Todd was gracious enough to allow me to publish him in the Little Red Book Series: Bone, The Corpse is Dreaming and Bombed in New Mexico. I also published a full length book…a section from his Dillinger saga, entitled The Riddle of the Wooden Gun.

Todd was like a father to me. We often discussed the way things worked in our quirky little corner of the small press and he would often try to help me deal with some of the shit that boiled up under my feet.

I have a nasty habit of pissing people off. Sadly, I don’t do it on purpose…I’m more of an accidental irritation.

Just about a year ago, Todd, his wife Barbara and I went on a road trip together. 7 days. We covered nearly 1800 miles and had some pretty strange encounters, but we also had a lot of time to talk about life and during that time I realized how much I had grown under his tutelage. Unfortunately, I never got to express that to him, how grateful I was to have known him, because, like fathers and sons often do, we had a falling out and hadn’t spoken in months. In fact, I was going to write him and try to find out why we had the falling out this weekend. Now, I’ll never know why.

So here’s to you Todd, God bless you and keep you (try not to cuss out the lord or his angel buddies too much).

Here’s an excerpt from one of his essays:

Working the Wreckage of the American Poem

Working the wreckage of the american poem in an Illinois cornfield while listening to the wind crack through the dry cornstalks. Working the wreckage of the american poem on the Kansas prairie while trying to figure out just where my grandmother’s sodhouse stood. I’m sure she heard the faint sounds of the arriving cattle herds coming up from Texas in that vagrant and outlaw wind. Working the wreckage of the american poem while standing on the sidewalk outside the Hotel Congress in Tucson, Arizona, while trying to catch the faint sound of Dillinger’s voice in the heat and the primal wind blowing up from old Mexico.

In Los Angeles I hear some guy complaining about the Santa Anas, how they make him a little crazy. He’s been trying to find his old copy of Raymond Chandler’s short stories, the one called Red Wind. He claims reading that is the only thing that might save him, keep him from pulling a gun or a knife. He’s drunk and brushes past me in the crowd and for the fraction of a fraction of a second in the blur of street moves he almost looks and sounds like a kicking crazy version of Bukowski.

Working the wreckage of the american poem in an old bar that sits next to the railroad tracks and some guy is showing off a scar he got in a fight with box cutters. Said, the sumbitch tried for my throat and I put my hand up and went sideways. Then got him in the eye and while he’s wrestling with his eyeball which is out on his cheek, I notice that my thumb is wearing a red hat only it ain’t a red hat. It’s blood. Outside the bar a freight is rattling by and I go outside with my drink and in that rush of dust that the train clicks up I get the last three lines to a poem. It’s like they dropped right off that freight and announced their arrival.

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wolfgang carstens | for todd moore

first thing

i stabbed
my ex-wife
in her gut
& ripped
the blade
her intestines
on her shoes
like spaghetti
noodles then
i slashed
her face the
tip of her nose
went flying
into the tall
grass the fifty
bucks i spent
on the bayonet
was a real bargain
Moore said
as the electric
door on our
steel cell slammed
shut on our

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