an important figure in contemporary African-American poetry, a literary descendant of African-American poets Langston hughes, Robert hayden, and Gwendolyn brooks. Moss is ambivalent about being identified as a representative African-American poet, however, largely because she worries that this could reduce or oversimplify her own work and the works of others identified with this category. Her poetry's breadth spans religion, family, and racism together with references to far more eclectic subject matter. Critic Jabari Asim claims, "[Her] interests are so extensive and varied that readers may exhaust themselves just scrambling to track down the sources of her many allusions" (8).
Moss was born and raised in Cleveland, ohio, but visits to family members in southern states gave her a keen awareness of the virulent racism most often identified with the South. She has received numerous grants and awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1995) and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1996).
Much of Moss's work presents stream-of-conscious-ness reflections on life events, characters, and specific objects. Moss is decidedly a free verse poet, and she is primarily concerned with the possibilities of imaginative association apart from regular rhyme or meter: "only in a few things did I want permanence, consistency, predictability; mine was seldom a yearning for universals" Moss says (305). Moss's poems frequently turn surreal or visionary, but they almost always remain strongly connected to real-world issues or objects. In "Dear Charles" (1993), for example, a rambling prose poem in the form of a letter addressed to a hurricane elicits a response from the masculine hurricane that ties the destructive fury of the tropical storm to the real history of slavery and exploitation in West Africa, the
Caribbean, and the Americans. The hurricane speaks, at one point saying, "You know Charles ain't no kind of proper African name, but it's the one my patrons give me, the one meteorological overseers picked out."
Moss's relationship with the tradition of modern American poetry is complex and somewhat tense. She has written a response to Robert frosts "stopping by woods on A snowy evening," "Interpretation of a Poem by Frost" (1991), and another to Wallace stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," "A Reconsideration of the Blackbird" (1990). Both of her poems insist on the importance of race and gender, elements that are absent from the original poems by the two white male poets. Moss's public praise of Galway kinnell proves that her questioning of the literary canon has not led her to a simplistic dislike of such white, male, acclaimed poets (one such poet, Charles simic, was Mosss teacher in the University of New Hampshire's graduate program).
Her free-form poetry reflects her wide-ranging interests in literature, folk life, and American social issues. Moss's use of seemingly unedited language creates a sense of immediacy and unfiltered experience throughout her work.
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