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Q&A: Nathaniel G. Moore speaks to RM Vaughan about his new poetry collection, Goodbye Horses

Nathaniel G. Moore is a changed man. After removing himself and his new family from the anxious Toronto literary world to the quiet university town of Fredericton, he is calmer and more content than I’ve ever known him to be.

The proof: his beautiful new collection of poems, Goodbye Horses (Mansfield Press). A re-imagining of the works and life of classical Roman poet Catullus, Goodbye Horses is Moore’s most opulent (and yet humble, even vulnerable) work to date.

But don’t worry, all of Moore’s eccentric charm is still right there on the page.

RM Vaughan: What intrigues you about Catullus, his work?
Nathaniel G. Moore: Goodbye Horses is in fact a kind of biography of Catullus, but with a twist. As I see the book as an autobiography of me writing his biography, through his poetry. I spent countless years researching individual poems and their subjects, locations, myths and backstories. There was a lot of ground to cover.

RMV: You have had a lot of ‘Big Adult Changes’ in your life in the last few years, and the book reflects that, depicts a life in transition.
NGM:
When I pitched it to Mansfield I explained that Goodbye Horses was me doing Catullus at 43, while my previous book, Let’s Pretend We Never Met, was me doing Catullus at 32. In that time I’ve become a father and less of a hooligan. Catullus desperately wanted domestic virtue: a family with children. He died never achieving that, which to me is a large part of his tragedy. I wanted to write him an ending. The follow-up book will be a novel called Transcript of a Roman Seance, which will detail the final days of his life as told by a Roman slave.

RMV: The new poems are more compact on the page than your previous poems. I would even describe them as scholarly. Where do you see this book in relation to your early works?
NGM: For a long time I thought Let’s Pretend … was my masterpiece. It wasn’t. I should know. But seriously, as that book’s 10th anniversary approached in 2017, I thought of re-releasing it. But when I went to read Let’s, I realized how uneven it is, how most of it seems to be meta fiction and how “dated” the poetry felt/read to me. It was chaotic and turned me off. My new work is a reflection of calming down both in life and on the page. Also I have no romantic conflicts in my life now, so I approached Catullus’s troubles from a more centred realm. I take Catullus’s place, so to speak, in Goodbye Horses, but in my case, with a family, without the need to end his/my life with a big question mark at the end. Catullus couldn’t just chill out to Belle & Sebastian and drink herbal tea and process, didn’t have the emotional tools, access to therapy or a long enough life to figure everything out. So maybe that’s my job.