Erin Mouré (a.k.a. Erín Moure, Eirin Moure, and Elisa Sampedrín), poet, translator, essayist (born 17 April 1955 in Calgary, AB). Winner of the Governor General’s Award (she has been nominated a total of five times) and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, shortlisted three times for the Griffin Poetry Prize, Erin Mouré is also an active translator of Galician, French, Spanish, and Portuguese poetry into English, and a frequent collaborator, and remains one of Canada’s most prolific and influential experimental poets.
Mouré attended both the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia, although she did not complete degrees; she was later awarded an honorary doctorate (D Litt) from Brandon University. Her early work is relatively conventional compared to her later work, for which she is better known, but nevertheless advances a radical politics through a feminist approach that often foregrounds lesbian desire. Mouré’s early work also often focuses thematically on labour, drawing from her experiences working in factories, on trains, and other jobs. Her development as a poet is neatly summarized by her book jackets: for example, the back cover of her first book, Empire, York Street (1979), lauds Mouré’s “vivid, accessible style,” but as Mouré’s writing developed she became known for an abstruse, complex style, and so the jacket copy of Search Procedures (1996) quotes critic Lianne Moyes’s observation that Mouré's poems seem “impervious to explication.”
As an example of this early style, in the poem “Thirteen Years” from Furious(1988), Mouré writes “I am in a daydream of my uncle, / his shirt out at his daughter’s wedding, / white scoop of the shirt-tail bobbing / on the dance floor & him in it, no, / his drunk friend pawing me, it was his shirt dangling, / I forgot this.” While Mouré’s imagery is complicated, and displays some interest in the instability of memory and the seeming treachery of language, the shirt-tail bobbing and the drunken pawing are both relayed by Mouré in a fairly straightforward manner.
As Mouré’s formal experiments became more varied and frequent, they became more heavily informed by post-structuralist theory, and more extensively involved language play and issues of identity politics. Despite such generalizations, close attention to Mouré’s later work reveals many poems that either in whole or in part return to the clear, vivid style that typifies her earlier efforts.
In comparison to the previous example, in the poem “Medicamina Faciei Feminae” from The Unmemntioable (2012), Mouré writes: “Body (the illegible dis-guesture) enfronts all / language. a Body not / even accounted for—or constrained—by / this word ‘body’ which wills or bodes…” Although some similar themes are present, such as the failure of language to embody lived experience, the stylistic emphasis is on making the language itself express this failure. Not only does Mouré combine the words disgust, guest, and gesture with the prefix dis, but also the imagery tends towards abstraction as a word (body) becomes the actual image that Mouré presents.
Mouré also works as a translator, best known for a radical approach to translation typified by her book Sheep's Vigil by a Fervent Person (2001), a translation of O Guardador de Rebanhos by Alberto Caeiro (one of the heteronyms of Fernando Pessoa — a heteronym, unlike a pseudonym, has a different, imaginary biography). While translators conventionally make it their goal to recede so that the author of the original text can speak in a new language, Mouré instead often chooses to foreground her personality in her work as a translator, in this case using her own heteronym (Eirin Moure) as the speaker of the translated poems. For example, at one point she transforms Pessoa/Caeiro's image of someone smiling foolishly like someone who doesn't know what somebody else might be talking about, but tries to pretend that they do, into "smiling half-goofy like my friend Phil" (the Canadian poet Phil Hall, one of Mouré's contemporaries). In addition to translating Pessoa/Caeiro from Portuguese, Mouré has translated French writers Nicole Brossard and Louise Dupré, Galician writer Chus Pato and Spanish writer AndrésAjens.
Mouré has undertaken many collaborations as a poet and translator, usually with other translator-poets. Most notably, Mouré has co-translated (with Robert Majzels) four books of poetry by Nicole Brossard. In 2007, Mouré and Majzels were shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Translation for their translation of Brossard’s Notebook of Roses and Civilization (2006), and in 2008,Mouré and Majzels were shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize alongside Brossard for the same book.Mouré and Majzels were also finalists for the QWF Prize for Translation in 2007. Other notable collaborators (whom Mouré has either translated, or with whom Mouré has co-authored works) include Chus Pato and Oana Avasilichioaei.
Mouré’s own poetry shows a developing interest in experimental translation, with her poems often incorporating other languages or moving between languages, or otherwise displaying various and complicated interconnections between language, history and identity. These concerns are also reflected in Mouré's inconsistent spelling of her name and the use of heteronyms. Sheep’s Vigil for a Fervent Person was published under the name Eirin Moure, and Mouré also moved the accent from the e in Mouré to the i in Erín for the publication of O Cidadán (2002). Mouré also adopts the heteronym Elisa Sampedrín as a personality and author-character within several books, beginning with Little Theatres (2005).
Mouré’s name-play often accompanies unconventional translations and is meant to both draw attention to the slippery, unstable nature of language and meaning, and to symbolize her conception of identity as fluid and multiple. In The Unmemntioable, Elisa Sampedríngives up writing poetry after reading the work of Chus Pato and observes Erin Mouré as "E.M." buries her mother's ashes in Ukraine and "E.S." observes Mouré to "research the nature of Experience." Mouré playfully adds the word "trout" to translated philosophy and includes in the book matrix barcodes that, when scanned by a smartphone or QR reader, open online links to poems. This sort of mixed-media play is also present in Mouré's earlier books, where poems appear as if sewn onto the page or unbound, floating pages are included to be moved around to various positions within or even taken entirely out of the book. Her book Pillage Laud (1999) was produced using computer-generated sentences combined to form lesbian sex poems.
Mouré has received many awards and accolades, for both poetry and translation. In addition to the awards for translation noted above, she was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1979, 1996, 2002 and 2005, and won this award in 1988 for Furious. She was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002 and 2006. Mouré was also a finalist for the QSPELL Award for Poetry in 1994, 1996 and 1999(Mouré won this award in 1990), a finalist for the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry in 2007 and 2010 (Mouré won this award in 2005), and a finalist for the City of Toronto Book Awards in 2002.She also won a National Magazine Award for Poetry in 1982 (also winning the "silver" award in 1993) and won the Pat Lowther Memorial Award in 1986.
- Empire, York Street - 1979 (nominated for a Governor General's Award)
- The Whisky Vigil - 1981
- Wanted Alive - 1983
- Domestic Fuel - 1985 (winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award)
- Furious - 1988 (winner of the 1988 Governor General's Award for poetry)
- WSW - 1989 (winner of the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry)
- Sheepish Beauty, Civilian Love - 1992
- The Green Word: Selected Poems, 1973–1992 - 1994
- Search Procedures - 1996 (nominated for a Governor General's Award)
- A Frame of the Book - 1999
- Pillage Laud - 1999, reissued 2011
- O Cidadán - 2002 (nominated for a Governor General's Award)
- Little Theatres - 2005 (winner of the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, nominated for a Governor General's Award, nominated for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, shortlisted for the 2006 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize)
- O Cadoiro - 2007
- Expeditions of a Chimæra (collaboration with Oana Avasilichioaei) - 2009 (shortlisted for the 2011 A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry)
- O Resplandor - 2010 (shortlisted for the 2011 A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry)
- The Unmemntioable - 2012
- Installations - 2000, translation with Robert Majzels from French of Nicole Brossard's Installations
- Sheep's Vigil by a Fervent Person translation from Portuguese of Fernando Pessoa / Alberto Caeiro's O Guardador de Rebanhos - 2001 (shortlisted for the 2002 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize)
- Museum of Bone and Water - 2003, translation with Robert Majzels from French of Nicole Brossard's Musée de l'os et de l'eau
- Notebook of Roses and Civilization - 2006, translation with Robert Majzels from French of Nicole Brossard's Cahier de roses & de civilisation (nominated for a Governor General's Award; shortlisted for the 2008 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize)
- Charenton - 2007, translation from Galician of Chus Pato's Charenton
- Quase Flanders, Quase Extremadura - 2008, translation from Spanish of excerpts from the poetry of Andrés Ajens
- m-Talá - 2009, translation from Galician of Chus Pato's m-Talá
- Hordes of Writing - 2011, translation from Galician of Chus Pato's Hordas de escritura
- Just Like Her – 2011, translation from French of Louise Dupré's Tout comme elle
- White Piano - 2013, translation with Robert Mazjels from French of Nicole Brossard's Piano blanc
- Galician Songs - 2013, translation from Galician of Rosalia de Castro's Cantares Gallegos
- Two Women Talking: Correspondence 1985–1987 - 1994 (with Bronwen Wallace)
- My Beloved Wager essays – 2009