Jim Moore was born on June 22, 1943, in Decatur, Illinois. He began writing in the mid-1960s and received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota and his master’s degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He then began teaching at a junior college in Moline, Illinois. After witnessing his students get drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, Moore decided he wouldn’t continue to accept the teachers’ deferment. He sent his draft card back and refused his conscription; consequentially, he was sent to prison for ten months in 1970. While there, he taught a poetry class to his fellow inmates, an experience that is addressed in his first three books.
In 1975, Moore experienced another life-changing incident. He was at LaGuardia Airport when a bomb exploded, leaving twelve dead. Moore wrote,
Since then, I have felt that life is much more than the interruption of plot than about plot. What choice did my poetry have, but to reshape itself around these interruptions? I try to see as clearly—even calmly—as I can how things are. Sadness is at the heart of this clarity, but strangely, consolation as well.
In 1976, Moore received a grant from the Bush Foundation, allowing him to travel Europe and live in London for several months. That year Moore also published his first book of poems, The New Body (University of Pittsburgh Press). Since then, he has published seven poetry collections, including Prognosis (Graywolf Press, 2021); Underground: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2014); Invisible Strings (Graywolf Press, 2011); and Lightning at Dinner (Graywolf Press, 2005).
According to the New York Times review of Underground: New and Selected Poems,
Jim Moore’s poems are an artful amalgam of humor and fierce attention, suffused by a passion for ancient Asian poetry. Like his sage poet-teachers he grasps the quiet power of white space, knowing that what is unsaid is often just as crucial as what is.
Poet C. K. Williams writes, “Jim Moore writes of history, of love, of pain, of the intimate revelations of a consciousness alive to itself.”
Moore has won four Minnesota Book Awards, three Pushcart Prizes, and the 2002 Loft-McKnight Award in poetry. He has received grants from the Bush Foundation, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Boards. He has twice served as the Edelstein-Keller Distinguished Visiting Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and is a teacher in the MFA program in Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, as well as a frequent visiting professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He divides his time between Minneapolis and Spoleto, Italy.