Thorpe Moeckel

Pine Row Issue No. 1 Spring 2020 - Featured Poet


The snow was still falling on the river. The snow had been falling hard all night and through the day. The banks had grown taller from how much snow had fallen, and there were islands of ice floating downstream like soggy pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. As it drifted down, one particular snowflake asked the river, “Where will you take me when I land in you?”

The river was taking an otter into its right flank but replied after a moment, “It’s more that you’ll take me. I don’t know where that’ll be.”

The snowflake said, “I don’t understand. You seem to be taking all the flakes and the slushy ice-islands downriver. You just took that otter, too.”

“It is not so,” said the river. “What is so is that there is a movement downstream and many call it the river, but I am a voice, nothing greater or lesser than that, not a river, not a body of water, simply a voice that happens to be speaking right now with a snowflake about to enter the movement downstream and an otter already having moved into it.”

Closer to the river than before but still a good ways above it now, the snowflake said, “So I’ll be joining a movement?”

“Looks to me like you’ve already joined,” the river said. “You’re moving aren’t you?”

“I’m falling,” said the snowflake, “and when I land I’ll be moving. There’s a difference.”

“I suppose,” said the river, “because the movement downstream is rising. You’re going to help it rise a little bit more.”

“I don’t know what it’s like to be part of a rise”

“It’s all movement, rising not so different from falling,” said the river.

The snowflake said, “I think there are differences, I think there are some massive differences.”

“You’re being dramatic,” the river said.

The snowflake said, “It’s all movement, differences not so different from non-differences.”

“Oneness,” muttered the river, “is that what you’re getting at, oneness?”

“Otherness?” asked the snowflake. “What?

“Sure,” river said, “and otterness, too.”

Interview with Thorpe Moeckel

by Hank Hudepohl, Pine Row Editor

1. The fables have both a mystical and a mythical quality about them, a primal wisdom. Is there anything in particular that inspired them?

The fables, fables of water, started during the wettest year on record here in Southwest Virginia (records started being kept in 1912). It was a year in which the water was very expressive, and in which I was in a place in my life to be paying close attention to creeks and rivers. I spent more time in my canoe that year than in many years.

2. As a full time professor, how do you find time to write?

It’s a habit, an obsession. I do it, as I’ve done it for many years, no matter what, like breathing. And being on an academic schedule provides the most flexibility of schedule of any job I’ve had, so there’s more space to scribble in the notebooks or to fiddle with drafts once they’re typed up and printed out.

3. What do you think are some of the defining qualities of poetry being written in the United States today?

The only defining quality I notice is abundance. There’s never been so much poetry being written, and of so many flavors.

4 - How do you approach revision in your writing?

I approach revision with great pleasure. I’m always grateful to have words to revise and the time, energy, and enthusiasm to revise them. And I love being surprised in revision. And sometimes the drafts that are most stubborn surprise me in the strangest ways. Also, those drafts that seem to resist revision, that feel done without much tinkering (what Heaney calls “quickies,” perhaps), are weirdly surprising, too, and maybe the most challenging, for the ways they reveal themselves at times to be products of other resistant drafts, a kind of revision in utero.

5 - Anything else you'd like to add in your bio (upcoming or recent book, a link to a personal website, blog, etc)

You can read more about my recent publications here:

Thorpe Moeckel was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. From his late teens to his mid-twenties, he led trips on rivers and trails throughout the Appalachians. He has taught in the writing program at Hollins University since 2005, and loves to explore the good woods, waterways, and ridges around Virginia and West Virginia, both in writing and with family and friends in real time. In recent years, his work has been awarded a Kenan Fellowship at UNC-Chapel Hill, a Sustainable Arts Fellowship, and a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship.