BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore
Born in 1940 in Oakland, California, his first book of poems, Dawn Visions, was published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books, San Francisco, in 1964. In 1972 his second book, Burnt Heart, Ode to the War Dead, was also published by City Lights. He was the winner of the Ina Coolbrith Award for poetry and the James D. Phelan Award for the manuscript of poems in progress that became Dawn Visions. From 1966 to 1969, Mr. Moore wrote and directed ritual theatre for his Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company in Berkeley, California.
When he became a Muslim in 1970, he took the name Abd al-Hayy, and began traveling extensively in Europe and North Africa (Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote of this period: “Moore [became] a Sufi and, like Rimbaud, renounced written poetry.”). After ten years of not writing, however, Moore “renounced” his renunciation and published three books of poetry in Santa Barbara, California in the 1980’s, The Desert is the Only Way Out, The Chronicles of Akhira, and Halley’s Comet. He also organized poetry readings for the Santa Barbara Arts Festivals and wrote the libretto for a commissioned oratorio by American composer, Henry Brant, entitled Rainforest, which had its world premiere at the Arts Festival there on April 21, 1989.
In 1990 Mr. Moore moved with his family to Philadelphia, where he continues to write and read his work publicly. He has received commissions for two prose books with Running Press of that city, the best selling The Zen Rock Garden and a men’s movement anthology, Warrior Wisdom; his commissioned book for The Little Box of Zen was published in 2001 by Larry Teacher Books.
Daniel Moore’s poems (sometimes under the name Abd al-Hayy Moore) have appeared in such magazines as Zyzzva, the City Lights Review, and The Nation. He has read his poetry to 40,000 people at the United Nations in New York at a rally for the people of Bosnia during that war, and has participated in numerous conferences and conventions at universities (including Bryn Mawr, The University of Chicago and Duke University in 1998, the American University at Cairo, Egypt, in 1999, and the University of Arkansas in the year 2000). His book The Ramadan Sonnets, co-published by Kitab and City Lights Books, appeared in 1996, and his book of poems, The Blind Beekeeper, distributed by Syracuse University Press, in January of 2002. To date (2004), he has over 50 manuscripts of poetry which make up his present body of work.
In March of the year 2000, and October of 2001, Mr. Moore collaborated with the Lotus Music and Dance Studio of New York, performing the poetic narration he wrote for their multicultural dance performance of The New York Ramayana, and recently revived his own theatrical project in The Floating Lotus Magic Puppet Theater, presenting The Mystical Romance of Layla & Majnun with live-action and hand-puppets. He wrote the scenario and poetic narration and directed a collaboration between traditional Mohawk and modern dancers for The Eagle Dance: A Tribute to the Mohawk High Steel Workers, which was to be presented in New York on September 22, 2001, postponed for a performance on March 16, 2002 at the Aaron Davis Hall in Harlem. He has participated in The People’s Poetry Gathering of New York, narrating a cabaret version of The New York Ramayana at the Bowery Poetry Club and participating in a panel on The Poet in The World: Words in Community. He continues to give many public readings during the year, often accompanying himself on specially tuned zithers.
What others have said about his work
The intelligence of Daniel Moore’s poems is like Frank O’Hara’s: there are no boundaries or limits to possible subject matter. Imagination runs rampant and it glides. Reading them is like standing in a cool snow field on a sunny day. It’s a blanket of glory and a sheer act of beauty. Moore is unique in the variance and perfection of his prosody. Each poem is a new melody. Like the metaphysical poets, Vaughn, Herbert, Crashaw, the shape of the poem is strong, no matter how lovely; it is fused with depth. This is the real thing! —Michael McClure
I celebrate Daniel Moore’s unique and constant creative work over the decades. “Visionary” means truly seeing truth unveiled, seeing within & without the inescapable unity of all facets & aspects of the Divine—& sometimes being able to frame the unsayable in language. It is this poetry that he has been mastering over the years – no mean feat; in fact it is an extraordinary enterprise of inestimable value & inspiration.—David Meltzer
Daniel Moore was a legend among poets and the hip cognoscenti of California in the 1960s, so it’s a great pleasure to see just how brightly this flame still burns. The eye and ear have retained every ounce of sharpness. Can a deeply spiritual poet have this much humor? Imagine Mayakovsky, McClure and Frank O’Hara all wrapped in the same soul. That still doesn’t capture just how much fun a book this intense can be.—Ron Silliman
He’s like an old wisdom tradition come up off the streets.—Coleman Barks
Daniel Moore is that rarity among his contemporaries – a surrealist of the sacred – whose poems are shimmering cornucopias of xylophones, gazelles, minarets and herons, spilling forth their abundance, the seen and the Unseen, suffused with spiritual awe and love of God. In these pages we are in the presence of a visionary servant of the divine, a poet of torrential imagination, in whose hands we are all whooshed into the world of spirit.—Carolyn Forché
Immersion in Daniel Moore’s cascading imagery leaves you soaked to the soul in spirituality. Whether a brief musing on a falling leaf or a multi-stanza love opus, each of these poems gleams with a combination of intellectual honesty and a sense of cosmic unity. Often his final lines leave you wondering, “How did he do that?”—Doug Froggatt
Daniel Moore’s latest book is like the hoopoe bird. The poems contained within are lush and loving, like the correspondence that one of the more famous of the hoopoes carried back and forth from King Solomon in Jerusalem to Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba, in the Qur’an. I like Moore’s poems because, like that particular sacred romance, they have happy cosmic endings—because he utterly trusts in God, Whose Mercy is greater than His Wrath.
From beekeepers in the mountains to exotic birds in the desert, Daniel Moore always travels to the essential question of who we are, why we are here, and, where we are going.—Shems Friedlander
Daniel Moore’s poetry is the exercise of the divine, an open gate to the wilderness of the eternal. Here with the Blind Beekeeper we live the sainthood of an astonishing imagination. Every word possesses a sacred space, every image confirms the reality of the invisible. If the crystal universe exists, what is it? If it does not, what do the poems of the Blind Beekeeper reveal to us? —Munir Akash
Daniel Moore, even though he’s been writing for so many years, has yet to be discovered. He’s writing from such a wide and diverse platform that it may take a truly new and truly global “fifth world” citizen to hear where he’s coming form. He’s taken inspiration from the sixties, forged it with experience and travel from Mecca to Timbuktu and Philly, and in the language of this time has spoken it from the heart.—Hakim Archuletta
Many poets would cheerfully swap a body part for Daniel Moore’s ability to write so fluently, and for so long, and so well. To turn on the tap, so to speak, and have words gush forth. He has never stopped seeing the world with a poet’s eyes. That is, he is continually amazed and moved by what he sees and reads, and if you happen to agree with Ezra Pound that all genuine poetry has its roots in an emotional response to something or other—an idea, object, event or image—then, there you have it.—Jim Cory
…Daniel Moore keeps faith for all of us. He’s snared in duality, as we are, but with him the heart is always open. I much admire his generosity of spirit, which does not waver.—Michael Hannon
TAM Editor’s note: Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore has been called the “poet laureate” of American Islam by Hamza Yusuf, Mohja Kahf, and myself. He has been one of the individuals who contributed greatly to The American Muslim since the 1990’s. He was also a participant and contributed greatly to the 1993 North American Muslim Pow Wow at Dar al Islam in Abiquiu, New Mexico.
American Muslim Statement of Poetics by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore (originally published in the Winter 1994 print edition of TAM for which Daniel was the Poetry Editor)
Perhaps there is a body of literature, of a resounding and resonant poetry and prose by Muslims in America, which benefits from the great strengths of the contemporary American writing all around us, with its diversity and versatility, as well as international poetry with all its styles and sophistications, while at the same time being stunningly truthful and skillful in its expression of the totality of our lives as Muslims in America. I see a poetry in the American idiom, multiple as that is, capable of epic rhapsody, lyric, simple observation, here at the end of the twentieth century, geographical as well as placeless, embodying the heart of our Islam and the winds of change and the soul’s transformation.
The Prophet () said: “In poetry there is wisdom.” And he also said: “He who remembers his Lord and he who does not are like the living and the dead.” (Bukhari) Perhaps, and it may be in its embryonic stage, a vigorous, risk-taking and contemplative poetry is already being written, and its practitioners are shyly holding onto it, or it has only to come out from behind a kind of puritanical embarrassment in order to be revealed.
We have to overcome our own qualms about creativity, the critical and supercilious browbeatings from Muslims who fear it and misinterpret hadith and Qur’an to quell it. The history of Islamic literature is full of poetry by known poets, just as the museums are full of Islamic art that is highly developed and beautiful and not merely decorative. A poetry that is imaginatively inventive and vivid, from the heart tempered by an aware intellect, surreal with real substance, spiritual in the deepest sense, radical while avoiding the polemical and dogmatic, not preachy, but not afraid of the heights nor scornful of the depths, and which is not affected by a superiority complex by virtue of simply being Muslim (Allah’s final deen), while at the same time maintaining a standard of knowledgeable excellence. I am not defining formalism, nor the merely colloquial. Pick up the many anthologies of modem American poetry, poetry of now, to see what I mean!
It is a poetry by poets who take their art seriously, who have read and continue reading the poetry of the past and of the present, for whom it may also be a mode of remembrance of their Lord, a dhikr, true contemplation having a high rank in Islam, a form of prayer. The heart moves the pen, the hand obeys, and the schooled intellect maintains the rhythms and measures, observes the limits and how to go past them and provides the critical traction for wisdom to take to the air. I’m trying to define both true poetry by anyone of any belief, and a poetry for and by Muslims we can be proud of—angry, sweet, celestial, terrestrial, the trials and defeats as well as the struggles and victories of our lives, the whole enchilada, a living expression that is both familiar and challenging, that both defines us in all our textures, and takes us beyond what we know. An alchemical vocation with language!
Without making any claims for myself, I call on poets to study and to compose, to” read and then forget reading, to sharpen the sword of their pens with love and dedication. We want to publish good poetry here in these pages, wherever space allows. Not “filler” poetry, and not occasional doggerel, but solid soaring, solid enumerations, transparent arguments for Allah’s greatness and our submission, past the grave.
In America we have seen over the last thirty years how Buddhist thought has enriched the poetry of poets like Gary Snyder, A1len Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, through their deft, elegiac rants, their careful observations, their great dimension and their respectful silences. When Islam takes hold in a culture that culture’s arts flourish with a flood of wonders. I would hope that perhaps we can have the same among us, natural to our soil and our natures, a passionate and precisely imagined poetry of our Islam.
Octavio Paz, the Nobel Prize Mexican poet, said:
“Poetry is knowledge, salvation, power, abandonment. An operation capable of changing the world, poetic activity is revolutionary by nature; a spiritual exercise, it is a means of interior liberation. Poetry reveals this world; it creates another…the poem is a mask that hides the void—a beautiful proof of the superfluous grandeur of every human work!”
9/11 Mohawk Eagle Dance Memoir, Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/9-11-mohawk-eagle-dance-memoir
Choosing Islam, Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore
THE ECSTATIC EXCHANGE: WORDS ON MY LIFE AND POETRY, Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_ecstatic_exchange_words_on_my_life_and_poetry
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore video portrait http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iS3NRvkKzI0&mode=related&search=
1960’s Floating Lotus Opera poster from http://www.danielmoorepoetry.com/