Though first and foremost a teacher, Wesley Moore remains a man of parts, most of them creative, others amusing, all of them worth getting to know. Artist, blogger, poet and raconteur, the Bard O’ the Beach is also about to publish his first novel.
“To teach is to learn” advises a Japanese proverb. And what Moore gleaned most notably, apart from teaching as the art of assisting discovery, is how to succeed in the art of living. Born in Summerville, the long-time Folly Beach resident retired from the Porter-Gaud School in 2019 as chair of its English department, with decades invested in instilling a love of literature and a thirst for inquiry in his students.
“Oddly enough, I didn’t aspire to be a teacher,” said Moore, currently refining his skills as a collage artist. “I never thought about it, nor did I major in education. But somehow, I got a job at Porter-Gaud in 1985, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me go back as an adult and revisit the writers I’d dismissed in the arrogance of my youth. Once I started teaching Faulkner, I fell in love with it.”
Not long before his death in 2016, Pat Conroy told him, “Wesley, you’re a teacher. You’ve had a good life.”
“And it has been a really, really good life,” Moore said. “So many of my students were extraordinary. I’m happy I did not continue to try to make a living with my original idea of writing short stories.”
While Moore has published in small literary magazines from time to time, today it’s the long form that’s on his mind.
Moore’s young adult novel, Today, Oh Boy, draws its title from the Beatles song “A Day in the Life.” He considers it commercial fiction, not literary, but one can be assured it’s well-crafted. It will be released in the fall by Austin Macauley.
“The object was to paint a portrait of a specific place in time where I grew up in Summerville,” said Moore, a familiar face giving readings at the funky Folly joint Chico Feo. “There are lots of characters from different walks of life who we knew as students and teachers there. I consider it a fast-paced comic novel, written in present tense, with everything tying up in the end. Writing it provided me with a way to contemplate my past, and in a way it enabled my wife Caroline to get to know me as a kid.”
Moore’s wife was more than merely supportive.
“Caroline did something better. She’s a professional editor and when she read the manuscript she said ‘This book isn’t ready. It needs work.’ It would not have been published if not for her.”
Noted Charleston painter and muralist David Boatwright is doing the cover for the book, which only adds to Moore’s pleasure in publishing it.
“It feels great. Some of it is fulfilling an aspiration. But there’s also a kind of postpartum effect now that it’s finished.”
His collage art is becoming more widely known and admired. Evoking many a touchstone of Folly Beach culture, Moore said he began playing around with the form in 2010, initially as a way of lending witty illustrations to his ongoing blog, You Do Hoodoo. A year ago he enjoyed a one-man show at Sherry Browne’s Studio Open.
“The collages are narrative. I take a photo then ‘cut out’ images from JPGs I’ve downloaded and ‘paste’ them into the photograph. I then put a filter over the images, most often ‘poster edges’ but sometimes ‘paint daubs,’ so they resemble paintings. I then have them printed on canvas. Obviously, many of my pieces reflect my fascination with pulp novels of yore and most are set in Folly Beach. I think they’re fun, and I believe I have a pretty good eye for laying them out.”
A 1975 graduate of the University of South Carolina, Moore met his first wife, Judy, in grad school. She passed away just shy of the couple’s 39th wedding anniversary. They had two sons, Harrison and Ned. In 2018, Moore wed the former Caroline Tigner Traugott and gained a daughter, Brooks.
Moore is a forward-thinking sort of fellow. But he can look back with satisfaction on a career that helped produce several young writers of consequence while awakening many others to the power of the written word. He shepherded the successful Porter-Gaud Visiting Writers Series, had his 2006 composition The Insomniacs Ball performed at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival and has been the recipient of various awards, among them a Stanford University Teacher Tribute (2003) and a Gibbes Excellence in Teaching Award.
Moore seems a contented man, which is not to say he is losing his edge. Just try reading his blog. The question is how he regards himself: poet, artist, storyteller, commentator?
“It will sound self-aggrandizing but don’t take myself very seriously. I’m a dabbler. I’m not bound for any fame or fortune. These are just the things I do to entertain myself and keep me thinking and working. People regard me as a poet, but I just think of myself as a writer.”
Bill Thompson is a seasoned cultural writer who lives in Charleston.
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