Nov. 19th, 2019
Standing on East San Antonio Street and gazing across the lawn towards the Hays County Courthouse, an architect might realize that the building’s domes and coulomb-supported, peaked entrance are reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson’s neoclassical plantation house. Walking the downtown streets, that same architect might notice the many arched windows patterned with painted brick that decorate the businesses lining the square. Poet and professor of creative writing Tomás Q. Morín, who earned his MFA in Creative Writing at Texas State and is the author of the recent collection Patient Zero, says that, through exploring the “history, style, technique, and the interaction of [these elements] in design and culture,” one uncovers stories hidden within the details. He encourages students and young authors to read as writers, “mov[ing] through a book the same way an architect moves through a city.” Moreover, he says these young writers must experiment with the forms and techniques they find in the texts they read.
Among the texts Morín admires for their enlightening takes on craft and storytelling is Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, a nonfiction text he taught over several semesters at Texas State during his time as a Senior Lecturer. This text was originally written in German, an acquired language for its Japanese-born author. Morín appreciated the complexities of an author writing creatively in a second language, a subject the text explores. Incorporating a similar method in his own poetry, he brings his knowledge of the Spanish language and the Latinx community from which he comes to his writing. In his debut collection of poetry, A Larger Country, Morín explored “other countries, whether they be real or countries of the mind.” The manuscript was selected for the prestigious American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize from over one thousand entries, with the book being named a runner-up for the Joyce Osterweil Award from PEN America, which recognizes important literary achievement by emerging authors. In addition to his two poetry collections, he also has published a translation of Pablo Neruda’s The Heights of Macchu Picchu.
Morín today finds inspiration for his work at a window-side desk in Lubbock, Texas, where he has a view of the green foliage around him. In this space many of his recent poems have taken form, though the city he writes from has changed in the years since his time at Texas State. These poems comprise his recently published collection, Patient Zero, whose title poem was prompted by the question “if ‘Love’ were a disease, who is patient zero?” In this collection Morín explains the poems are written from a “persona” that fits the poem’s subject, rather than Morín’s own point of view. By contrast, the political, emotional, and cultural issues that impact his life and the lives of his loved ones inform his upcoming collection, Machete. Father figures, mental health, toxic masculinity, and the intersections of nonfiction and poetry are featured themes and concepts in both Machete and the memoir Morín is currently writing. Reflecting on the year so far, comprised of writing, revising, teaching, and parenting, he says the poems in Machete and the material in his memoir “may be [his] most personal yet,” featuring his investigation of his own father figures as he begins his new role as a father himself.
Now a Visiting Writer-in-Residence at Texas Tech University, where he is currently teaching undergraduate nonfiction workshops, Morín has found that his reading and research for his classes support the memoir he is completing. These nonfiction courses and writing, while not the poetry Morín is most experienced with, have allowed him to explore a new writing medium. To describe this change, he says, “poetry is focused on a much smaller canvas,” and he is enjoying making broader strokes through nonfiction.
Of his time at Texas State, he remembers the people he worked with and studied alongside most fondly. “These are the people I call on my weekend phone calls,” he says, describing his hobby of calling old friends and having long conversations over the phone. He delights that he can send them a poem to critique in a pinch “or even call them to talk about basketball,” having found true friends in his academic peers at Texas State who continue to shape his writing as much as they shape his life.
-Kennedy Farrell, English Major