Tomás Q. Morín ('03)
Michael Ndubuisi Agugom ('23) speaks with Tomás Q. Morín ('03) about the craft of poetry, his upcoming work, and what the memories he holds onto from his time at Texas State.
Tomás Q. Morín is the author of the poetry collection Machete (Knopf, 2021) and the forthcoming memoir Let Me Count the Ways (Univ. of Nebraska, 2022). His first collection of poetry A Larger Country was the winner of the American Poetry Review/Honickman Prize and runner-up for the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. Patient Zero, his second poetry collection, was described by Publishers Weekly in a starred review as "striking in capturing everyday actions with startling, musical wit." With Mari L’Esperance, he co-edited Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine, a book that explores the art and value of Philip Levine's five decades of teaching. In his work as a translator, Morín translated Pablo Neruda’s visionary The Heights of Macchu Picchu, as well as Luisa Pardo & Gabino Rodriguez's libretto Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance, a magisterial opera composed by Graham Reynolds. He teaches at Rice University.
MA: Could you tell us a little more about you?
TM: That’s a big question! Where does one even start? Hmmm, since you did say, “a little,” the Cliff’s Notes version is that I’m a joker, a poet, a survivor, a dad, a teacher, a Mexican-American, a memoirist, a cat lover… and the list could go on.
MA: Did you have expectations before joining the MFA program at Texas State University?
TM: My only expectation is that I would learn everything I needed to know in order to take a real shot at making a life as a writer. And that expectation was absolutely met. I also expected I would gain a community of fellow writers. That also happened, and while the group is smaller than I expected, that’s okay, because they’re friends for life.
MA: What was your experience in the MFA program? Any favorite memories?
TM: Too many fun memories to list here. Student readings, workshops, conversations with the poet, Ai, drinks at Showdown, shooting pool at Cats, department holiday parties, events at the KAP House.
MA: Did your experience in the program contribute to writing any of your books?
TM: While my MFA Thesis never became a book (thank goodness!) because it was still apprentice work, my other poetry collections are built on the foundation of that manuscript. Learning how to put a book together, well, I learned that at Texas State. That led to books which has led to community and connections with people that I absolutely cherish. I wouldn’t have this wonderful life in books if I hadn’t cut my teeth in the MFA program.
MA: What was your journey to getting your first book of poetry published after the completion of your MFA program?
TM: Long. My first book was published 9 years after I finished my MFA. I sent it out for four years and it was turned down 42 times before it won a contest. Even though it felt like an eternity, it took just as long as it needed to because I needed to be ready.
Order Machete by Tomás Q. Morín here.