Marilyn Comer interviews Texas Review Press author Mary Morris
Mary Morris’s poems appear in Poetry, Poetry Daily, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, Arts & Letters, The Massachusetts Review, and numerous other literary journals. She received the Rita Dove Award, the New Mexico Discovery Award in Poetry, and the 2019 Mountain West Prize in poetry from Western Humanities Review. She is the author of Dear October and Enter Water, Swimmer.
What books are you reading now?
The Parisian, by Isabella Hammad; Sun Under Wood, by Robert Hass; and two anthologies: Dear America and Choice Words.
How are you keeping yourself busy during social distancing?
Writing, editing, reading, rereading books, putting manuscripts together, gardening, walking in arroyo, hiking, Zoom critique with writing partners, reconnecting with old friends, collage, watching series: Handmaid’s Tale, Little Fires Everywhere, Masterpiece theatre, Baptiste.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
Rereading Jason Schinder’s metaphors.
What are some of your ‘comfort food’ books, the books you keep coming back to when you need encouragement or escape?
Poetry books by Patricia Smith, C.D. Wright, Charles Simic, Diane Seuss, Major Jackson, Laura Kassichke, Rita Dove, Stephen Dunn, Larry Levis, Eavan Boland, Tomas Transtromer, Rilke, Beth Ann Fennely, Layli Long Soldier.
What does your typical writing process look like?
After breakfast with coffee, as much as possible, I might read a review or something about writing, and begin. Throughout the day I walk, attend to necessary obligations, return to writing, editing, reading.
Did you like to read as a child? Were there any childhood books and authors that were your favorites?
Yes, I started reading at age 4, though never saw a library until junior high. I had only textbooks in Catholic school. At home I read Lives of the Saints, old books on world wonders, National Geographic, and the encyclopedia. Public high school opened up enormous possibilities for literature and creative writing. I fell in love with Bukowski, Tolkien, Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, and read all of Herman Hesse.
What book did you expect to like but didn’t?
Little Fires Everywhere.
Which new authors are you excited about?
Leila Chatti, Colson Whitehead, Layli Long Soldier, Ocean Vuong, Fady Joudah, Evie Shockley, Rigoberto Gonzalez
Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?
I like to learn something in a book, but it has to reach an emotional level to be fully engaging.
What books are on your nightstand?
Melissa Studdard’s I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, Sandra Meek’s Still life, Charles Simic, E. Ethelbert Miller’s If God Invented Baseball, Charles Wright, Tony Hoagland, Eavan Boland, Tomas Transtromer, Choice Words: Writers on Abortion Anthology, and Dear America Anthology, Best American Poetry 2019, Art Books, Isabella Hammad’s The Parisian (which is really about the Middle East).
When reading for pleasure, what do you read?
Poetry, historical novels, poetry.
What’s your all-time favorite book?
Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera…anyone who does magical realism well. Larry Levis, Elegy.
If you could have a conversation with any writer living or dead, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Tomas Transtromer, and I would ask about his music, what he was most influenced by in magical realism, about landscape.
Do you watch television? What is the last thing you binge watched?
Masterpiece, Baptiste, Ken Burns’s The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.
What book should you wait until the age of 40 to read?
Where is your favorite place to read?
Bed. To write? Desk.
What’s your favorite obscure book?
Space in Chains, by Laura Kassichke and The Passion, by Jeanette Winterson.
What book should everybody read before the age of 21?
Anything having to do with fairy tale and myth.
Are there any classic books you feel like you should read but just can’t?
War and Peace
You are organizing a literary dinner party. Who do you invite?
Charles Simic, Anne Rice, Ethelbert Miller, Grace Cavallieri, Patricia Smith, Anne Carson, Laura Kassichke, J. Bruce Fuller, Billy Collins, Yusef Komunyakaa, Layli Long Soldier, Mary Karr, Danez Smith, Rita Dove, Nin Andrews, Jericho Brown, Brian Turner.
Marilyn Comer is an MFA candidate at Sam Houston State University. Currently, she works as Assistant to the Director at Texas Review Press.