Priorities. Priorities? Priorities.

It’s been a while since I posted, which is unfortunate because a lot of cool stuff happened: The Spring 2015 issue of North American Review came out with my poem “Invocation,” the Jack Straw reading series happened in May, the Jack Straw anthology was published, I read twice at Northwest Folklife (once for a Poetry on Buses event and again with some of my Jack Straw cohort), and I had my week on the Poetry on Buses website.

My husband and I have also been house-hunting, which (as many people have observed) is like a second job. Apart from eating up my time, it has been eating up my attention and my will, and more to the point, it has fostered in my mind a belief that I am not allowed to spend time and mental energy on poetry while we’re in this period of pressure and uncertainty.

Few beliefs could be more wrongheaded, I know. When I’m not making and reading poems, I’m only a partial person, and nothing else in my life can really be right.

For encouragement, I went back and read a Facebook comment from one of my fellow Jack Straw writers, Martha Kreiner, an exceptionally wise and openhearted poet. She was responding to my query about how things were going one week this spring while we were all trying to get our work ready for the anthology:

How it’s going: struggling to keep creativity sparking while also supporting my family during the health transitions of my dad, working, and vacationing (as an antidote) in Disneyland. What fantastic practice. I always think of you writers who are also parents—hats off. You do it every day. Some of us are newer to the extreme balancing act. But it’s all happening. I’m writing some words, attending a building inspection, rearranging some words, waiting in line at the Haunted Mansion, crossing some words out, measuring the storage unit at my parents’ new condo, reordering lines, vacuuming out the car, and figuring out what I’m trying to say. I guess that’s how we all roll all the time. We are kind of amazing.

Yes, Martha, we are, when we allow ourselves to be. Thanks—I needed that reminder.

Farewell, Steve Kowit, and thank you.

I was saddened to hear today about the passing of my mother Regina Morin​’s poetry teacher, Steve Kowit. Mom studied poetry with Steve in San Diego for over twenty years. I had the good fortune to take a workshop with him one weekend when I happened to be in town; I will always be grateful to him for the way he let me know, accurately and in the kindest way possible, exactly what the problem was with one of my poems. Through his own works of poetry, his editing work, his classroom teaching, and his book In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop, Steve nurtured countless poets with a generous heart, practical wisdom, and integrity. Thanks to San Diego Free Press for posting an excerpt from one of his critical essays, and a poem of his that contemplates his own demise, now sadly upon us, with characteristic wit.

Sixty-five days.

That’s how many days we Jack Straw Writers had from our orientation meeting on January 9 to our deadline to turn in our new work for the Jack Straw anthology. Each writer gets five pages. I hear “five pages” and think, “Five pages = five poems. Yikes! I I can spend a year on a single poem! What am I gonna doooo?????” Today is T-22.

So, have I been a little panicked? Uh, yes. Especially since these poems don’t just have to be written—they have to be publishable, which sets the bar much higher. 

Producing poems on a deadline is weird. It’s just really weird. It drives me into the “just get it done” mindset, which seems antithetical to the goal of making the best art I can, however long it takes. On the other hand, it does make me get the work done—and once it’s “done,” it’s really just material that I can continue to play with and improve on.

I still don’t know how I feel about putting time constraints on my process. I recently spent a year on a fourteen-line poem that I think is one of the best I’ve ever written. It hasn’t been accepted for publication yet. I wrote another fourteen-line poem in the space of a week for a class at Hugo House, and with essentially no revision it won an honorable mention for the James Hearst Poetry Prize. It’s also one of the best I’ve ever written. What do I know? I’m just the writer.

All of this is a prelude to my stating that as of today, except for some minor gaps I have to fill in on two of the poems, I have fair drafts of all five of my poems for the Jack Straw anthology. All of them still need some work, of course. But now I know I’m going to be all right. And that does feel good.


I am honored

I mentioned in an earlier post that one of my poems was a finalist for an annual prize awarded by a university literary magazine. Now that I know the results, I can announce that my poem, “Invocation,” has received an Honorable Mention for the James Hearst Poetry Prize, awarded by North American Review and judged this year by D. A. Powell! It will appear along with the winners and all the other finalists in the Spring 2015 issue of the magazine. I’m thrilled and grateful!

Rainier Writing Workshop Class of 2018!

I waited to post this so I could tell my parents during my Christmas visit…I’ve been accepted into the Rainier Writing Workshop low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma! I’m excited and honored to have this opportunity to study poetry with RWW’s outstanding faculty and to join the selective community of RWW students. Special thanks to program director Rick Barot for his encouragement! I look forward to meeting the rest of my cohort at my first residency in August 2015.


A VERY good week

A little while ago I wrote a couple of posts (here and here) about writing an artist statement for my application to the 2015 Jack Straw Writers Program. I’m delighted to be able to report that today I found out I’ve been accepted! The program begins in January and will run throughout 2015. This is an amazing opportunity, and I am humbled, thrilled, and slightly terrified. The list of past Jack Straw Writers Program participants reads like a Who’s Who of Pacific Northwest writers: I’ve got some big acts to follow.

I’d like to thank Alex O’Connell for her helpful posts on artist statements for writers, and Michelle Peñaloza, a 2014 Jack Straw fellow who generously shared her application materials with me. If you are so inclined, you can read my artist statement here.

And as if that weren’t enough good news, I found out just yesterday that one of my poems is a finalist for an annual prize awarded by a university literary magazine, judged this year by a poet I greatly admire. All finalists will be published in the Spring 2015 issue of the magazine; first prize is $1000. I’ll wait to identify the contest until I know the final results. Wish me luck!

Thinking outside the box


On a flight back from San Francisco, I opened my Delta Sky magazine and found that a previous passenger had creatively, if cluelessly, gotten the crossword puzzle started for me:

1 Across, Cry after an epiphany: “SAD”
4 Across, Butt: “ASS”
7 Across, Toy in a crib: “BATMAN”
7 Down, Jogs, in a way: “BOUNCIN” (my favorite)
8 Down, Yes: “AOK”

It’s done.

At around 6:00 p.m. this evening, I finished my online MFA application and submitted it. Alea iacta est. Now I’m looking forward to thinking about something else for a while.

My poem has arrived at the station!

P1050951Yesterday my husband David and I drove down to the RapidRide station at Pacific Highway S and S 276th Street in Federal Way (about 30 minutes south of Seattle). He took these photos of me with my poem and portrait.


Here’s the text of the poem. It will also be featured as Poem of the Week on the home page the week of May 25th, 2015, with my portrait and an audio recording of me reading it. Can’t wait!

Text of poem by L. J. Morin for Poetry on Buses 2014-2015

Text of poem by L. J. Morin for Poetry on Buses 2014-2015