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About this poet

Mark McMorris was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1960. He holds several degrees from Brown University, including an M.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry), an M.A. in Greek and Latin Studies, an M.A. Comparative Literature, and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature.

His collections of poetry include Entrepôt (Coffee House Press, 2010); The Café at Light (Roof Books, 2004); The Blaze of the Poui (2003), which was selected by C. D. Wright for the 2002 Contemporary Poetry Series and was also a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Black Reeds(1997), winner of the Contemporary Poetry Series prize from the University of Georgia Press; Moth-Wings(1996), and Palinurus Suite(1992).

McMorris's critical writing has appeared in Poetry and Pedagogy: The Challenge of the Contemporary, Xcp: Crosscultural Poetics, Tripwire, and The Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies. His fiction has appeared in publications such as Ancestral House: The Black Short Story in the Americas and Europe, Callaloo, Conjunctions, and elsewhere.

A two-time winner of the Contemporary Poetry Series, McMorris has been the recipient of various honors, including The Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry. He also received two nominations for the Pushcart Prize and was a finalist for the National Poetry Series in 1999 and 2000.

He has taught at Brown University and University of California, Berkeley, where he served as the Roberta C. Holloway Visiting Professor. He is an Associate Professor at Georgetown University, where he has taught since 1997 and serves as Director of the University's Lannan Literary Programs.

Prayer to Shadows on My Wall

Mark McMorris

Soon the rushlights will go out in the flesh
of sympathetic bodies once close to my own hand
and I will go to my hammock, thinking of little
except the numbness that alone makes bearable
the wind's twisting. I want atoms to separate
like hairs or dust onto the heads of my daughters.
I want to violate the edict that traps my hunger
in cages and away from her rough shoulder 
and once to be enough for this and all the loves
that flicker through my bedroom before sleep.
They keep me awake, and tonight they are fierce
as whips or as needles to make the skin crawl.
I want to drift like the poui in a southerly wind
and settle where I need to before the faces erode,
my appetite of iron caulking the egg-shell heart.

From The Blaze of the Poui by Mark McMorris. Copyright © 2003 by Mark McMorris. Reprinted by permission of the University of Georgia Press. All rights reserved.

From The Blaze of the Poui by Mark McMorris. Copyright © 2003 by Mark McMorris. Reprinted by permission of the University of Georgia Press. All rights reserved.

Mark McMorris

Mark McMorris was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1960. He holds several

by this poet

poem
The wound cannot close; language is a formal exit
is what exits from the wound it documents.
The wound is deaf to what it makes; is deaf
to exit and to all, and that is its durable self,
to be a mayhem that torments a city. The sound
comes first and then the word like a wave
lightning and then thunder, a glance
poem

If poetry is not bread

to fortify the righteous

is it because we miss

in it the savor of contest

the whisper of blessing

over a martyr's name

the light of sacral plans

to take the citadel once

and for all, or give it up?