Texas Review Press, a member of Texas A&M University Consortium,
TAMU, published Mary Morris’s first book in April, 2018.
available through Collected Works bookstore in Santa Fe, NM;
a debut book of poems by Mary F. Morris
in praise of Enter Water, Swimmer
“Enter Water, Swimmer features not only an interesting comma in its title but a gathering of imaginative poems that are playful and true to themselves. Mary Morris is not a minimalist but she has a light touch and leaves a lot of room around her words, which can be experienced as air or silence. Someone says poets are people who cannot say one thing at a time, and here we have a distinct example of that ability. In one poem, Saint Valentine is seen as the patron saint not only of love, but epilepsy, the poet having a vested interest in both.
In another, the poet turns our attention from the aftermath of war to the artistry of a sushi chef who can turn a shrimp into a hummingbird, and out of a piece of yellowtail fashion miniature horses that ‘cantered around our hands.’ Mary Morris is not a surrealist either, but she produces one vivid leap after another. An acupuncturist takes the speaker’s pulse ‘as though searching for a forbidden city on a map.’
And in a tribute to Szymborska, ‘little crosses’ become ‘warplanes in their hangars put to rest,’ an image so rare and true, the Polish poet herself might have envied it. These poems are full of eye-opening surprises.”
— Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate 2001-2003
“A poem is often a balancing act between beauty and truth-telling, between elegance and plain-spokenness. Mary Morris’s poems manage to do both. There’s an austerity to Morris’s poetic speech that is part of their painstaking honesty. She is as meticulous when invoking spiritual mysteries as when she describes the difficulties of human relationship, or contemporary political realities.
But there’s also a counterpoint lushness of image and sound, a nearly-drunken love of mystery and poetry itself. ‘Enter water, swimmer,’ she says in her thrilling first poem: ‘Be sworn in.’ One feels in her work a complex sentience: compassionate but tough-minded, in love with and yet chastened by the punishing actualities of experience.
Morris is a poet in full possession of her craft. The poems of Enter Water, Swimmer — this collection’s title is by itself both passionate, mysterious and reserved — manage to be at once humble and celebratory, forceful, and beautifully-made. This is a big-hearted, honest, and often gorgeous book.”
—Tony Hoagland, author of Application for Release from a Dream
“In Enter Water, Swimmer, Mary Morris weaves together timeless thematic strands — the body, landscape, loss, motherhood, identity — in poems that are as deftly crafted as they are startling in their imagery. These poems possess a good strangeness I can’t shake, and they share a fascination with newness and invention, both within the physical body and beyond it. As Morris writes in the opening poem: ‘Enter water, swimmer…./Be sworn in.’ Indeed, this book is one I’m delighted to enter again and again.”
— Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones
“A distinguished runner-up, written with style and confidence. The poet continually introduces elements that surprise. The collection as a whole speaks with authority.”
— X. J. Kennedy (of the X. J. Kennedy Prize)
“Mary Morris’s debut collection unleashes the forces of Eros against those of Thanatos — love and all that is sustaining versus utter annihilation. You can sense Frida Kahlo as the presiding spirit here; the poems arrive with totemic intensity, a surreal mash-up of animism, mysticism, cultural traditions, and harrowing autobiography — all in the service of a spirit seeking remedy for a vulnerable body in a hazardous world. As in Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme,’ the work here is psalm-like, exultant, a blooming outward from suffering via the ‘blue throat of joy.’”
—Thomas Centolella, author of Almost Human
“Morris’ sweet natural voice has already won her a fan base — fact and reason are turned to compassion and lyric. The impact of her work comes from a lack of adornment and artifice; you can trust every word. How does she do this? By allowing the thought to be the wellspring of language and not the other way around. In this way a pure tone is achieved contrasting itself into form. Morris celebrates existence even with its dangers. She finds the emotional differential to focus on in each situation turning the mere act of living into a matter of success..’” [from the Washington Independent Review of Books, August 2018]
—Grace Cavalieri, American poet, playwright, and radio host of
“The Poet and the Poem” from the Library of Congres