Winner of the 2021
New Mexico Book Award
Texas Review Press, a member of Texas A&M University Consortium,
TAMU published Mary Morris’s second book in July, 2020.
The poems of Dear October chronicle the evolution of the natural world and a daughter caring for her mother during the last year of her life. Months of the final year act as the scaffolding for the collection, as they reflect on the twelve moons. The spirit of home, family, and mother-daughter relationship intertwine with the diversity of culture and ecology in northern New Mexico. Dear October is a gathering of poems on the intimacy of caring for a dying parent at home, while being acutely aware of the progression of time and the natural world. The poems were often the way the author prepared for loss—written through events, memory, landscape, myth, and dreams. The writing regards a childhood in Oklahoma but mostly celebrates the diverse landscape and cultures of New Mexico.
in praise of Dear October
“In caring for her mother before death, Mary Morris has moved a familiar subject forward with new beauty, truth, and humor. Morris is a storyteller, first and foremost, incredibly gifted in putting the heart to the word. Every incident on each page is an inimitable moment that makes the breath of dying different from any other’s on earth. The poet writes, ‘I try to get out of the way so the soul may draw near, but I keep tripping . . . get lost in my mother skirts.’ These poems are part folklore, part history, part mysticism. You’ll seldom see a relationship, at its emotional core, written so individually and so achingly. Never maudlin nor sentimental, Morris has raised the bar for possibilities between people. I love a book that turns gravity into light, and I’m so glad we were invited in. Dear October should be a choice for ‘Best of the Year’.”
—Grace Cavalieri, Maryland Poet Laureate, playwright, and
radio host of “The Poet and the Poem” from the Library of Congress
“How do we measure the space or seasons between mothers and daughters? Dear October is a confession of how. Mary Morris has written poems that resuscitate the reader, by breathing life and love back into air. Her poems are ceremonies, from the bathing of the body to the cutting of another’s hair. This is a book of instructional intimacy, the last shared moments between mother and daughter.
The months before dying. The journey that reveals what Morris calls ‘the trapeze of the body forever slipping from the circus of the living’.”
—E. Ethelbert Miller, Editor of Poet Lore
“Growing up, Mary Morris was one of ten children, a ‘little nation,’ a ‘low lying/ broken country of dreams,’ whose ‘sovereign ruler’ was her mother. The bulk of these bittersweet, painterly poems is given to distilled couplets illustrating the mother-daughter dynamic, one that can be both wrenching and moving. But other pieces deliver the spirit of an individual who must find her way and hold her own in the midst of so much family, and worldly, means. As Mary herself puts it in the title of one of her most striking poems, ‘I Try to Get Out of the Way So the Soul May Draw Near,’ an effort that culminates, we are glad to read, in her being ‘born/once again.’
Dear October is a kind of origin story that can’t ignore the trying labyrinth leading us to our inevitable end. But it’s also a testament to rebirth, our profoundest, our most cherished desire.”
—Thomas Centolella, author of Almost Human