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Poet Tomás Morín on Writing, Translating

Drew professor offers advice to students.

October 2018 – Asked what to do when writing isn’t going well, poet Tomás Morín preached practice.

“If you’ve never seen a basketball before and wanted to learn how to play, that would require a lot of time with the ball,” said Morín, during an event at Drew University. So, with enough practice, knowing how to compose a stanza or end a poem “becomes second nature,” he added.

Morín, an assistant professor of English and co-director of the creative writing program at Drew, read poems and answered questions from students at the Writers@Drew event, which was supported by the Casement Fund and English Department.

Morín, who translated Pablo Neruda’s The Heights of Machu Picchu, also reflected on the challenges of preserving another writer’s vision.

“There are moments in the original poem that are meant to be ambiguous, where it’s not entirely clear what is going on,” Morín said. “The hardest part was resisting the urge to replace those moments of ambiguity with moments of clarity.”

For several students, the most valuable lesson from Morín’s talk was the notion of tapping the power of imagination.

As English and history major Matthew Ludak C’19, put it, “You have artistic freedom and the license to write about what you want.”

“Your writing doesn’t end where your experience ends,” added Kerenn Irias C’19, a political science major who’s minoring in English.

Morín, who teaches a poetry workshop and a class on multi-ethnic literature, is the author of Patient Zero. His first poetry collection, A Larger Country, earned the APR/Honickman Prize. He’s currently writing a memoir about fathers.