Tomás Q. Morín is a story teller. His voice is dark and mysterious, rich with imagination and lilting with absurdity. A Larger Country, Morín’s first book of poems, conjures the image of a cloaked figure sitting fireside, spinning tales. He plucks personae and plots from history books, fables, and even reality television, then seamlessly weaves these pieces together into an original collection that is musical, surreal, haunting, and, somehow, darkly humorous and optimistic.
Take, for example, the poem “Dumb Luck.” It begins,
There are some things I should tell you
beforehand: I was born on a bed
covered quickly with a quilt. I stepped
my bare feet into the new world
of a lamp-lit room in the country.
Because of a broken driveshaft we stayed,
my mother and I, among the witch hazel
straddled houses and the buzzard-heavy
poles rising upward like wooden angels.
Morín quickly and expertly conjures image after vivid image with the sturdy narrative voice of one who knows this poem’s world like the back of his hand, a world that seems straight out of a Grimm fairytale, yet timeless, a world that could just as easily contain gingerbread houses as it does “a broken driveshaft.”
Morín explained in an interview with the Huffington Post, “The stories my grandparents told me about the supernatural are important to me because those stories, not to mention the Old Testament, expanded my concept of what a story could contain….[I]f you grow up hearing about ghosts and burning bushes, then you won’t think twice about putting a yeti in a poem or transforming Miles Davis into a reaper of souls.”
Morín explores not only magical and mysterious, but very grim topics. “I’m often inspired to write after reading a story about suffering or cruelty or injustice,” he explained in an interview with Stated Magazine. “Many times my poems are my way of trying to figure out how people can treat each other as terribly as they do. Even though I know the answer—because we’re people—it’s a question I keep returning to.”
His poem “North Farm” describes an unnamed group of “tired” people following a demanding guide towards a “distant city.” The last stanza ominously states:
We are in the dark now. Hand in, hand,
we panic and stumble along like shadows
flickering in a sun-forsaken land.
This poem is followed by seven more that all describe the suffering of people surrounded by “guards,” “German Shepherds and Dobermans,” and violence: “an old grandmother [is] beaten” in an alley.
And yet, Morín is a self-described optimist. It is difficult to comprehend how he can write about such dark subjects, and with such attention to suffering and death, yet still find room for humor and playfulness. The answer may lie in his affinity for the inexplicable, his embracing attitude towards that which defies explanation and articulation.
“My grandparents taught me that we live in a world of mystery and we will never fully understand,” he explained to the Huffington Post. “That’s a troubling concept for some people. As for me, not only am I okay with that, but I rather like it. I mean, who would want to know everything? How boring would that be?”