71: Paul Morris

Categories: 100 Creatives



Courtesy of Paul Morris

71: Paul Morris

Paul Morris directs the Master of Liberal Studies program at ASU. He says, "It's a joy to create grad seminars in nonfiction writing and film while helping people return to school."

List five things on your Inspiration Wall (real or imagined).

1. A photo of my wife and son running on the beach.
2. A photo of my grandfather standing beside a bull.
3. A photo of John Coltrane listening in the recording studio.
4. Two copies of James Agee's "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men"
5. A photo of five Tibetan monks blowing long wooden horns that reminds me to wake up to the world.

What's your last big project?

I just finished writing about roller derby--that was fun.

What's your next big project?

I'm never bored. I'm in the midst of a series of translations of the Austrian poet Georg Trakl. (That's been an odd lifelong obsession.) I'm also thinking and making notes about authenticity. I've been wondering whether authentic Chinese food exists in Phoenix, what does authenticity mean in music and what role does authenticity play in fiction and nonfiction writing?

After decades away from playing, I've taken up the trumpet again and am trying to understand bebop jazz harmony. (Pity my neighbors.) And every summer I read a book or two about polar explorers. (Nothing better than reading about frostbite when it's 110 degrees outside.)

How much do you hate being asked what your next big project is?

Talking too much about things ultimately can take away some of the creative energy however I've learned that I understand things best once I begin to talk about them.

What's something you want Phoenix to know about you?

I've led creative writing workshops with many people over the years and now I realize those students taught me more than I ever taught them.

And, if you're game, what's something you really don't want Phoenix to know about you?

The older I get, the less patience I have. I'm well on the way to becoming just another cranky old guy.


SUMMER - Georg Trakl

At dusk, the keening of the cuckoo
Falls silent in the woods.
The wheat leans lower,
The red poppy.

Above the knoll
The dark thunderhead threatens.
The cricket's old song
Fades in the fields.

The chestnut leaves
Are finally still.
Your dress whispers
On the curving stair.

A candle flickers silently
In the darkened room;
A silver hand puts it out.

No wind. No stars, only night.

-- translated by Paul Morris

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Ron Smith
Ron Smith

While I was in the Phoenix area in 2005 as the inaugural Fulbright Chair in Creative Writing, I had the good fortune to meet Paul. Several times a week we would go for walks and lunch and discuss a vast range of subjects. His eclectic tastes and interests were a constant inspiration. The man is a gem and the university very lucky to have him. I attended a couple of his classes as a guest and discoverd quickly how much his students admired and respected him. By the way, he has written a wonderful book about the Phoenix area, one residents and tourists alike should read.

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