Poet Michael Morse came to Saltonstall with two distinct projects in mind. Instead, he has been working on a new project that he hadn’t planned on: “a life-event that didn’t happen,” as he describes it. Over a decade ago, Michael and his ex-wife divorced just months before they were due to go to China to receive their adopted child. Michael teaches kids who are 14 and 15 years old, about the age his almost-daughter would likely be today.
As he approaches 50 and thinks about what being a father might have meant, he’s working on a long poem that addresses the daughter-that-would-have-been, and ideas about childhood, parenting, and family. “I’ve been working on this long poem this month, and the residency has been a great space in which to think, write, and do research with books I’ve been finding at the (Cornell) Mann Library,” he says. “I really have no idea how all of this will turn out, but it’s been great fun to explore lots of different ideas and themes this month.”
Michael’s residency happened to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower, and the New York City native set his alarm, woke up twice last Friday night, and counted at least 12 shooting stars. “A lot of it is sitting on the balcony and seeing what flashes,” he says. But the same could be said for his writing practice that includes substantial amounts of reading and research. “It’s work, and it’s about being receptive, too. It’s nice to sit and gather ideas and then hope you get lucky and something good shows up — like waiting to see what flashes” he says again, laughing at the obvious metaphor. “I know it’s cheesy, but it’s germane to the process!”