Patrick Moran's book, "There Are Things We Live Among," is filled with meditations on the simple objects that populate our lives — nail clippers, cardboard boxes, etc. — that alone seem merely objects, but upon reflection assume a greater context.
"For example, the nail clippers could be a thing that a person used to clip an elderly parent's toenails and in that moment there is this reversal of the child caring for the parent, which is both heartbreaking and beautiful," said Moran, a professor of languages and literatures at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. "I looked at objects around me with this idea or ideas and tried to articulate those impressions in a poetic form."
For his work, Moran is the winner of the 2015 Grayson Books Poetry Prize, a prestigious award given annually by bookstore and publisher Grayson Books, based in West Hartford, Connecticut. Around 600 manuscripts were considered for the honor, which includes a $1,000 prize and publication by Grayson.
"I love this book. Every poem, so rich with music, imagination," said Mekeel McBride, author and contest judge. "This poet takes everyday objects and turns them into enigmas, mysteries and, at the same time, get to the heart of what they really are. I wish I could write like this. I wish I could see like this. I do feel, after reading the book, that I have learned a new way of seeing."
Moran said "it's great to have your work acknowledged," but the recognition also provides encouragement to continue practicing his craft.
"When a book is finished there's always another waiting to be written and when one of them wins a prize it gives you some much-needed momentum to keep writing."
Moran has taught writing at UW-Whitewater for 15 years, and sees his work as a fundamental way of empowering his students.
"It may be to help them be more articulate or to help them apply for a job or write a grant proposal, but at the heart of it having the confidence to write in any capacity is a skill that I hope students come away from my classes with," he said. "That is a skill that you don't suddenly have overnight. It's really comparable to playing a musical instrument; practice and concentration is really essential to the whole process."
Moran is currently in Scotland as part of the UW-Whitewater study abroad program. Courses he is teaching include A Survey of Scottish Poetry, Introduction to Creative Writing, and Technical and Scientific Writing.
"It's an amazing opportunity to work with students and see them grow as individuals. If it was up to me, every single student enrolled at UW-Whitewater would spend a semester abroad. It's just that valuable and mind expanding, from an academic standpoint to a basic problem-solving and confidence-building experience."
Moran's wife, Bethann, a lecturer in the Departement of Art and Design, created the cover art for his book. "There Are Things We Live Among" will be out in late May or early June. People can order copies online or purchase them at the Velveteen Bookstore in Fort Atkinson. Moran's other published poetry books include "The Book of Lost Things," "Doppelganger" and "Tell a Pitiful Story."