Morphew Wins Eighth Hackney Award

A second poem from Sam Houston State University associate professor of English Melissa Morphew’s upcoming collection “Weeding Borges’ Garden” has received national recognition.

"Milagro of Transfiguration" was recently chosen as the first place winner of the national poetry section of the Cecil J. Hackney Literary Award.

The poem is a “coming of age” story with references to the Garden of Eden and mythology.

“Milagro means miracle in Spanish, but there is also a Mexican/Southwestern tradition of creating Milagros—these beautiful silver and turquoise folk religion art pieces that contain symbols of saints and other religious artifacts and people pray to them,” Morphew said. “So each symbol triggers a larger association, memory.

“I have several poems in the collection titles ‘The Milagro. . .’ of something because each one is a memory along a chain of memories that a particular action or image has triggered,” she said. “I also want the mystical/religious association to apply as well.”

“Milagro of Transfiguration” tells the story of a girl who creates a story “to cover up the fact that she was fooling around with a guy when her family didn’t want her to be doing this,” according to Morphew.

“(It follows the) idea of someone being seduced by a god that comes to a girl transformed like Zeus (Greek king of the gods) coming to Leda transformed as a swan,” she said. In this case, the lover is transformed into bees.

“Reality as in my poem can sometimes be the story you tell, or the memory you make, rather than what actually happened,” Morphew said. “There are hints in my poem of the ‘actual happening’ but it was obviously traumatic and the woman prefers to remember it as a myth and this man who took her innocence as a kind of mythic creature like the ones in the stories the poem makes reference to.”

The Hackney Literary Awards, open to writers nationwide, are presented each year as part of the Birmingham-Southern College Writing Today Conference.

For the contest, both the judges and the entries are anonymous.

Sponsored since 1969 by the Cecil Hackney family of Birmingham, the first place award is $600. The winners' names are also published in “Poets & Writers” magazine.

Morphew has won the Hackney award eight times at the national level, including three first place wins, during her career. When she won for the first time (third place), at 21, she was the only writer from the Southeast to ever win in the national competition at that time and also was the youngest person to have ever won.

Morphew’s “Broken: Blue,” also part of the collection, earned her the WB Yeats Society award in 2005.

“Weeding Borges’ Garden” is scheduled to be published by Turning Point Press in October 2010.


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SHSU Media Contacts: Jennifer Gauntt
March 27, 2009
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