In 2,555 days, a lot can happen.
Juan Morales, associate professor of English at CSU-Pueblo, spent that amount of time, seven years, developing and perfecting his recently published poetry book “The Siren World,” which is the second book he has had published.
“I tried a lot of different passions. I looked back and realized I was always journaling. We traveled a lot when I was younger and I had boxes of journals from when I was a teenager and realized I had been writing all along,” he said.
The aspect Morales said he struggled with most often when writing was finding time in his day to write. As a creative writing professor, many times he would bring his notebook to class and while he assigned his students writing time for 10 to 15 minutes, he would write along with them to make progress on his book.
Morales’ experiences and perspectives from his travels are embedded throughout the poems in his newly published work. His inspiration for the book stemmed from household storytelling.
“Well my family would tell stories and I thought ‘Well if we don’t write this down we will lose these stories.’ So that inspired me. It seems like a little thing, but I knew it was important,” Morales said.
He grew up with parents who spoke English as their second language and very early on decided that Morales would not grow up learning Spanish, which he said has led to many insecurities in his personal life. His Latino and American cultures are a central theme of the book as a whole.
“‘The Siren World’ is a book about how my cultural background as a Puerto Rican (and) Ecuadorian comes together and enriches me. This book also explores moments where I felt pulled in different directions by the anxieties of exclusion and even the insecurities of not being Latino enough,” he said.
The book also features the first poem Morales ever wrote when he was in undergraduate studies in Pueblo, back when the school was known as the University of Southern Colorado. It is titled “My Father Throwing Away His Flip Flops.”
Recently, Morales has also been experimenting with what he calls “Pueblo Poems,” which he hopes will be able to make a positive impact on the view of the area as a whole. A few of which are included in “The Siren World,” but most have yet to find a concrete place.
“I have maybe two dozen poems that take place in Pueblo that don’t have a place yet. I keep hearing about Pueblo’s reputation and the haters trashing it,” he said. “We do have some serious issues to overcome here with poverty, gangs, energy issues and problems in our schools and poetry can help us articulate our frustrations, hopes and ways to overcome them.”
Additionally, Morales is currently working on a third book with a different publisher that he says will likely be released in 2018.
In the past, his books have focused on sharing his own experiences, perspectives and culture. This new book will explore different topics like home improvement, zombies and love poems.
“There will of course be similar emotions and experiences preserved, but it also explores a mix of other interests, passions, and experiences. I grew up loving horror movies and watching them with my family and I have spent a lot of time working on fixing up houses,” he said.
“So why not write about them? Some of them are fictionalized and some are dreams.”
Some of Morales’ personal favorite poets and authors include Major Jackson, Rigoberto González, Claudia Rankine, Martin Espada and Kim Addonizio, who visited the CSU-Pueblo campus in March 2015.
“Regardless of the subject matter, I want to keep connecting with my readers through poetry,” Morales said.