Welcome, Jessica Morey-Collins!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Jessica Morey-Collins, whose forthcoming book We Were More Than Kindling will be published in October. 

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 


The Author

Jessica Morey-Collins is a poet and land use planner who works as a plans examiner in the Pacific Northwest. Her chapbook, We Were More than Kindling, is forthcoming with Black Lawrence Press in 2023. Jessica’s poems can be found in publications such as Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, Cotton Xenomorph, Maudlin House, Hobart, Tinderbox, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net. The opening poem of We Were More than Kindling, “Promise to Recede” won the 2018 Prism Review Poetry Contest. Jessica was awarded an MFA in poetry at the University of New Orleans, and won an Academy of American Poets award, the Maxine and Joseph Cassin Prize for poetry thesis, and also worked as associate poetry editor for Bayou Magazine. Jessica then earned a Master’s of Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon, focused on strategies to enhance organizational, economic, and community resilience, and won the American Planning Association (APA) Academic Achievement Award. Jessica has worked as an urban planner, educator, GIS marketer, curriculum developer, and graduate writing consultant. She is a mental health advocate, trauma survivor, and a straight-passing queer, who spends her spare time doting on her angelic friends, handsome partner, and ridiculous cats.


On Writing We Were More than Kindling

I wrote most of this manuscript while studying for a master’s degree in urban planning, in Oregon, from around 2017 until 2019. Six months before moving to Oregon, I had finished an MFA in poetry in the city of New Orleans, and encountered the clotted and under-compensated academic job market. I lacked both the courage and fortitude to stick out the economic volatility of adjunct teaching and gig work that offered a (possible) bridge to a more stable tenure track position. The transition from the delicious, juicy environment of art school in the world’s most fun city, to the dry and bureaucratic landscape of local and regional governance in the introverted Pacific Northwest was jarring. Poetry offered a heuristic to process both the similarities and the differences of these worlds–the violence of exploitative land management practices, of canonical exclusion of non-dominant voices in the arts and in social sciences, and the insidious roles of power and prestige in silencing survivors of sexual and economic harm.


Selections from We Were More Than Kindling




When they slice open the beached Sperm whale, they find 64 pounds of trash in its digestive system, which doesn’t seem like much for a thirty-ton animal. I dip straws in my coffee to preserve the sheen of my teeth. House cats aren’t pack animals, but after following rodents to the fringes of human settlements, they developed several means to express their needs to people. The whale was severely underweight for its species. I am not without needs—fragrant shampoos, a mechanical hum to muffle the nights’ sirens and dawns’ honks of lofted waterfowl. A 2018 study finds microplastic particles in 93% of the 259 bottles tested. Conservative estimates of fragment, fiber, pellet, film, foam. Trash bags and net segments tangled in the whale’s intestines; “a drum among other things.” The dumb beat of my heart, my car inert and scattered with wrappers. I’d famish without plastic-wrapped vegetables; landfills grow grandiose on the sheaths of all I’ve eaten. A drum, a rupture—straw popped into a juice carton—the silk-like membrane separating abdominal wall and organs split by sharp plastics the whale couldn’t pass. Aquafina, Dasani, Evian. After an apocalypse: clangor, then quiet. Symptoms of which include bloat and nausea. My courage strains to breach convenience, bagged fruit rots in my office locker. Less than 0.1% of the whale’s body weight was inhabited by trash. A silk-like membrane separates the constant hum of human comfort from clamor, then silence. Symptoms of which include thick urine and thirst. When my orange tabby scratches certain furniture, I shoo him outside, where he torments the morning birds. Plastics could not dislodge—I know of my own synthetic toxins, compulsive thoughts, small rots baggy-trapped, flags that wind-snap. Symptoms of which include constipation and vomiting. I’m not more complex than what I’d sacrifice—bagged garbage, casual discards; Sperm whales click in complex codas, clans have dialects. The internet gives us the sea’s receipts—line-tangled rays approaching divers, tern bodies rotted around bottle-caps, a seahorse clinging to a Q-tip, adrift. A 2018 study finds plastic fibers in 94.4% of tap water samples taken in the United States. The vowel sound of a cat’s meow hints at its dispatch: long ‘o’ for loneliness, short ‘e’ as a greeting. I consider myself fluid, twisting a cotton bud in my earhole; adaptable, tearing open packaged nuts with my teeth; sleeping hot, sleeping cold, Schrödinger’s low-hanging fruit, passing a credit-card’s worth of microplastic each week in my feces. A nuisance species inhales its own atmosphere, itches. Symptoms of which include tenderness; symptoms of which include genocide, lands milked dry of plenty. Eventually,