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Oregon Literary Fellowship Recipient: Hajara Quinn

We’re excited to be featuring the 2015 Oregon Literary Fellowship recipients on our blog this spring! The applications for 2016 fellowships are due Friday, June 26, and you can read the guidelines and download an application by clicking here.

Quinn2015 Oregon Literary Fellowship Recipient

Hajara Quinn




Hajara Quinn is an assistant editor for Octopus Books and the author of the chapbook Unnaysayer (Flying Object, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Sixth FinchIlk, The Volta, and are forthcoming in Gulf Coast and Banango Street.

Q&A with Literary Arts

1. What are your sources of inspiration?

Fog. Driving through the Columbia Gorge. Looking out windows. Reading poems. The Bridge of the Gods. Going for walks. Eavesdropping. The Oregon Coast. Conversations. Trees. Biking under linden trees. Syntax.

2. How would you describe your creative process?

Gradual, incremental. A mix of analog and digital. I still use a journal as a kind of daily/weekly catchall, before moving to a word processor and running with those notes. As for routine, I am perhaps not quite as attuned as other writers to it. Maybe that’s because I still haven’t managed to figure out how to be a graceful animal in the morning, and most routines seem to take place in the morning. Note-taking is daily, but weekends have always been my favorite “time of day” for the kind of prolonged writing that leads to what looks and sounds like poetry.

3. What is most exciting about receiving a fellowship?

The fellowship came at what feels like a pivotal time, insofar as it really enabled me to devote my focus and intentions on finishing Coolth, the manuscript I’ve been working on for the past couple of years. I needed a final heave of momentum and excitement to funnel into that project, and thanks to the fellowship, I finally gave myself the freedom this past winter to spend more time being excited about it.

4. What are you currently working on?

Finishing a manuscript and sending it out has been a great exercise in freeing up the psychic space to start writing new poems. So that’s what I’m working on, trying to listen to what a new poem sounds like, being gentle to myself in the drafting process, reading a lot. I have a new word document open on my computer called Goner. It’s a place to put exuberance right now. But that might change. It usually does.

5. What advice do you have for future applicants?

I would pass on advice that my friends give me, which is to keep putting the applications in the mail. So maybe the best advice is to have friends that give you advice and encouragement. Also, I think it’s important for to find what sustains us as writers and artists in the long term and hold onto that.

OLF Judge’s Comments 

Hajara Quinn’s linguistically exquisite poems constantly startle, unsettle, and delight the reader with acrobatic grace, wit, and intellect. With provocative non sequiturs set into paratactic juxtapositions, these poems assemble their own associative logic with brilliant snippets of imagery and tour-de-force similes, such as “[t]he sun, when it went down / made a salmon / lavender diphthong / that pronounced itself in us” or “[s]now is coming down like ocean / ash, night like a black lung / collapsing, the air let out / of a parachute as wide / as the horizon”—ultimately arriving at their own strangely powerful truths, as when a poem concludes that, “If I burn it is that I burn with / the disdain of the fire / for the smoke.”

–Lee Ann Roripaugh

Excerpt from current work:


There is an argument to be made
for standing in the street

waiting for the midnight lime
to fall from the midnight tree.

Streetlight pole dances down
onto the sidewalk

and the incredible thing
is how the monogamous moon

manages to be monogamous
to each of us in turn —

our coxswain in the boat.
The decisions we’ve made break

over us in waves,
like apprentices of the future.

The wind has been knocked
out of this night. Inside, our

house is as quiet as a guitar in
the attic going out of tune.

Objects sit in their caste system,
the curtains bored, the bed

a sway-backed dromedary.
Self as slot machine, and self

as clover patch. Let them be
the two sides of this story,

converging or disappearing
while I keep walking down

the street at midnight just like
a woman who has never

taught a child how to pray.

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