Q&A with ‘Of Course I Have Known Pain!’ author Zoe Morris

Zoe Morris is a poet from Sydney, Australia, on Gadigal land. She is currently in her final year of Arts and Advanced Studies at Sydney Uni, majoring in Politics and English. You can find her poem, ‘Of Course I Have Known Pain!’ in our upcoming 2023 Sydney University Anthology, Living Twice.

Can you explain what your poem is about and what its main message is?

My story is about the ebbs and flows of life and how although we all go through painful experiences, we also experience great joy and pleasure. I think being open to experiencing pleasure and happiness also requires that you accept and deal with the possibility and experience of pain. Like the phoenix, the devastation of the self can sometimes even be
necessary for personal growth.

Where did you get the idea for your poem? What inspired you?

I was inspired to write the poem when I was experiencing heartbreak. Partly, I wanted to remind myself that even though I was experiencing pain, it was not a singularity, and all around me were still things of great beauty just waiting for me to notice them, like the sunset, the stars and the flowers of spring. It also relates to my belief that even though relationships always bring the potential for loss and pain, they are also what can bring us the most joy, pleasure and meaning in life. I think continually being open to love even though it can bring pain is how you can have beautiful experiences. Even though they may not last in the end, to quote the Caroline Polachek song Sunset, which I think captures this idea stunningly, ‘no regrets’.

What did you learn while writing your piece?

Some of the lines from this piece I actually had written months earlier, not knowing what to do with them. I will often write a poem in one sitting, so this poem really forced me to consider the editing process more than usual! What I really liked about the old lines I wanted to include is a motif I think inspired the whole piece and a lot of my writing, which is the personification of nature. I love to apply a sensual view to nature (I am an eternal Walt Whitman devotee), treating nature as a lover. ‘The sea washes over me like fingers.’ Reflecting the main idea of my poem, I believe opening yourself up to connect with the natural world, with its creative and destructive cycles, can be such a gift.

Have you always wanted to write? When did you realise you liked writing?

I have always loved writing and when I was a child I did aspire to be a writer among other things. However it was not until a couple years ago when I discovered my love for poetry that I uncovered a strong passion for writing and began to do it more and more! Although I do like writing prose sometimes, I find poetry can be such a joyful creative exercise where you can freely play with interesting and beautiful language and concepts.