Joanna Catherine Scott

Poems of adoption.

A lyrical companion to the novel

The Lucky Gourd Shop.

Winner of the Black Zinnias

Poetry Book Award 2003

California Institute of Arts and Letters

"Scott is not only a born storyteller but a poet’s poet. In terms of setting up and executing a dramatic scene, she is as deft as we’d expect of any first-rate novelist. But when she crosses genres (as she does with great skill and dexterity) and wears her poet’s rather than her fiction writer’s hat, the language of her work becomes heightened, freighted, utterly memorable. Her voice is at once confident and authoritative, her style glittering yet perfectly modulated. She is able to create landscapes and worlds that the reader can live in.

—Pedestal Magazine


Miss Lee, the social worker, worried over us. From Korea

to the Philippines? Is that advancement for an orphan?

Sure enough, no sooner here than wax-winged Marcos

melted from supremacy. Revolution in the streets,

and in the sky, fighter jets defecting to the rebels’ side.

Meanwhile, our three new children squat around a low

glass table out on the lanai, mull over pages in cheap

coloring books, arrange new crayons in a triple row.

While dictators collapse above their heads, short-wave

squawking in another room, they color dancing girls

in swirling skirts, a boy swinging a baseball bat, a dog,

a family at a meal. Green trees and grass, a yellow sun—

such simple things, but how they bow their heads

above them, how they work to stay inside the lines.

With that rapt expression people wear when nothing matters

but the task at hand, they color for themselves new lives.

––First published in South Carolina Poetry Review


"What makes judging especially difficult is that so often, as in this case, after reluctantly setting aside submissions with lovely but unsustained moments, I end up with an impossible number of publishable manuscripts. Choosing one can feel a bit like preferring one of my children to another. Over the years I’ve developed a method, which works for me. Here’s what I do: I read the last three or four manuscripts every day for several days. And the one I wake up thinking about most often is the one I pick. Now almost every time I’d go through the pile of the submissions to this contest, Breakfast at the Shangri-La would come up as the most authentically sustained. It’s the personal journey of a Western woman who adopts three Korean children. This is a dangerous subject, one which could be easily sentimentalized, but Ms. Scott avoids those rapids. She handles her subject with restraint, honesty and love. And because she uses such simple words, their resonance as a whole makes the book subtle, like a brush painting. I very much admire this effort, both for its skill and, in the end more importantly, for its soul."

—Lola Haskins,  professor, Pacific Lutheran University, author of, among others,  Desire Lines: New and Selected Poems, The Rim Benders, Extranjera, and Not Feathers Yet: A Beginner's Guide to the Poetic Life