Here’s Maurice Manning reading a poem from his most recent book of poems, The Common Man, which was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize last year.
And here’s what Adriane has to say about him:
Maurice Manning was born and raised in Danville, Kentucky. He is forty-six years old (born in 1966). His first book, Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions, was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 2001. Manning’s other books include A Companion for Owls: Being the Commonplace Book of D. Boone, Lone Hunter, Back Woodsman, &c. (2004), Bucolics (2007), and The Common Man (2010). His poems have been published in Shenandoah, The Southern Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Poetry, and The New Yorker.
Manning received a bachelor’s degree in English from Earlham College, a liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, in 1988. He earned his master’s in English from the University of Kentucky 1996 and a master’s in creative writing. from the University of Alabama in 1999. He taught at DePauw University for four years. Currently, Manning teaches at Indiana University. In September, he will join the faculty at Transylvania University in his home state of Kentucky.
Earthy. His poems are typically about Kentucky and the characters he has created to populate the state. Manning also tends to muse about life in a philosophical way through his characters. He writes narratively, so his poems make sense.
Manning was greatly inspired by the lives of his grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmothers. He was also influenced by Shakespeare’s sonnets and Biblical parables. Kentucky is the heartland of all his poetry.
“I think writers in general are people who have some instincts, the first of which is to pay attention — a particular kind of attention — to the world around you, to the place you’re from, and I think writers, beyond simply paying attention, have to be curious.”
Also, Denise Levertov:
“Then one day, I think I was a junior in college, I was taking a poetry course where all we did was just read poems and talk about them. Our textbook began with Chaucer and went up to, say, Robert Frost, but one day, we read a separate book, a collection of poems by Denise Levertov, called Candles in Babylon. I didn’t realize it, but that was a contemporary book of poetry, and the week we read it, this little wire-haired woman was sitting in the class. This was a small class of about 10 people, and here was this other woman who was obviously not a student, and it turned out to be Denise Levertov. I went to a Quaker college, and our professor was very involved in Quaker causes internationally, and so was Denise Levertov, and they had somehow become acquaintances. She was coming to work with him that week for some kind of human justice movement, and he just asked her to come to class one day. That was the first time I had seen a living poet. It was the first time that I knew there was such a creature. And that really inspired me. It’s not to say Levertov’s poetry inspired me necessarily, but to hear her talk and articulate how she worked and why and all of that suddenly made me feel like there’s at least another person in the world who thinks this way and looks at the world this way.”
Both Manning and Komunyakaa draw from their childhood homes — Komunyakaa Louisiana; Manning Kentucky. Komunyakaa was influenced by the jazz of Louisiana. Manning said in an interview with Tim Brouk,
“I grew up with a powerful sense of Kentucky history and my familial history for generations. All the old ballads and all the tall tales were always present for me.”
In The Common Man, Manning writes in iambic tetrameter. Some of his poems are also free verse. Komunyakaa always writes in free verse. Both make philosophical observations about life through their writing. Komunyakaa writes more autobiographical, while Manning writes fictional poetry.
Manning leans more toward Whitman on the Whitman/Dickinson scale. He writes about America just like Whitman- except on a smaller range. Manning writes about Kentucky, while Whitman wrote about America as a whole. Manning’s point in his poetry is almost always clear, unlike Dickinson. He seems more like a “tell it like it is” kind of guy.