September 22, 2011 by Reader's Connection
The Rufus & Louise Reiberg Reading Series at IUPUI will get under way on Thursday, October 6th. Poet Maurice Manning will appear in the University Library Lilly Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.
The program is free and open to the public.
The Common Man (2010)
Manning’s latest book (after Bucolics) offers multilayered poems that muse on life and death in a manner reminiscent of Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris. But Manning . . . writes in a down-home, head-to-the-Kentucky-hills tone–unlike Glück, whose language captures the “high church” voices that one might find in a flower garden. Both poets add ironic twists to their lines–sometimes even humor–and they inject spiritual undertones into their work, with some of their poems almost prayers. Manning’s “A Prayer to God My God in a Time of Desolation” is a good example. The poem itself seems anything but reverent since the narrator addresses God in a sacrilegious tone as he is working in the field and musing on his dislike for people and his love for animals: “Have I told you you’re a weirdo? You/ should have made me a horse and been done with it….” As the poem ends, though, it takes on a tone of existential angst that seems just right. VERDICT Manning’s poems possess a freshness that, although a little disconcerting, offers its own highly recommended garden of earthly delights. — Library Journal
Fortunately, some boys resist being taken out of the country and become genuine patriots, lovers and defenders of the land; Wendell Berry, for instance, and now Manning in this extraordinary book. A literary term, bucolics refers to poems about shepherds, who historically constituted the lowest class of rural society but gained thereby an aura of purity. The speaker of Manning’s succession of untitled, unpunctuated short poems keeps livestock but also tills the land and raises food plants; call him a very small farmer. Manning’s speaker is keenly aware and appreciative of the nature immediately around him, including his own humanity. Like that greatest of pastoral poets, David, he talks with the one he understands to be responsible for it all, calling him Boss rather than Lord, because, unlike David, he is never king of anything nor ever will be. It is enough for him to talk with–let’s hazard the word, though Manning doesn’t–God and to work out perplexities in divine conversation. He expresses himself very colloquially, and some may be put off by just how bumpkinish he sounds. But get beyond that to discover a book that may come to be ranked with the Psalms and Blake’s Songs of Innocence. — Booklist
With this masterful interpretation of the quintessential American pioneer, Manning raises the ante for all future practitioners of one of the most fruitful kinds of long poem-sequence: the biography-in-poems . . . The semiliterate adventurer and small-time entrepreneur Boone is, per Manning, the ideal unselfish American individualist and the embodiment of that figure so earnestly admired by literary romanticism, the natural man. This may sound like the recipe for a dull read, but the individual poems, even at their most ruminative (in the opening section, “Meditations”), are exceedingly tangible and exciting, referring constantly to the material world and bodily existence and further grounded by genuine biographical events. Moreover, the most speculative aspects of Manning’s enterprise, on Boone’s possible inspiration of the English Romantics, appear only in an appended essay, which, however, readers ignore at their loss. — Booklist