Poet Manning speaks at Woodlawn

August 29, 2004|EMILY TOADVINE

Maurice Manning's love of the outdoors led to his second book of poetry.

Fifth-graders at Woodlawn Elementary School heard Manning read from his latest work, "A Companion for Owls: Being the Commonplace Book of D. Boone, Long Hunter, Back Woodsman & c." Wednesday. The book was published this year.

When asked why he wrote a book in the voice of Daniel Boone, Manning said he was fascinated by the frontier.

"These people spent a lot of their time outside with nature and the rivers. I love all that stuff."

Manning was at Woodlawn at the request of literacy coach Cindy Blevins, who graduated from Danville High School with Manning 20 years ago.


Manning published his first book, "Lawrence Booth's Book of Visions," in 2001. He published the book after being selected into the Yale Series of Younger Poets, a competition for poets under age 40. Each year, Yale University Press seeks one book-length poetry manuscript to be published in the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Manning says many of the poems in this book were taken from his childhood experiences.

"I grew up hearing my grandmother telling stories and I thought, 'I like hearing stories.'"

He often spends summers here

A poem, "Wave," was about a boy lying under the sheets hanging on the clothesline. Manning said it was taking from his memories of staying with his grandmother. One side of his family lived in Manchester in Eastern Kentucky, but his mother, Gail Manning, lives in Danville and Manning often spends summers here. He recently took a teaching position at Indiana University in Bloomington.

He also read a poem about a boy wanting to bring his red dog to church.

Blevins recalled that Manning was a voracious reader and Manning agreed that he loves words.

"I like reading books and always have. I've enjoyed feeling words on my tongue."

Blevins says she plans to call on several of her former classmates who have achieved writing fame. She hopes the students will make connections to their own work.

"A big part of reading and writing is showing the kids that this is the real world," she said.

Manning asked the students what they thought the purpose of poetry was.

Zach Cope said, "A poem can make a reader feel the same way the writer feels."

Manning used William Carlos Williams "Red Wheelbarrow" poem to talk to the children about creating images. As someone who has been a serious writer for 20 years, he encouraged them to use words to paint pictures.

"Imagination is like a big muscle in your brain. I hope everybody likes to use that muscle."

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