Friday, April 20, 2007

National Poetry Month Recommendation: Maurice Manning

(If you look closely at some of my recommendations, you'll detect a thread holding them together. Not all. But some.)

I saw Maurice Manning read a few of the poems from his new book Bucolics about a year ago, and I've been waiting to read them on my own ever since. And now I can.

There are 70 wonderful, small poems in Bucolics. They are in a single voice, a man who is addressing his creator. He calls the creator Boss. The poet Mark Jarman says of the poems: "In these marvelous addresses to the Almighty, Maurice Manning reminds us of our agrarian roots and that our best metaphors for the ineffable all spring from the soil. These psalms, powerful and hectoring, tautological and unique, are reminiscent of King David's. They are spellbinding."

They certainly are. Sometimes they are funny. Sometimes they are a little sad. Often they have an image that is sublime, and a metaphysical implication that is stunning.

Here is "XLVII":

I put my face against
the horse's shoulder Boss
I breathed into the frost
so white upon his coat
I saw the patch I left
a darker spot as dark
as darkness gets I let
the horse cut through the field
the spot was looking out
an empty eye unblinking
unblinking Boss which one
of us was that supposed
to be O was it you
so steady Boss or was
that patch of empty me

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