Thanks, Jennifer Carter and the rest of the awesome staff of TCJWW! I’m honored to be featured.
If you’ll be at the AWP conference in Seattle this week, you can find me here:
Thursday, 11:30-12:30 – Book signing with Nicelle Davis at Red Hen Press (tables 1802-1806). We will very likely be dressed as Jesus and Judas to get people to stop and talk to us about our books: Becoming Judas (Nicelle Davis) and The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman (Katie Manning).
Thursday, 3-5 p.m. – Reading on the Glass Slipper (a glass-bottom boat) at South Lake Union with Lauren K. Alleyne, Nicelle Davis, Michelle Lin, and Alexis Vergalia. We’ll be the mid-run poetry entertainment for participants in the Run of the Ancient Mariner, but you could just come to sit and watch us if you want.
Friday, 9-10 a.m. – Book signing at Yellow Flag Press (table J21) to promote I Awake in My Womb.
Friday, 10:30 – 11:45 a.m. – Book signing at Fairy Tale Review (table K26) to promote The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman and I Awake in My Womb.
Friday, 3:00-4:15 p.m. – Panel – When Genres Collide: Teaching Prose Poetry and Flash Fiction with Forrest Roth, Tyrone Jaeger, and John Talbird. Room LL4, Western New England MFA Annex, Lower Level.
I’ll also be wandering the book fair, attending other panels and off-site events, and generally enjoying time with writer-friends in Seattle. I can’t wait!
P.S. You should also find my friend Nicelle Davis, whose post at The Bee’s Knees Blog inspired this one.
The past week has been full of wonderful poetry-related stuff…
On Tuesday, I finished drafting the first section of my biblical fragmentation project, tentatively titled All That Remains, and I realized that I’m doing a really strange sort of lectio divina. I’m looking forward to submitting some of these poems to literary journals in the coming week.
On Wednesday, I had my favorite haiku I’ve ever written accepted for publication in an anthology from Chuffed Buff Books.
On Thursday, my morning began with coffee, bagels, and good conversation with Nicelle Davis, one of my favorite poet-friends. Then I got to have lunch with Brett Foster and attend his poetry reading that night, which was wonderful. It’s always nice to meet another friendly poet. Also on this day, I had a poem accepted for publication in The Wallace Stevens Journal.
Today, I heard that The Emerald Issue of Fairy Tale Review is going to print, and it includes my poem “No Place Like,” in which an aged Dorothy is obsessed with painting everything green. I was pleased to get a shout-out in the press release, and I’m so excited to read this Oz-themed issue!
I could really use more weeks that are this full of productive writing, good news, and fellow poets!
“People come and go so quickly here.” – Dorothy Gale
Today is one month since my Granny passed away. A few nights ago I dreamed about her. She was sitting beside my cousin Nikki, watching Nikki’s daughter and my son play together, something she really did love to do. We were all smiling.
This week I’ve been working on a poem that gives instructions for how to play Yahtzee with my Granny now, after her death. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to write about her still. She’s haunted my poems since I was very young, and I didn’t want to lose that.
Yesterday, I had a chat with a new undergraduate student about poetry and truth. She was so surprised when I told her that poetry doesn’t have to be non-fiction. I explained that poetry is art; it is large and varied. Even when we are writing about something that is “true,” we should craft our poems carefully so that other people can share the experience, and sometimes that means we’re writing fiction. Have I really been playing Yahtzee with my Granny’s ghost? No, but the poem captures something very true about our past and about my present longing for her. In 2009, nine years after my Grandpa’s death, I wrote the following poem about my Granny’s grief. Did this scene actually take place? I don’t recall that morning. I can’t know exactly what Granny was doing and thinking, but I know a whole lot about my grandparents’ lives, and for me this poem captures something true about their relationship.
The Morning After
She pictures him at the kitchen table,
reading the newspaper and sipping coffee
like he did every morning. So ordinary.
She remembers how, when they were first
married, he would tap his mug twice
on the table when he wanted a refill.
She’d hinted at first that this was not
polite, but still he tapped. One day,
she just ignored his knocking. He stopped.
Years later, they would laugh
about the tapping, the 50’s, their first
attempts at sex. Today, she wonders
if she’ll ever laugh again. She sits
in his place at the table and lifts
his mug. She brings it down lightly—
once, twice—then moves herself slowly
across the room, reaching for the coffee pot.
(First published in The Coffee Shop Chronicles, A Word with You Press, 2010.)
We had a frantic morning on Thursday when the Colby Fire got much too close to our condo and we had to evacuate quickly.
Meanwhile, a little ways north of us, my poet friend Nicelle Davis was using The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman in two of her classes. She said, “Today! Katie Manning’s amazing book. We read it start to finish. One student cried.”
In all of the bustle at the end of November (the end of my busiest semester, Granny’s surgeries, the holidays), I completely missed sharing this interview on Speaking of Marvels about my chapbook The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman. Thanks to William Kelley Woolfitt for curating this interview series and asking interesting questions!
I’m finding that in the midst of grief, I need to marvel at the wonders of my normal life: this morning I drafted a poem.
I didn’t get to spend much time writing last semester since I was teaching 4 classes with 110 students, but this semester I have half the number of students and 3 classes. I have a couple of mornings free to work in my office, and I intend to spend at least the first hour writing. How miraculous that I ever have the time and inclination to create. I’m working on a project that I’m tentatively calling All That Remains. It uses one chapter from each book of the Bible as a word bank, and the poems end up serving as strange retellings. I think. Part of the excitement is that this project keeps shifting, and I’m not sure where it will end up taking me. I started this project because I was angry with some people for taking biblical language out of context and using it as a weapon. I’m still angry about that, but the poems have turned into something less angry and more playful than I anticipated. I’m thankful that I get to do this work.
After my writing time, a dear friend stopped by my office on her way to work. She bought two of my poetry chapbooks for her cousin, and we chatted for a bit over Earl Grey tea and chocolate pretzel granola bars.
Now I’m going to prepare for tomorrow’s classes. I love teaching college students about poetry and language. I have no doubt that grief will attack me again before the day is over, but what a wonderful morning I’ve had.
“It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” – William Carlos Williams, “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”
I try to keep this website focused on poetry, which means that I don’t post all of my cute baby videos or share the details of my son’s potty training here… unless those things appear in a poem. Then they’re fair game. For poets, the line between what is personal and what is professional is never very clear.
On December 23, my Granny, Wanda Faye Henson, passed away. She was my stay-at-home parent, my childhood playmate, and my current friend—the person I most often talked to on the phone. I couldn’t possibly have loved her any more than I do. Sometimes I feel relieved that she’s at peace. Sometimes I can’t breathe. It’s not professional to grieve in public.
Granny is one of the reasons I’m a poet. She helped me write down the first poem I created at age 4 (see Why I Write Poetry). She spent countless hours reading me nursery rhymes and stories. And Granny haunts my poems. Sometimes she’s explicitly named or described, but often she’s in the background—a swirl of cigarette smoke, a silent observer.
I had the privilege of reading a poem at her funeral. I chose “Chocolate Gravy,” which was one of the poems that I wrote in my first college poetry class. By the standards of current poetry, it’s too simple, too obvious, too rhymed, too sweet. I probably couldn’t write it today. But I’m glad that my 20-year-old self wrote it so that I could read it a decade later and share it with family and friends when we needed something melodic, soothing, and joyful in its celebration of Granny.
She dawns before the morning
In a pale pink gown,
In the kitchen starts performing,
Taking pots and pans down.
I wake to the clanking and the clatter
Of the dishes as she swishes
Round the kitchen to the patter
Of her slipper-tile kisses.
She’s a fairy in disguise,
Stirring nectar with her wand,
Measuring only with her eyes,
Magic passed down from her mom.
She butters all the biscuits;
Always serving, always making
Homemade heaven for her family,
Like this favorite: chocolate gravy.
I feel the thick, smooth liquid flow
Over my tongue, bathed with bliss,
Remembering what I already know:
If love has a taste, it is this.
When I saw the photos and lines of poetry on this Women Poets Wearing Sweatpants page, I couldn’t resist sending something. Here’s a photo of me (with Elliott!) and the final line from my poem “A Whole Mother Story.”
I’m pleased to have three of my art-inspired poems published in an anthology called In Gilded Frame, just out from Kind of a Hurricane Press. Follow the link to the press’s website to read the free ebook version or to purchase a print copy.
My three poems in this anthology are “How to Appreciate Art” (inspired by Jessa Huebing-Reitinger’s “Courtnie” painting at the Johnson County Library), “Symmetry Drawing 72″ (after M.C. Escher’s painting of the same name), and “The Museum Bowl” (inspired by the 2010 Super Bowl and the wager between the teams’ city museums).