Archive for July, 2011

This is the book I had to write so that I could move on to higher literary endeavors.   David Treadway Manning

I came to Malaprop’s Books and Café expecting to be cracked up.  Which is to say, I came to listen to Dave read from his latest book, Yodeling Fungus.  After the introductory statement above, I knew I would not be disappointed.

I’ve been listening to David Manning read his poetry all across NC for the past ten years, nature poetry, love poetry, spiritual visions, politics, and I am always captivated by his ability to imagine fresh images.  He speaks truth from the heart.  And then . . . every once in a while he’ll startle me with a poem that is so sly, acerbic and right on downright damn funny I’ll just about strangle.  He confesses that these are the result of a genetic misfire from his muse, Guzman:

“Guzman de Pietro is a benevolent demon inhabiting the Manning bloodline for generations as a genetic hitchhiker, imparted into the genome to each its hosts humility and the restorative virtues of Merlot and bathtub naval strategy.  A form of male duende, Guzman erupts from time to time in newspapers and poems in outrageous and occasionally embarrassing public behavior.”

.     .     .     .     .


Starry Campion

Terminal Issues

Far from faculty teas, and leather elbow-patches,
out in the blue-collar, bare-knuckle world,
out in the cliché-ridden, six-pack world,

the little magazines flash in and out like
virtual particles in the plenteous void.  Some
catch and flicker into light to illumine

the pages of Poet’s Market for a year
or two.  Names like Manna, Pegasus go up
like bottle-rockets then fall for next week’s

recycle.  Somehow Lyn Lifshin strides
their galaxies as if on stepping stones
before they vanish, the tiny journals,

home-grown in someone’s sewing room.
Coastal Plains, Wellspring, Potato Eyes –
I’ve had a poem in the final issue

of each one.  I have sent my coup-de-grace
like poisoned arrows into their vitals.
Amelia took my killer limerick then died

(with editor Fred) before the fatal fetal poem
could be born.  And Knuckle Merchant greeted
my aggression open-armed then shuddered,

limp into rain-soaked tabloid rags.  Now,
I send out poems, with a warning
like a black box label on a drug.

Enclosed are five new poems.
Thanks for you consideration.
The side effect is death.

.     .     .     .

What I should Have Said to the Young Poet Who Asked, “What Is the Typical Age of Your Reading Group Members?”

It’s don’t ask, don’t tell
when we wheel in our IVs
& orderlies.  Just come with some poems.
At noon we bring our lunches,

community oxygen & an extra tank
or two.  You won’t feel out of place
after we lay a few lines of Thanatopsis
on you with our cool blue hands.

Come visit – you’ll fit right in –
like six by three.  We keep out too much
sun, so you can ease back on one
of our satiny pillows & enjoy.

They keep the black van running
outside & Brown-Wynne on speed-dial.
Yesterday a youngster with progeria
came & caught up real fast.  Don’t worry,

before you know it you’ll be
one of us.  Your hands will clammy up
real fine – knobbly veins and all – and
those cheeks of baby fat will croc-o-dile.

.     .     .     .     .

Dave, Worthy Evans and I read as the “Poetrio” at Malaprop’s Books and Café on July 3, 2011.

Yodeling Fungus, Old Mountain Press

Other books by David Manning:
The Flower Sermon
The Ice Carver

Previous GriffinPoetry post Featuring Dave Manning


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After the reading I’m talking to Worthy Evans, admiring his poems.  He says, “I think I have multiple personality disorder.”  I say, “Must come in handy.”  And doesn’t it though.

Worthy’s new book from University of South Carolina Press, Green Revolver, is populated by a neighborhood, an entire quirky village of personalities.  They are on maneuvers waiting on edge for their enemy; staring at incomprehensible instructions on the computer screen in their cubicle; watching an orange-vested family build a sky-scraper; lying in a hospital bed with a puffy head covered with bandages.  Whatever they’re doing, it seems serenely commonplace, like you and I could be doing it, too.  You and I and Rod Serling.

The poems can be dark, disturbing, or simply quizzical, but hearing Worthy read them they develop into a universe warmly personal.  Not just personal in that there’s his own portrait in each, framed by the hole sawed in the wooden barricade at a construction site where passers by can watch the action.  And not just the personal history that filters up through the mundane circumstances: soldier, journalist, cubical drone.  No, more than that the poems become personal because I the listener/reader am invited right into the mild chaos that accompanies everything we do day to day, if we really think about it.  Family life, work, interpersonal politics, it all really is a little strange, isn’t it?  I feel much better now.  I feel better now that Worthy accompanies me on this strange trip.  Hey, we’re all in it together.

.     .     .     .     .


Naked-flowering Tick Trefoil


Dan Jones is coming to meet with us.
All of us, Monday at 2:30 p.m.  Dan
Jones will meet with all of us two
days from now.  It is all we were
told.  Neil Diggs walked up and gave us
the tip, but he didn’t say why Dan
Jones was going to meet with us,
or who Dan Jones is and what
kinds of business Dan Jones was
after.  Dan Jones could be a barber, and
for all I know that’s what he is.  I looked
down to see what Dan Jones did to me,
the hair on the floor, a drop of blood
smeared onto my pant leg when the clipping
became fierce.  I heard opera music and
saw a delicate white hand cross over
cold steel instruments resting on the soft linen.
Tulips grew in the garden outside
the window where Dan Jones, the faculty
and I were meeting to discuss budget cuts.
All of us topping our shaggy manes until Dan Jones
rides by on his penny-farthing to give us a clip.

.      .     .     .     .

Never visit Asheville without stopping by Malaprop’s, at the corner of Walnut and Haywood.  It is the best independent bookstore on the planet.  The cool stuff, the Smoky Mtn. Roasters, the Ashevillians, oh yeah and the books – I could live there.  Tell Virginia “Bill says Hi.”

Green Revolver at Malaprop’s Books and Cafe

Charleston City Paper Article about Worthy Evans

Green Revolver at USC Press


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Jeez, just when you think you sort of know someone.  Picture the engraving by M. C. Escher, Encounter: a placid white man, the negative space around him metamorphosed by degrees into a sinister appearing black man.  They greet. But step back.  At a distance sufficient for you to see the image whole, where does one homunculus end and the next begin?  Like looking into yourself.  Or into the world.

Celisa Steele’s poems in How Language is Lost embody the same perplexity.  Look closely.  Are these images sacred or profane?  (There will never be a more arresting poem title than “Al Considers the Fucking Holy Spirit.”) Now step back.  Read every poem.  Just when you thought you sort of knew someone.

A subtle breath wends from line to line to line, an irresistable inhalation that brings all within – drunk with your face in the mashed potatoes, grieving as ice melts in the cup, alone and lost as a language, as an entire generation.  Or grunting at the jab of an elbow in your ribs that demands you laugh.  There you are.  There I am.  A fractal poetry in which the smallest detail expands to become the universe.  Divine juxtaposition.

If everything is God, the only sin is in denying that God is everything.

.     .     .     .     .


The Jungle on the Back Patio

Today a sparrow, doubtless
a Yeatsian, builds her nest again
where yesterday I beat it down.

Last fall Besson bulldozed
the jungle at Calais.  Hundreds
of undocumented migrants,

Pashtuns hoping to hop
a Dover-bound lorry, flew
before the announced razing.

Some stayed (most minors),
arrested in soft clouds of breath
just visible in the early morning.

This morning’s song – luculent
encomium of labor – lowers
the upturned broom in my hand.

No one wins.  Not the bird,
not the French.  Nothing changes
by an inch or an ounce, and I imagine

I will startle her to flitting frenzy,
send her to a nearby branch
each time I set foot on the patio.

Eggs, cool for too long, will
never hatch – the next generation
lost in a spindrift of pollen.

.     .     .     .     .

Celisa Steele

MC Esher Gallery 


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