The Common Man

The Common Man

The Common Man, Maurice Manning’s fourth collection, is a series of ballad-like narratives, set down in loose, unrhymed iambic tetrameter, that honors the strange beauty of the Kentucky mountain country he knew as a child, as well as the idiosyncratic adventures and personalities of the oldtimers who were his neighbors, friends, and family. Playing off the book’s title, Manning demonstrates that no one is common or simple. Instead, he creates a detailed, complex, and poignant portrait—by turns serious and hilarious, philosophical and speculative, but ultimately tragic—of a fast-disappearing aspect of American culture. The Common Man’s accessibility and its enthusiastic and sincere charms make it the perfect antidote to the glib ironies that characterize much contemporary American verse. It will also help to strengthen Manning’s reputation as one of his generation’s most important and original voices.

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547487304

  • ISBN-10: 0547487304

  • Pages: 112

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 04/09/2010

  • Carton Quantity: 10

Maurice Manning

Maurice Manning

MAURICE MANNING is the author of four previous books of poems. His last book, The Common Man, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship, he teaches at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.
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  • reviews

    "This fourth book by Yale Younger Poet's Prize–winner Manning is, like his previous books, a unified sequence . . . The poems are friendly, if also full of sadness. . . . Readers will find themselves charmed by Manning's smart, companionable voice." —Publishers Weekly

    "Maurice Manning’s fourth collection of poems, The Common Man, brings the tales and idiom of a sort of American Robert Burns, a rough-hewn Appalachian experience that’s comedic and exuberant, sly and pointed as it works its way around what Manning calls ‘the big ideas.’ James Dickey used to say he wanted to write ‘country surrealism’ and meant the tales, as strange as they are cultural reflections, that come with fireside talking. And, oh yes, singing. Manning has big talents and none are more impressive than his singing, a word much overused when speaking of poets. I think few will disagree this is memorable music, entertaining, rich, often spooky-wise. The Common Man marks Maurice Manning as a most uncommon poet." —Dave Smith, author of Little Boats, Unsalvaged

    "The Common Man is Maurice Manning’s homage to a way of being human that has all but vanished, but he has the lyrical powers and the gumption to resuscitate and carry it—in tetrameter couplets, on a voice that seems, at once, of another era and utterly contemporary: bawdy tales, philosophical questions, jokes, prayers—the heart’s truth. This is country in the way that Twain and Faulkner were country, and if you miss the high art of it all or the elegiac underpinning, check your pulse. This one’s for the ages." —Rodney Jones, author of Salvation Blues

  • excerpts


    The older boy said, Take ye a slash

    o' this - hit'll make yore sticker peck out -

    which would have been a more profound

    effect than putting hair on my chest,

    to which I was already accustomed.

    Proverbially, of course, he was right.

    I took a slash, another, and then

    I felt an impassioned swelling, though

    between my ears, as they say, a hot

    illumination in my brain.

    The shine had not been cut; full of

    the moon it was for sure. I knew

    the mountain county it came from -

    my family's section, on Little Goose.

    A distant cousin would have been proud

    to know another cousin was drinking

    what might as well be blood, at least

    the bonds that come with blood, the laugh

    before the tragic truth, the love

    of certain women, the hate for lies,

    the knowledge that death can be a mercy,

    the vision blurred and burning there

    in the mind and in the wounded heart.

    This was the first time I heard the story

    I was born to tell, the first I knew

    that I was in the story, too.



    If you go up the holler far

    enough you'll spy a little house

    half-hidden in the trees. It's dark

    up there all day and when the night

    comes down it's darker yet. There's two

    old brothers living in that house

    and the younger one is fatter than

    a tick with lies and sassy tales.

    One time, a bear came through and ate

    a couple dozen pawpaws these brothers

    had shaken from the tree and left

    lined up on the porch rail to ripen,

    and Murdock, their good-for-nothing dog

    who had retired to the porch on account

    of all the work he'd done that day,

    never so much as growled nor raised

    an eye. The brothers were tending to

    the pole beans in the garden patch

    and once the bear had slunk away

    both brothers said at once: Why, shoot

    an' H-E-double-toothpicks, Murdock!

    And then the younger one said: Jinx.

    And the older brother spit in the dirt.

    According to the younger one -

    who couldn't hold his belly still

    from all the laughter he'd provoked -

    it was about a year and a half

    before he let his brother speak,

    but then it didn't last too long

    on account of Murdock treed a woman.

    She'd come up there to see how poor

    these brothers were and if they needed

    some religious reading material.

    She called hello, then Murdock woofed

    his woof as fierce as he could be,

    and she shinnied up the pawpaw tree

    and hollered: Help! Ole Murdock, well,

    he never left the porch. The brothers

    were digging a privy hole behind

    the house and when the woman hollered,

    they came running around and six feet off

    the ground this pretty red-haired woman

    was trembling in the pawpaw tree,

    and the poor thing's skirt had gotten bunched

    around her thighs as she was climbing up -

    this otherwise respectable woman

    came near to blinding the brothers right there,

    her bloomers were so bright. Now, it took

    a moment or two before the brothers

    could gather their wits, but once they did

    they tried to look concerned and turned

    to the porch and said in a single voice:

    You son-of-a-biscuit-eater, Murdock,

    you've done scared this young gal halfway out of

    her drawers! The younger brother grinned,

    and jinxed the older one again.

    Because I jinxed him! he told me one day

    when I asked why I'd never heard

    the older brother speak. How long

    has he been jinxed? I asked. Lord, years!

    he said, and I don't reckon he

    remembers how to speak, and it's been

    so long, I've plumb forgot his name;

    I can't take back the jinx no more.

    Now remember what I said - this man

    is fatter than a junebug with lies

    and he can spread them pretty thick,

    though I've never minded listening.

    Many a time I've stopped up there

    to visit and every time it seems

    the younger brother has just been waiting.

    What's the good word? he always asks.

    Yes, many a time I've stopped up there,

    but I've never seen a pawpaw tree.

    Lord knows what became of that young woman

    or if she continued her ministry;

    and one day ole Murdock went to Heaven -

    why, even a bad dog gets to go.

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547487304

  • ISBN-10: 0547487304

  • Pages: 112

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 04/09/2010

  • Carton Quantity: 10