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Matt Manley

Illustration by Matt Manley of man looking through a square frame, hidden by shadows.

          I was fortunate to be born into a family that emphasized the importance of story.
          The first story they told me was my name. Next came my great-grandfather cutting watermelon into quarters as he and my father walked a field in Kentucky. Then came my mother running and jumping on the basketball court, powerful and balanced.
          Growing up, my little brother, Nathan, and I shared a room. Both Dad and Mom would come and read to us. They sat on the floor...

Illustration by Matt Manley of man looking through a square frame.

          What else do we have except story? To say how we love one another. To offer comfort. To prepare for grief, for suffering. To try to remember joy.
          In the beginning was the word and the word was made flesh. And what were those words? Mostly the language of the body. Breast and thigh, curve of back, ankle’s stem and neck’s graceful turn like the limb of a willow nudged by the wind.
          We were young, only twenty-three when we...

Art by Matt Manley

    I wrote “I, Beast,” a poem honored by the North American Review, after reading a New York Times article in 2014, which explained that the soil in one particular Russian city had preserved ancient documents, some as mundane as a shopping list and a child’s fanciful drawing. The drawing was made in approximately 1260 by a boy named Onfirm, believed to be six to seven years old and includes the words, “I, beast,” as well as the...

Illustration by Matt Manley

     The Polish government designated it the Year of Zbigniew Herbert and organized a celebratory reading at the Polish Embassy in DC, where a handful of Polish American poets read and discussed his singular influence. I read a Herbert-influenced poem along with an excerpt from my translation of Pan Tadeusz, the great nineteenth century Polish Romantic epic—the scene where all nature and all the inhabitants of Lithuanian Poland react to the advancing Napoleonic forces with an eerie...

Matt Manley Art

As the semester ends, I find myself trying to gauge the slipperiness of this thing called improvement. Has Dave’s portfolio of writing displayed that he’s become a better poet this semester? Yes, his specifics are more specific, his forms more formed, but there’s something I realize I haven’t talked about enough: happenstance. The beauty of it. The necessity.

In my desire to impart the craft of poetry, I didn’t emphasize enough the chance of poetry. And chance is what gives life,...

Image of bird by Matt Manley

 

Clouds move at the leisure of the wind, whether urgent and gusting or placidly seeming painted upon the sky. Like eagles and falcons, rivers and the wind itself, clouds have provided a permanent and inexhaustible image for freedom. I find it hard not to envy them, yet I would feel unmoored and unnerved by such complete mobility, something like “the unbearable lightness of being” as Milan Kundera characterized it.   

 

“Plaintive Lives” was written at a time soon...

Human shadow

Felicia Zamora’s Poem “A Long Road Never Takes Us” Will Appear In Nar Issue 302.1.

What brings you to the page? The incessant lull of the image? Perhaps the habitual pace around the desk, in taunt of your time? The spark of unexplainable inspiration that requires you to bolt toward any mechanism of capture to get it down? The guilt...

The power of surrender

I live a double life as a poet and a yoga instructor. It’s a curious intersection. The forms are different, but the process surprisingly similar: shedding the unnecessary to find the essential.

There’s a lot of unnecessary to surrender.

In yoga training, there is continuous undoing, from the narrowed brow to the tightened shoulders, held breath, and barricades throughout the body. If we don’t undo these tensions, we train them into the positions we are relentlessly practicing...

I hate to start out with a cliche, but art really can make you starve. You can be a stalwart perfectionist when it comes to fine art, be it writing, music or the like. Fine, in that I mean something that builds on our love of the world in which we live, that speaks to the conscience, that speaks to the heart’s struggles, that builds on the true temperament of the human experience.  But, it can make you starve, when you don’t know when to put the pen down, the instrument that bends your will...

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