Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Poetry Chain Gang (Volume 2) | Marjorie Manwaring

The Black Telephone has five fast questions for poet Marjorie Manwaring.

BT: On this blog, Contrariwise: Literary Tattoos, tattoos from literature are showcased. Is there a poem or line from a poem that you'd consider getting tattooed on you?

MAJORIE: I can think of a couple that might be fun conversation starters (or enders?):

If you are squeamish
Don't prod the
beach rubble

Little sales ladies little sales ladies little saddles of mutton.
(from Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons)

BT: Do you know a poem (not one of yours) by heart?

MARJORIE: Yes"Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Such a celebration of abundance and of "dappled" thingsboth literal and metaphorical. I love saying this poem, reveling in its sounds and delightful invented language. How can one not be drawn into the music of a line like "for skies of couple-color as a brinded cow"? What poet, at some point, hasn't felt "counter, original, spare, strange"?

BT: I love your poem "Letter From Zelda" especially since I love Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald's relationship. What made you want to write this poem?

MARJORIE: I have long been intrigued by the 1920s the age of the "flapper" and the American artists who were expatriates in Paris. I've read biographies of both Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. Their story encompasses so many poignant aspects of the human condition: passion, fame, failure, insecurity, jealousy, alcoholism, mental illness.... In "Letter from Zelda" I picked one aspect of their relationship two artists trying to make their mark, one overshadowed by the other and tried to write about it from Zelda's point of view.

BT: Is there a poet you would consider a poet's poet?

MARJORIE: I'm taking "poet's poet" to mean someone I admire not only for his or her work, but for setting an example of steady persistence, generosity of spiritsomeone who is in love with words and with life. For me, that would be Stanley Kunitz, who died in 2006 at age 100. I feel privileged I got to see him read several times, the last time being in 2002 at the University of Washington in Seattle. As he walked to the stage, I remember the hush of the audience, his physical frailty, our rapt attention. In the introduction to his Collected Poems, he wrote, "Poems would be easy if our heads weren't so full of the day's clatter. The task is to get through to the other side, where we can hear the deep rhythms that connect us with the stars and the tides." At a Stanley Kunitz reading, you were pretty much guaranteed a visit to that other side.

BT: I’m trying to start a chain, a chain of poets, sort of like a chain gang of poets. Can you please suggest one poet I should ask five fast questions to next?

MAJORIE: Kelsea Habecker

Marjorie Manwaring lives in Seattle, where she is a freelance writer/editor and an editor for the online poetry and art journal the DMQ Review. She reads her work frequently in the Seattle area, and her work has been published in 5 AM, Crab Orchard Review, Sentence, and other journals. Her chapbook Magic Word was published in 2007. She is a 2010 Jack Straw Writer and has been awarded writing residencies through the Whiteley Center at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and Artsmith on Orcas Island (Washington state). You can visit her website at

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