September 26, 2017

Your Sun, Manny: A Prose Poem Memoir (and Book Giveaway)

They first saw him on TV as “Wednesday’s Child,” a feature on the Boston news. They had already raised two boys – her sons from a previous relationship – when they invited Manny into their lives.

“The story of any boy’s fourteen years should tumble and trip over dogs and cousins and best friends, baseball gloves and birthday parties, hand-me-down bicycles, stuffed animals, crayoned drawings stuck to refrigerators with alphabet magnets, sports posters and lacy valentines from Guess Who,” Marie Harris writes in YOUR SUN, MANNY: A PROSE POEM MEMOIR. (If you’re not a regular reader of poetry, don’t be put off by the “prose poem” terminology – this book is an easy, engaging read.)

But Manny’s first fourteen years, before he comes to live with Marie and her husband, photographer Charter Weeks, have tumbled and tripped time and again over trouble – foster care, lying, stealing, impaired learning. But there is his artistic ability. His physical grace. His patience. His simply stated need:

…I have
never had a family and I would like
one…

He arrives with all of his possessions in one suitcase and one cardboard box, changing the lives and expectations of his new parents, his extended family, and an entire community.

“Family is a structure without a blueprint,” Marie writes. In a similar way, this book doesn’t tell the reader every single fact. It isn’t a how-to or clinical analysis of special needs or interracial adoption (although it’s used in social work and family therapy classes); it’s a simply told yet artistic response to those experiences that will resonate with most any reader.  With an accomplished writer’s eye for detail and a poet’s ear for language, Marie intersperses lines of poems, dialog, and Manny’s misspelled notes with prose vignettes to tell a mother’s story from the “dim chapel of parenthood” (I love that phrase) –  a story that is poignant but never sentimental; that has its triumphant moments  but doesn’t flinch from the hard lessons of failures.

A pdf excerpt of the book is available here on the Marie Alexander Poetry Series site.

I had the pleasure of getting to know Marie and Charter when they came to visit TN Poet Laureate Maggi Vaughn last year. Here we are at "Mutts in May" in Bell Buckle (l to r): Maggi, young writer Lauren Kelly, me, and Marie.

Marie Harris served as New Hampshire Poet Laureate from 1999-2004 and is the author of several other books. This book, published by White Pine Press, is Volume 2 of the Marie Alexander Poetry Series, founded in 1996 to promote American prose poetry. Readers will especially appreciate the new epilogue in the revised 2nd edition, published in 2010, for its update on Manny, who is now in his forties.

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Win a free copy of YOUR SUN, MANNY, graciously supplied and signed by the author. Rules: Leave a comment below to enter to win. And let’s spread a bit of literature love. In your comment, tell me a book (preferably poetry – it is National Poetry Month! –  but any genre is fine) you’ve recently read and enjoyed. The winner will be chosen by a random drawing on the evening of Sunday, April 22nd from all who have commented here or on my Facebook pages (including the Kory and Kelsey Wells fan page) by 7 PM CST. I’ll contact the winner using the email you provide to obtain your mailing address. And if you’re not the lucky winner, you can order your own copy of YOUR SUN, MANNY from White Pine Press or the author.

(Please note, new commenters have to be approved before your comments will show. I check comments at least once a day.)

 

Comments

  1. David M. Fann says:

    Hi Kory! I just wanted you to know my wife and I have probably had some of the same experiences as Marie and her husband. We adopted 2 boys in 2003. They had been moved around several times in the foster system in TN (actually, we were their 12th home and 13th move in 3 1/2 years). Although we haven’t been able to find a medical professional who could (or would) diagnose him as such, we believe the older one is a RAD child. Despite his many challenges, he loves to draw and is very detail-oriented. While in elementary school, his CDC classroom made cookies one day. Afterward, his teacher wanted the class to draw a picture of the activity. While the rest of the class drew pictures of cookies, our son drew a picture of a stove with dials, cooking eyes, and a window on the oven door to look through to see the progress of the cookies. He is also very good at building with Lincoln Logs or LEGOs. He had a toy pickup truck at my parents’ house and built a LEGO topper camper he put on the bed of the truck. Now, I have a good imagination, but I would never have been able to come up with that!

    I started reading the Chronicles of Narnia in January and finished the whole series at the end of February.

    • Thanks for stopping by, David! The story of your son reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, by Martin Buber: “Mankind’s great chance lies precisely in the unlikeness of men.” We are not all supposed to see the same or do the same or be the same! Blessings to your and your wife as you continue on your special journey.

      Narnia! I last read those books…25 years ago? It might be time for me to revisit!

  2. Hi Kory,

    I am a new fan and would like to get familiar with your work. Looking forward to many years of reading and writing “together!”

  3. Kory, I’ve GOT to read this book! (You know I was a social worker in a previous life.) My favorite poetry related book I’ve read lately is A GOD IN THE HOUSE from Tupelo Press — poets talking about faith. I have dogeared so many pages. Wonderful!

    • Irene, I did not remember you were a social worker! I’m sure you’d bring that, as well as your experiences as a mother and poet and prose write, to your reading of this book. A GOD IN THE HOUSE? I’m so glad to know about this book. Here’s a link for other readers who may be interested: http://www.tupelopress.org/books/godinthehouse

      I think so much poetry IS prayer – both the writing and the reading or listening.

  4. Hi Kory,
    A new fan here as well – enjoying your work immensely. You asked for a work of poetry recently read… I would consider this a candidate for multiple re-reads. I just gave my 13 year old daughter a copy of The Profit by Kahlil Gibran.

    Paul

    • Hi, Paul,

      Thanks for the kind words, both here and on Deep South! Clearly, you are raising your daughter right…I agree, The Prophet is a classic. I think we bring our particular wisdom and experience to what we’re reading at any given point in time, but in particular it is one of those books that can really change as we change.

  5. I drew numbers this morning, and the winner was #3…Irene! I’ll be emailing to get your snail mail address and send Marie’s book your way. Hope you enjoy!

    To all, thanks so much for stopping by, and happy reading!

    Kory

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