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  • An Iron Ring Fastened to a Rail in the Barn
  • Maurice Manning (bio)

I've got a banjo six feet longand a red-handled Barlow knife,so I've got the credentials, Mister, to dothe things I do. It takes a lotof figuring and time to do it.The barn is just an empty church,a solemn spirit is inside it.Something was tied to a rail, becausean iron ring is fastened there—maybe to suffer, I don't know.A world of art is in front of you,not always elegant art, but artthat reveals its passion. I've decidedto love the elegant less than I lovethe wild, the untamed passionate art.The blurt and cackle of birds, the lookof a curled-up lower leaf on a tree,the tree itself from underneath—the unexpected shadowy shape.This distance across the hills is somethingyou can hear, like a voice. It's space and timeand the sky-domed air and objects and trees,the shapes of living things, the wonderof everything, the only art.Even a world that's surreal beginswith the world as it is in plain sightand mystical for being itself.And what am I to do, to addto it my little portion of being?Whoever heard of a six-foot banjo? [End Page 30] That's like playing a man—but playing a manor a longish woman is something you haveto do if you're serious aboutthis art, and I don't mean poetry,I mean the larger art of beingalive in the world and suddenly seeingan iron ring and wondering whatwas its use and if it was an artand if there was suffering involved.I've come to believe that art can bea beautiful, necessary wound,a piercing of the soul and then,after a dark time, a joy. [End Page 31]

Maurice Manning

Maurice Manning's most recent poetry collections are One Man's Dark and The Gone and the Going Away. A former Guggenheim fellow, Manning has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and is a member of The Fellowship of Southern Writers. He teaches at Transylvania University and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.



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