I’ve become acquainted with Katie Manning and her work via the Poetry Has Value project, where we’re both contributing bloggers. And that is how I learned about her new poetry chapbook. Titled A Door with a Voice and published by Agape Publications/Sundress Publications, this work comprises 16 poems. (And you can download it at no cost!)
Before you reach the poems, you find this artist’s statement: “I am tired of people taking language from the Bible out of context and using it as a weapon against other people, so I started taking language from the Bible out of context and using it to create art. My process was to use the last chapter from one book of the Bible as a word bank for each poem. This is either the most heretical or the most reverent thing I’ve ever written.”
This approach piqued my interest for a couple of reasons. First, for about two years, I’ve been engaged more or less consistently in a new endeavor: close study of Jewish texts (mainly extracts from the Hebrew Bible) followed by writing sessions prompted by those texts (and often, the questions they evoke). Second, I’ve tried the “word bank” approach myself, notably for my poem “Jerusalem Dream” (more about that here). So Katie’s project seemed to resonate in certain ways with elements of my own writing practice.
One difference: In A Door with a Voice, Katie goes beyond the Hebrew Bible to encompass text from the New Testament. I’m no expert when it comes to the Hebrew Bible, but I’m virtually clueless where the New Testament is concerned. Perhaps it’s not a surprise, then, that I found myself more naturally drawn to the poems drawn from the “books” I know. In fact, poems such as the first two, which use words from the books of Leviticus and Numbers, respectively, have made me want to go back and revisit the original texts anew.
A project such as this also makes me think again (as I do every time I gather with my comrades in our study-and-writing-sessions) about translation. To the extent that these poems are built from words taken from the Bible, they are, of course, dependent on translations. I’m not sure what that means–but I suspect that it means something.
Whether you’re interested in poetry, or the Bible, or both–I recommend that you take a look at Katie Manning’s new chapbook. I’m glad that I have.