Maurice Manning, a Transylvania University English professor and writer-in-residence, has combined poetry, music, history and homespun humor for a podcast called “The Grinnin’ Possum.”
Funded through the Kentucky Arts Council, the 10-episode first season is a journey across the state’s rural areas, from a one-room schoolhouse to hidden waterfalls. “The poems are narrative and take us to an uncertain time period, far from the beaten path, and feature a host of warm, funny, heartbreaking and oddball characters,” according to the podcast.
Manning has published numerous acclaimed poetry collections, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist “The Common Man,” and his works have appeared in publications such as The New Yorker and Time Magazine.
“Everything I’ve done as a poet is connected to Kentucky — landscape, history, people, weather, creatures,” Manning said. “This is what I know and it’s where I begin with my creative efforts.”
His podcast brings together poetry and music in a way that’s authentic and synergistic. “I committed to doing this podcast without having any idea what it would be,” Manning said. “For years, I’ve wanted to combine poetry and music with the idea that the combination would create a third art. I’ve also wanted to take poetry off the page and beyond an auditorium and see what it sounds like in a different sort of setting. This is because I believe poetry comes from the world and is in the world.”
To get a feel for what he’s talking about, here’s the description of the “Penn’s Store” episode. “The Possum goes mobile to record at Penn’s Store in Gravel Switch, KY, the oldest continuously owned and operated country store in America (it opened in 1845!). Maurice sits on Penn’s porch to read ‘Knowledge Is The Sop and The Living Waters.’ This episode welcomes the company of several local dogs and the song ‘Will there Be Any Stars In My Crown?'”
Check out the series trailer:
Manning collaborated with his good friend Steve Cody on the podcast. “Steve is one of the best photographers anywhere and he’s also very good with audio, not just managing equipment, but finding the best acoustic effects of particular locations — the woods, a waterfall, an empty church,” Manning said. “It was always exciting to arrive at some far-flung place and see what we could make of it. The result has been the most gratifying and expansive creative endeavor of my life. We did this together, and even now we’re working on taking this rootsy effort farther, to see what branches and blossoms will come.”
Listeners are encouraged to spread the word about the series, as audience response will determine whether there’s more episodes down the road.