Maurice Manning

Professor of English; Transylvania Writer in Residence

Understanding the content of a poem or a play or a novel is essential, but I also want my students to learn how to appreciate the internal qualities of good writing.

Kentucky poet Maurice Manning has published five books of poetry, including The Common Man, which was one of three finalists for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. His first collection, Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions, was selected for the 2000 Yale Series of Younger Poets. He has had works in publications including The New Yorker, Washington Square, The Southern Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, and The Virginia Quarterly Review.

Manning has given poetry readings all over the country, from Penn’s Store in Gravel Switch, Ky., to the Library of Congress.

He describes his teaching style as “congenial;” he conducts ongoing conversations about literature with his students.

“More than anything, I think I teach my students how to read in a particular way,” he said. “For example, I would explain the ‘logic’ and beauty of a simile or an image. These are literary devices, of course, but writers use them to give their writing rigor and purpose.”

Good writing is an integral aspect of a liberal arts education, and Transylvania puts an emphasis on helping students improve their writing in all classes and about all subjects. Manning said he sees good writing coming from good thought, and that is what he hopes to teach his students.

“There is a powerful connection between reading and thinking,” he said. “If a student learns how to read with depth and focus, then he or she will most likely start thinking that way, too. And then the student’s own writing will develop and mature.”

Academic History

M.F.A. in creative writing, University of Alabama, 1999
M.A. in English, University of Kentucky, 1996
B.A. in English, Earlham College, 1988


Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, 2011
Yale Series of Younger Poets honoree, 2000
Fellowship from The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass.
Fellowship from The Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers in Scotland
Fellowship from The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation
Hanes Poetry Prize from The Fellowship of Southern Writers
Plattner Award from Appalachian Heritage
Lee Smith Award from the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival at Lincoln Memorial University

Additional Information

Judge for the National Book Award poetry prize, presented by the National Book Foundation, 2012

Op-Ed contributor to The New York Times (“My Old Kentucky Conservatism,” 2012)

Regular instructor at the Appalachian Writers Workshop held at The Hindman Settlement School

Faculty of the M.F.A. Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College