Transylvania University hires acclaimed Kentucky poet Maurice Manning

Hire part of school's plan to raise profile

lblackford@herald-leader.comJanuary 25, 2012 

Acclaimed poet Maurice Manning will return to his native Kentucky as an English professor at Transylvania University. The hire of the prize-winning poet and Danville native is a coup for Transy, a small liberal arts school that's trying to become more prominent under a new president, Owen Williams.

Manning was the winner of the 2000 Yale Series of Younger Poets for his book Lawrence Booth's Book of Visions, and he was one of three finalists for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in poetry.

He has published four books on poetry, including his most recent, The Common Man, and has been published in The New Yorker, Washington Square, The Southern Review, Poetry, Shenandoah and The Virginia Quarterly Review.

Manning has always had a home in Washington County, and he received his master's degree in English from the University of Kentucky, but he had never been hired in the state. After four years at DePauw University, he moved to Indiana University in Bloomington, where he has been an English professor and associate director of the creative writing program.

He also teaches in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C. IU granted him the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in April, and he used the award to come back to Kentucky to write poems for a book tentatively titled The Gone and the Going Away. He also was recently appointed to the faculty of the Sewanee Writing Conference at Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee.

He will join the Transylvania faculty full-time in September; until then, he will organize readings on campus during the winter and May terms.

Manning was not immediately available for comment Tuesday, but he said in a statement issued by Transy that he was delighted.

"My mother's parents were Transylvania grads, and so are some of my cousins. It feels as if I have a family connection, and the warm atmosphere of the campus makes that sense of connection all the more pleasant," he said. "I can tell good things happen at Transylvania, and I will be glad to be part of that."

Hap Houlihan, co-owner of The Morris Book Shop, said that with the hiring of Manning, Transy was returning to its storied past in the 19th century, when it was one of the most prestigious schools in the country.

"What excites me especially is here's a poet who's completely tied into his land and his people," Houlihan said. "He's been not too far from his land and his people; now he's home."

Manning earned a bachelor's degree in English from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., in 1988, a master's in English from UK in 1996, and a master's in creative writing from the University of Alabama in 1999.

William Pollard, vice president and dean at Transylvania, said Manning gave the school's convocation in 2010, and they started talking about a possible job.

Pollard said the hire made sense in terms of Transy's quest to expand physically and by reputation.

"We certainly have comprehensive plans to become an even better liberal arts college, and we're looking at areas where we continue to build strengths," he said.

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