Vlad Interviews: Adrian Manning

Vlad Savich: When I hear the name Adrian, I recall a Soviet cosmonaut Adrian Nikolayev. Are you an astronaut too? Please, tell the readers a little bit about yourself.

Adrian Manning: I’m afraid not – nothing as exciting as that even though that may have been a childhood ambition that didn’t work out! I work in education and write in the hours either side. I write mostly poems but have also written articles and short fiction. I also write reviews and interview local musicians for a magazine based in my home town of Leicester, England. I’ve had a good number of chapbooks, broadsides and poems published in England and the USA in print and on line. I also run Concrete Meat Press which I describe as a micro press. Smaller than small! I have worked with local musicians putting my words with their music on stage and recordings. After half a century on the planet I’m also still yearning to be a rock n roll star! Never too late I say!

VS: “Putting my words with their music”. Do you write poetry in the manner of Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan or do you have your own voice?

AM: No – it’s definitely my own voice. The words have mostly been my own poems which have either been considered a good fit for a passage in a song, as I did with Mountaintop Junkshop on ‘Roman Candles and Red Lights’ using my poem ‘Bring Me’, or putting music to my poems as I did with my long poem chapbook ‘Wide Asleep, Fast Awake’ where Harvey Sharman-Dunn of Echolocation added musical backing. I have recently written and recorded a short prose piece specifically for a new Mountaintop Junkshop song due on their forthcoming album. My pieces have all been read rather than sung. I absolutely love Jim Morrison and the Doors; the only thing comparable would be the ‘American Prayer’ album I guess.

VS: “After half a century on the planet”. I’m curious. What you will say about “When I’m sixty-four”?

AM: When I’m 64 I hope that I will say that I’ve continued to have written and published more words and that those are my best poems. There’s always time to develop and improve! It would be good to have left some music behind too. I hope I can say my wife and boys, who will be 24 and 22 by then, will have had a good 14 years between now and then and are doing what they want to do that makes them happy. By then I am hoping I’ll be looking forward to spending my later days enjoying and creating art in its many guises and drinking wine whilst doing so at any damn time I want!

VS: Once upon a time, you were 20. Now you’re 50 years old. Are you still the same person? Would you find a topic for conversation with the 20-year old Adrian?

AM: In many ways I do feel the same. I have many of the same interests – music, poetry, art and a fascination with the strange, the outsiders, the absurd and the grotesque. I would probably bore myself with the knowledge and insight the additional thirty years have given me. I would probably find the now me advising the younger me – about life, work, people, the world and the way things are – hopefully to give me a head start in dealing with the crap that goes with it all. I’d probably tell myself to keep those I value closer as I proceed as I’ve lost touch with a lot of people I really liked and respected along the way. I’d tell myself not to let things pull you down as they can. Of course I’d talk about the writers I liked then and tell myself to keep writing – I wasn’t published at all at that point – get it out that way so I don’t end up in the madhouse. I’d give myself advise about the bad cards dealt before I was twenty and how to deal with the bad cards coming. Then I’d get back to talking with myself about guitars, loud music, the beats and Bukowski, Warhol and Dali – all things that interested me then (and still now!) and the world would be ok again – at least for a while.

VS: Why did you become a writer? How and when did it happen?

AM: I started writing when I was a teenager – jottings, thoughts and short pieces that could have been considered early poems. I was trying to make sense of my world. It was a way of dealing with some bad experiences I had been through. It also coincided with the first time I really discovered poetry. Up until that point, it had never been on my radar. In my early twenties I started to write poems seriously – typing them up, collecting them together as a manuscript. They lay pretty much forgotten now. After a few years I actually mustered the courage to submit some poems to a magazine and when one got accepted I felt the sense that I was marginally a writer. It felt good. It still does.

VS: What is the main theme in your literary work?

AM: The main themes in my work are numerous. Death, or the marching towards it, stalks many of my poems. Death visited early in my life so it is a constant theme – that and loss in its many forms. Ghosts seem to be current theme – I have an unpublished manuscript that I think of as my ghost poems. Not ghosts in the supernatural sense but ghosts of loss – human, physical, time and so on. The constant battle of the days – the mental, emotional, political, work, human nature and other little things or as John Lyndon put it “trite little obsessions”. There may be some humour occasions but is generally a serious ride with my work.

VS: Can biological shit be the subject of literature?

AM: Biological shit as in literal shit? Blood, sweat, tears, piss and shit have all featured somewhere in my poems. You can’t avoid the natural fluids of life. If it’s biological shit as in life, family then yes, this is a feature of a lot of my work. People come up – my mother is the perpetual ghost behind a lot of my work even if it’s not about her. Relationships, love – they do appear but not always as easy to see.

VS: This is a question that seems stupid, but I will still ask it. Is the poet stopping time or is time stopping the poet? What do you think?

AM: Interesting question. I see the poet as recording specific moments in time, whether it be a second, minutes or a week. It’s painting or photography with words. If anything I think the poet is pausing time. Holding it for a short while as the initial words are recorded. Sometimes the poet writes in the instant – the immediate reaction. Most of the time I see it as rewinding the film, pausing it, studying the film and extracting the important bits for the word photograph before pressing play or fast forwarding again to the present. Sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes the poet rewinds again, takes another look, finds more or different ideas. This film of life continues without us so I don’t see the poet stopping time which seems definite and I don’t think time stops the poet as they are working on the poem. It’s hold and release.

VS: Life is a movie. Do you regret that you can’t watch the whole movie?

AM: I’ve often thought I’d like to rewind the movie, to go back to those times my memory is either struggling to recall or has locked down for some reason. Nowadays, our lives are documented through many photographs, recordings and constant notes via social media etc. In my younger years, in my family, we had very few photographs, almost no moving images and I didn’t keep diaries so to find the movie would be really helpful. I guess my role in the movie is brief, but my only regret is that when I step off set, I won’t see how certain characters’ parts pan out. The younger members of the cast in particular, such as my two boys. I am not frightened of death ultimately, not my own anyway – that of others scares me more, but I am pissed off at the fact that, if all goes as planned and they survive me, I won’t see the rest of their role.

VS: “I am not frightened of death”. What is death? Could you explain it to me?

AM: Death is the end. It is the end of the heart, the mind and the body. I don’t believe in heaven or hell. I’ve seen no evidence of reincarnation. I’d love to believe in ghosts in the supernatural sense but again I need the personal experience to convince me. We become food for the worms or ash for the ground. What lives on is the memory in other people, the impact we have left behind – physically, in the work, in how you have effected people. That’s all there is. Death is the end of the body, the beginning of loss.

when I die
set the skin aflame
scorch the bones
until they are black

I’ll be no use to anybody
but remember the time I was
if you possibly can recall them

VS: “Death is the end”. If death is the end, ashes, emptiness, nothing, why then do so many poets end their lives by suicide?

AM: I think there are many reasons for someone to end their own life. Mental health, physical illness, terrible sadness and desperation. I believe poets delve into the minutiae of life and often that deep focus can be caused by or lead to certain conditions. Most of the poets I read and know are not writing about the beauty of the flowers and the happy skipping of people through the meadows. They explore and examine the brutalities of life, the inequalities, the madness and sadness of existing. That may stem from their background. I’ve mentioned death and ‘ghosts’ in previous answers. Personally I’ve always felt I write to get the thoughts out there rather than brooding on them. I always hope that keeps me on the right side of the steel blade. If not, maybe that would lead to the stepping off the edge. However, dwelling on such things can also magnify them so it’s a fine walk along the rope. One step to the wrong side could lead to tragedy and I think that some poets, and other non-poets, take that step off the edge and suicide is the result.

VS: Is life not worth living? To be or not to be?

AM: Life is definitely worth living. You have to see the things that make it worth it amongst the crap and the daily grind. Looking at someone you love when they are not looking at you, watching a sleeping cat or a heron on the wing. The music, art of the world whether it be deliberate or accidental. The machinery of the factory, a flower in the cracks of dry, dead pavements. Those people, who really mean something, always amaze you, surprise you in amongst the assholes of the world. The secret is to find it and hold onto it – that’s what makes life living.

VS: Death is inevitable. Do you agree? If so, what poet lines would you like to take for your epitaph?

AM: Oh yes, death is inevitable – it is coming. The only question is when and how and there may not be an awful lot we can do about it. For an epitaph quote, I’d take the title of Charles Bukowski’s book “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” I think that pretty much sums it up.

VS: Fire and Water. These are my favorite elements. Which of these do you consider yourself?

AM: I’m a Sagittarius which is a fire sign. This links with the element of creativity – the words, the music, the art. I’ve always had a vivid imagination and even as a child had my own inner worlds which I often escape too. I like to be the centre of attention so maybe that’s the over inflated ego linked to the element. However, I do have a lot of self-doubt and can be my own worst critic and enemy. Where that fits in I don’t know! I do also feel things greatly and can be very insular and sensitive to things so I have the water element too. I guess I’m a mixture of both – a contradiction! That’s me in so many ways.

VS: How do you think in the future we will have one language; different languages or will people communicate some other way?

AM: I don’t think in the near future we will have one language – not a spoken or written language anyway. In the very far off future who knows? It depends on if any particular culture manages world domination! I don’t think we will see it. I guess computer languages are pretty universal and it depends how that develops. That could be where a true universal language develops.

VS: Are you paying attention to the writing on the wall? Always!

AM: The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, studio walls, concert halls! However you look at it. This makes me think of a poem I wrote a number of years back:

The writings on the wall
The graffiti was fresh,

It wasn’t there yesterday.

It stood in tall, red letters
– dangerous and threatening.

“FUCK YOU ” it read.

Underneath were the words

Damn, I thought, looking
over my shoulder,
the bastards are following me.

I suppose the writing is on the wall if we let it be. If we want to erase it, we need to challenge those who are writing it. That is the challenge. Those with the power, the influence will make us feel the writing is on the wall. We need to stand up against the message if we don’t like it.

VS: Are you trying to write poetry on the water’s surface?

AM: Not necessarily trying but maybe gliding across the water surface causing ripples to spread like a pond skater. Better than sinking down below unless your diving for pearls or wanting to raise up a storm. This happens but the subtlety of stirring up the water can be a good way to go. I’ve written poems about water – usually something bubbling beneath the surface.

VS: What would you like to say to our readers?

AM: All I can say is keep reading poetry and support the small presses, keep listening to new bands and support live music. Keep the arts alive! I’m not really qualified to say much else.


Adrian Manning lives and writes in Leicester, England. He has had a number of chapbooks of poetry and many poems, articles and reviews published in print and on line around the world. He is also the editor of Concrete Meat Press
Vlad* Savich was born in the USSR, where he was educated, married and fathered his daughter. As soon as the chance appeared to leave, he did. At present he lives in Montreal, where he writes, directs for the theatre and breathes the air of freedom. He can be found online at savich.lit.com.ua.
*He prefers not to be called Vladimir, so as not to be associated with the disreputable activity of a certain barnardine Russian leader.

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