Showcased Writer: Dawn Manning

dawn-cat-got-your-tongueInterview by Emily Van Vleet

Dawn Manning first caught my attention when I was reading through the slush pile and I came across her piece called “Burning the Bodies.” This poem deals with infanticide in China due to the one child rule. The painful images woven into the piece and the important subject matter stuck with me and made me want to know more about her inspiration and creative process. I conducted a short interview with Manning and was able to get further insight into her creative process!

What inspired you to write “Burning the Bodies?”

The specific impetus for this poem came from reading an article in a newspaper in Hong Kong many years ago about the discovery of a dumpster filled with fetuses in China. Years later, I read a second article about a separate incident in which the illegally dumped bodies of babies were found floating down a river.

Did you draw from personal experience when writing this poem? Where were you when you wrote this poem?

It took me a decade to start writing poems about this particular season in China. I was stunned into silence by the sheer scale of dehumanization I encountered surrounding the one-child policy, including gendercide, infanticide, forced abortions, forced sterilizations, and orphanages overflowing with abandoned girls. This poem is my attempt to bear witness.

What is your process for selecting a topic and writing a poem?

Sometimes I write poems triggered by specific events, as with this poem, but it’s probably more accurate to say that I write out of an image, whether that image is a snapshot of an event, a place, a myth, a person, or an object.  Once I’ve encountered an image I can’t shake, I write my way through it.

Why did you select the epigraph to begin the poem from Gu Cheng?

I’ve been a fan of Gu Cheng’s poetry for many years. This couplet, titled “A Generation,” echoes through my mind often.  I used it as the epigraph for “Burning the Bodies” because of the way it ties in with the opening and closing lines of the poem.

Silk Road Assistant Editor: Emily Van Vleet

Emily Van Vleet photoMajor: Creative Writing/Political Science

Graduation Year: 2017

Hometown: Hillsboro, OR

What do you look for in a Silk Road piece (or any writing)? 

As part of the poetry team I look for pieces that take risks, but at the same time the risks have to be successful. Strong imagery and word choice are both important, particularly in poetry because there are so few words in each piece. However a piece can have the best word choice and imagery in the world, but if the piece doesn’t have some sort of underlying meaning I’m still going to feel like it’s missing something.

If you could have any job after you graduate, what would you love to do? Money is no object.

If money wasn’t an object I would love to be an ice cream tester (who wouldn’t). On a more serious note I would love to have a versatile career where I can dabble in lots of different things. As a Creative Writing/Political Science double major I don’t think I could be satisfied by just one job. Ultimately I just want to meet lots of interesting people, travel to places I have never seen, and learn as much as I can about the world.

Are there any writers or pieces that have influenced you?

In elementary school I loved Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, but in high school my favorite books were Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. More recently I read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and loved the rich characters and gripping plots.

What does Silk Road embody to you? What words would you use to describe Silk Road to someone who knows nothing about it?

To me Silk Road embodies a wide range of perspectives and writing styles. Our focus on inviting in diverse perspectives makes Silk Road stand out. Silk Road also captures a feeling of serenity and peace in many of the pieces we publish.