Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Poet Manson Solomon: A well traveled poet with the wisdom of 'Solomon'

Manson Solomon fishing in Nova Scotia

Poet Manson Solomon: A well traveled poet with the wisdom of 'Solomon'

By Doug Holder

Early on Manson Solomon had a bad case of wanderlust--that brought him to many countries, advanced degrees, and a successful business. He is the rare bird that combines business acumen with artistic talent. Solomon wrote the News:

“I emerged from the womb with a mission to be a writer with a large trust fund. Said trust fund being inexplicably absent, I took the road more traveled, {acquiring graduate degrees in Economics, Psychology and Philosophy from the London School of Economics, Columbia and Harvard,] engaging in various academic, artistic and entrepreneurial pursuits — in New York, London, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Nova Scotia, Wellesley, Cambridge – I am currently a member of the Bagel Bards of Somerville, Mass.”

Doug Holder: What was it like for a Jew in South Africa in the 1950's?

Manson Solomon: It was like living in Newton or Brookline. It was like a ghetto. People were from immigrant backgrounds who would cluster in the suburbs. As far as the literary scene here is a clue. When I left and had my farewell party--I read from Emerson and Thoreau. There was no one local worth reading. Now you have a couple of people like Nadine Gordimer, Fugard, etc... that I read.

DH: Why did you leave South Africa?

MS: I left when I was 20 or 21. All my interests, all my soul, simply were with Western culture...particularly American literature and music. I loved Gershwin and Berlin--all that spoke to me. Again I asked:" Why am I here?" I didn't know. South Africa was too provincial and confining for me.

DH: You had a sever case of the wanderlust. You traversed Europe--picking up degrees--probably picking up fodder for your poetry--did you have any mentors at the time?

MS: I don't think I had any mentors. I learned from people who might have listened to me, people whose work I read, but I can't point to a teacher and say this person inspired me to do one or the other thing.

DH: For a while you had a life in the academy.

MS: I did. I majored in economics and business because I figured I had to make a living and I thought  how could I make a living from studying the literature and humanities?

DH: You left the academy, and poetry, when you started a family. Did the family life prevent you from having a creative one?

MS: For me there was no time to do anything creative. I had to pay the tuition bills. If I didn't have a family I probably would have explores a more creative life in writing and poetry.

DH: Do you think poets and writers are in need of more business acumen?

MS: Generally. I really didn't like business and economics but I came to learn it wasn't a bad thing. I can make money much faster for projects than say an artist or academic who is going for a grant.

DH: You got your PhD in Philosophy from Columbia University. What did your dissertation concern?

MS: It was a study of what goes into making a judgment of something. If you are saying something is good are you describing it? Or are you approving it; urging someone to like i?. I tried to tease out the different parts of making a judgment. My great contribution to philosophy. (Laugh)

DH: Why did you leave Columbia?

MS: Well it was during the tumult of the 60s. I finished my course work, and then I secured a fellowship to Hebrew University in Israel to teach. Then I took off with friends to live off the land in Nova Scotia. When I finished my dissertation at Columbia, I came to Harvard as a visiting fellow in philosophy. I spent eight years at Harvard.

DH: You started a successful real estate business. Why did you switch paths in life?

MS: It was an accident. I wanted to get out of Cambridge for the country. I bought up distressed real estate, rehabbed it, and sold it for a profit.

DH: A lot of your poetry is infused with nature imagery. Who or what influences you?

MS: That's true. What influences me most is going to my house in Nova Scotia every summer. It overlooks the ocean. I have been doing that for 40 years.

DH: You have had a number of poetry publication credits since you retired 5 years ago.

MS: Yes. I have been in the Muddy River Review, Bagel Bards Anthology, Ibbetson Street, Lyrical Somerville, and others.

DH: How do you write a poem?

MS: I'm walking a long . I see something--something happens--I jot down ideas--go away--come back--after awhile I flesh it out.


Winter has come


tumbling white

out of the grey

grey sky.

Trees stand

to attention

pointing blindly.

Scattered clusters

of dead oak leaves

snagged on the outstretched fingers,

orange-brown tatters, cling

to the stiff, empty coat-racks

stark witnesses

to the creep

of the insidious white

along the bark’s crevices.

Blanched bladelets accept

without protest

the enveloping ice

until they disappear



Forsaken by the sun,

starved into submission,

the earth yields

to the suffocating pillow of snowflakes,

life drained from its desiccated veins

it draws a final sigh,


and lies still

in its white, white silent shroud.

No birds, no squirrels, no blooms,

no song.

No gentle breezes stirring the

odorless air.

Only the steady drift

of the accumulating crystals



the colorless earth.

Nothing moves.

- Manson Solomon

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