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The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman
by Katie Manning
22 poems/ 33pages/ $7.00
Wipf and Stock, Publishers

Reviewed by: Ed Bennett

In 2006 Gary Wills tackled a potentially loaded topic in  "What Jesus Meant". He attempted to make sense out of
the contradictory words and actions in the gospels by looking at Jesus from the standpoint of Judean history of
two millennia ago. One of the points he discussed was in Jesus’ rejection of some of the purity laws in Leviticus and
Deuteronomy that caused the common people to be separated from God. He focused on two biblical stories in particular:
The Good Samaritan and the Bleeding Woman. In both instances religious law marked both the man dying by the roadside
and the woman with a hemorrhage as being “unclean” and therefore outcast from the community. According to Wills the
new message from Christ is that there were no outcasts in God’s eyes.

Katie Manning’s book of poetry, The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman, focuses on the latter of the two characters that
Wills illuminates. Mentioned in all three synoptic gospels, this woman suffers from a chronic hemmoharage that no
doctor or priest could cure. As a result, she is shunned by the community until she touches Jesus’ garment and is
cured. The first part of the book describes her shame; it ends with her miraculous cure. Part two finds the woman
living in current day New York City contemplating what has transpired and living a life of joyous piety.

The poems in this book have a depth that go beyond simple religion. Nura, unnamed in the gospels yet given a name
here, has been seeing doctors and listening to their conflicting diagnoses.
She has – 

        She is –

               She miscarried –

a leaking heart.

       an abnormality.

              a demon.

The early poems describe a devout woman at the end of her tether who cannot understand a God who would impose this
situation on her. At this point Ms. Manning uses a clever device of making Nura the sister – in – law of the disciple
Peter and it is through this connection that she is able to gain proximity to this Galilean preacher. She touches
His cloak and the poetry in the book becomes a prose poem with her saying:

“I touched his cloak. Suddenly I was alone. Suddenly I didn’t exist. I walked home in a trance and fell asleep with
my sandals on. I didn’t wake up in time to see how our stories would end.”

The second part of Nura’s miracle finds her transported to New York City where she works as a librarian and, inexplicably,
knows about clocks and airplanes. Yet she cannot escape her past as she walks in the city

“but now when I walk
through midtown at top speed
avoiding elbows
and blown – out umbrellas,
I recall the Brother – in – law who pushed
me through the crowd against the law
to take my last chance and touch God.”

Her story ends in a Manhattan restaurant having lunch with Jesus who says to call him “J” because people tend to lock him
up when he declares his divinity.

Katie Manning’s poems have the ability to bring a smile as they examine the meaning and depth of one’s faith. This is in
itself something almost miraculous. The movement between Galilee of the first century and 21st century America lends uni-
versality to this story. It is more than simply a story of faith – it is a story of the universal belief that none of us
are outcasts, none of us are beyond redemption.

No matter what your beliefs, or even if you have no beliefs, I recommend this book. The topic deals with the divine but the
focus is on the human encounter with it. Katie Manning has given us an empathetic look at how one suffering soul was delivered
from her banishment into the arms of humanity, such as we are.


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