Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.

--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Monday, July 27, 2015

Strange seas

Kari Cadel photograph, The Glimmerglass Festival
Last week I bought a book of selected poetry by a poet whose work I do not care for--have not cared for it at all for many years, aside from one poem that I think is very good. (Of course, to lodge one poem in the mind is an achievement.)

And once again I am thinking how strange the arts are, that even what one doesn't love can woo. Little glimmerings in the poems appealed to me. Here and there are sparks, intriguing sounds, strange collisions of thought.

This morning I wrote something that is very much indebted to Vivaldi's "Cato in Utica," which I saw last week at Glimmerglass Opera, but it also owes smaller debts to the poet whose work I do not care for. Here and there, I see him faintly, some trace of him derived from reading his words. The sea of art is a great body with both great, mysterious whales and little salty guppies, and somehow the guppies are just as essential as the whales in the making of that sea. So strange and wonderful a thing...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Oríkì, Maze, King!

Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Detail, jacket for Maze of Blood.
Or, an answer to that frequent question, "What are you working on now?"

Oríkì-inspired poems

Well, I have a rather large quantity of long poems, all written in the past few months. I love it when work comes in a great rush! The poems were inspired by the form and nature of Yoruban oríkì, or oral praise chants. Traditional elements that appear in one, more, or all of the poems are: parallelism, repetition, lists, naming and re-naming, copia or profusion, quotation, disjunction and seeming randomness, contrasting elements, sequences of parallel cases (sometimes concluding in the key case), wide-ranging comparisons (as, say, linking a man with a plant and a river), and concern for lineage. Certain attitudes linked to oríkì appear: the idea that every thing (object or living thing) has its own special qualities that fit and suit, and the related idea of certain tools and techniques as belonging to each mode of work. The idea that birds and animals and fish show evidence of distinguishing cultural acts (like dying the feathers or fur or scales a specific color, for example) and familial lineages like people leads to the conclusion that the whole of Creation is composed of cultural artifacts. Even the idea of what oríkì scholar Karin Barber calls “vertical social inequality” applies to the hierarchies of things and creatures, as well as people. The poems do not attempt to be oríkì, but were inspired and colored by Yoruban praise chant. Many differences appear, and women play a more acknowledged role as figures in story. The poems are much more governed by narrative and by an overarching unity than oríkì.

Maze of Blood

Forthcoming in September, Maze of Blood was inspired by the life of pulp writer Robert E. Howard. I like to do something different each time I write a novel, and I had never used a life as a template. I drafted the book at Yaddo (back in 2007) but sat on the novel a long time, knowing something was not quite right. Recently I re-worked the order of the book and added new passages as a kind of frame for the whole story. This gave the book more tightness and also a trajectory that moved toward joy and creation rather than following the pattern of a life toward death. (For those interested in the sources of the book, the accounts that influenced me most were: One Who Walked Alone, by Novalyne Price Ellis; Blood and Thunder, by Mark Finn; and Two-Gun Con: A Centennial Study of Robert E. Howard.) Childhood summer weeks spent on a deep-South sharecropper's farm have been a real gift to me. I know something of the dusty, hardscrabble Southern places in the world, their challenges and culture. And I felt that I knew and had sympathy with a lot of Howard's difficulties as well; he could have been a wayward figure in my own family tree. My protagonist is called Conall Weaver--I certainly did not want any confusion with biography--and the book plays with and embroiders episodes that are often based on incidents in Howard's life. If a book is a kind of sub-creation of the Creation, well, Maze of Blood contains a character who makes characters, and those characters occasionally appear as actors in the story. Here's a page for the book. Gorgeous art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins adorns the cover and acts as section separators. Right now I'd love to make contact with people who want to host some sort of blog feature in support of the book--I'm open to mini-interviews, short essays, etc. I'll be at SIBA (Raleigh) and City Lights (Sylva, North Carolina) in September.

Other plans and books "in the works"

I have a lot of uncollected poems and stories, as well as a novel I wrote for my youngest son, all of which I have been promising for ages to set into order and give a final tweak or two. In addition, The Book of the Red King needs a last spit and polish and will have art by Clive. We're just waiting until he has the free time to do the work.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Poetry-and-novel roundup

Today's another celebratory day, as my youngest child will have his Eagle Ceremony, along with miles of cake and ribs at the Scout compound at Crumhorn Mountain... Meanwhile, here's a roundup of my poetry-and-fiction news.

"the ink seed," July 

"Something like a Memory" appeared in the current issue of Books and Culture, and is now up on the website hereThe magazine (edited by that wide reader, John Wilson) has been a big supporter of mine, a thing I very much appreciate.


Mezzo Cammin, June 28
 

Lovely day doing various events at International Arts Movement and Fujimura Institute's Culture Care Day at Cairn University (Langhorne, Pennsylvania) on Wednesday, lovely day with family at graduation today... And now I find  some poems just up at Mezzo Cammin--here is a taste of what is there, titles and opening lines. Thanks as always to editor and poet and culture maker Kim Bridgford.

 Portrait of Carolyn Wyeth with Leaves

 Leaves moving in the evening light and air—
Some are lit from within, irregular

 Bride, with Magnolia Blossom

 The piano-and-fiddle tune is faint,
As light as eyes in the daguerreotype…

 My Lover Sang to Me

 He sang a ballad in my ear;
 Song echoed like a shell.

 The Dream of the King's Clothes

 Seven years we toiled, collecting the orb
Spiders at dawn, coaxing the spinnerets

 Eldest

 Firstborn, strange in the womb, too-late turner, brow-positioned—
 In the cathedral I wandered to the Lady Chapel

Lament for the Dead, July 4


LAMENT FOR THE DEAD IS AN ONLINE COMMUNITY POETRY PROJECT WHICH WILL MARK THE DEATH OF EVERY PERSON KILLED BY POLICE THIS SUMMER, AND EVERY POLICE OFFICER WHO LOSES LIFE IN THE LINE OF DUTY, WITH A POEM.

http://www.lamentforthedead.org/…/unknown-man-60s-or-70s-sa…

Back at the start of May, Carey Wallace asked me to write for Lament for the Dead and to suggest some other poets--my day to write was July 4th (thank you, Carey) and here is the link to my 7-part poem. Interesting to see my words centered--looks like a different poem! Thanks to Carey for all her hard work on Lament for the Dead. Take a look at the many varied poems...

Maze of Blood news, 2 July

Art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
1. News: My youngest has graduated, with many frolics and much company, and I had a wonderful time at the Culture Care Day at Cairn University (sponsored by Fujimura Institute and International Arts Movement), where I did a poetry reading, an interview and fiction reading, a small kickoff reading for the concert, and a taped interview. Whew. What a week that was!

2. Pages

New page

on Maze of Blood at Facebook here.  
(Evidently Facebook will not allow the world "blood" as part of a page title!)

Old page on my website, now updated, here. 


Art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins,
design by Burt and Burt
3. Recent comments on a Maze of Blood galley
at twitter, with slash marks to separate each tweet:

5 tweets from editor John Wilson ‏@jwilson1812 Jun 28:
The novel is inspired by the life of Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian), and Coleridge is a / tutelary spirit. (Cover and illustrations by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.) Like all of Marly's books, it's one of a kind. / I marvel at the arc you've followed. Each time you start from scratch, in a new direction, so that a bald summary of your / novels would seem to suggest that "Marly Youmans" is actually 8 or 9 different writers, and yet in fact each book is so / clearly and distinctively yours, with your "inscape."

3 Tweets from John Wilson, editor of Books and Culture:
Saved galley of Maze of Blood (new novel by @marlyyoumans) for this trip. Finished it yesterday: wonderful. Coming in Sept from @mupress / The novel is inspired by the life of Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian), and Coleridge is a ... / tutelary spirit. (Cover and illustrations by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.) Like all of Marly's books, it's one of a kind. @marlyyoumans @mupress

And here's a 4-tweet quote, John Wilson ‏@jwilson1812 Jun 28
"And so the tale of a Green Knight with his chopped-off head still holding a knight of the Round Table to promises made / is no less true than the tale of a man crammed with secrets who spontaneously combusts and leaves behind only a black, / tallowy mark on the floorboards, and his story in turn is no less true than the tale of a Texas sharecropper's wife who / has had a miscarriage only ten days before but just this morning was walking behind the mule and guiding the jerking plow."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Lacuna

Internet fast until next Monday--Culture Care Day at Cairn, company, graduation, parties!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

At Cairn: Culture Care

Fujimura Institute 
Culture Care Day
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Cairn University
Chatlos Chapel
200 Manor Ave.
Langhorne, PA 19047

"Join friends of the International Arts Movement and the Fujimura Institute for an evening of lectures and performances exploring Culture Care.

"IAM founder Mako Fujimura (author, Culture Care) will host an afternoon discussion with Dr. Esther Meek (philosopher and Fujimura Institute Fellow) and Dr. Peter Candler (author and Fujimura Institute Fellow) and Marly Youmans (poet/author). The evening benefit concert will feature Danielson and The Nine-Fruit Tree, MAE, Andrew Nemr with Max ZT, Ruth Naomi Floyd, Marly Youmans, Ron Witzke, and white lotus."
My event schedule for the day, subject to lots of change as we approach the day. This is probably not the final word:
Poetry and fiction reading at 11:00
Interview, conducted by Makoto Fujimura, after lunch
4:15-5:00 p.m. I'll be joining the panel on culture care. Chatlos Chapel.
6:30-9:30 p.m. I'll kick off the benefit concert with a tiny poetry reading. Chatlos Chapel.

Strong-minded words from Makoto Fujimura:

Younger artists often ask me whether their art is "good enough," and whether they are called to be an artist. My answer is: "if you are not sure, you are not called." That may seem harsh, but the reality of the arts requires that we follow our calling no matter what others think, or even what we believe ourselves. When art is simply what we must do to stay true to ourselves, it is a calling.

It is not surprising that Emily and Vincent--and their art--were marginalized, for both intuited that such an exiled existence was the only way to remain consistent with their humanity given the cultural pressures of their time. Yet  more than a century later these two exiled souls still speak eloquently to what our hearts long for. Her poems give us words to express our own resistance to utility. His paintings offer parables of beauty that sow seeds of authentic being into our wounded, dehumanized souls. Their works are antidotes to utilitarian drive for commercial and ideological gain, remedies for the poison in the river of culture. They offer our dying culture unfading bouquets, gifts of enduring beauty that we do not want to refuse (p. 63, Culture Care.)

...who you are and what you are built to do...



from Michael Lind, at The Smart Set:
"Artless: Why do intelligent people no longer care about art?"

The fine arts don’t matter any more to most educated people. This is not a statement of opinion; it is a statement of fact...

What happened? How is it that, in only a generation or two, educated Americans went from at least pretending to know and care about the fine arts to paying no attention at all?

Our culture...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Word power

This page in the nigh-infinite library of the web is devoted to words arranged in the right order. Here are heartfelt, powerful words of anguish, beauty, and forgiveness--words that reveal the heart and soul, the mixed tangle of feelings, and the chosen determination to hew close to the injunction, "Love one another."
"You have killed some of the most beautifulest people I know. Every fiber in my body hurts.... May God have mercy on your soul...We are the family that love built."


The response by "Mother Emmanuel" church to the shootings reminds me so much of the words from the Old Order Amish to the shooting of ten girls, ages 6 to 13, at the Amish West Nickel Mines School back in 2006. They were shot at close range, execution-style, and five of the girls died on the spot or soon afterward, while the others were seriously injured. The Amish expressed forgiveness and comforted the family of the killer. The thought of an Amish man holding the killer's father in his arms makes an indelible picture.