Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture.

Friday, June 30, 2006

A tiny hedge maze

It is raining, raining, raining. Our mud room has flooded. All sills are wet. The foxgloves and roses are leaning over to examine the streaming earth. My husband’s tin can of a boat almost came a cropper but was raised just as it was sinking. I have not a penny, because the bank is closed due to flooding. The house smells of all the years between now and 1808, when it was plumb and had the fragrance of new-cut wood.

And I am thinking about the hedge maze in the back yard. There is no hedge maze in the back yard, but my children desire one, particularly the youngest, who likes to dash about the little one at the Farmer’s Museum.

This morning I sent my friend Phil an ecard from Peter Randall-Page’s web site: a picture of a curvilinear labyrinth tucked among the ecards of Peter Randall-Page’s sculptures. I suppose it is his own. The card didn’t go, which seemed about right. If life is a labyrinth with a hidden center, it’s meant to embrace confusion. Then I read an essay by Jo Edkins called Making Your Own Maze, and after that I looked at Tom Baxter’s brick maze, a front-yard extravaganza that a-mazes passers-by and brings a note of the eternally wacky and wacky eternal to the neighborhood. It looks quite wonderful in winter, when the bricks melt the snow. I cannot make one like that, because I refuse to do trigonometry, and I can’t see myself wielding a diamond-bladed saw to turn severe bricks into obliging curvilinear segments.

Privet. That is what I see in my future. It is suitable to the period, flourishes in dratted Yankee zone 3 (the front yard is 4, the back yard closer to the lake is 3), and settles down to be a hedge with relative ease. We have an ancient privet hedge along the driveway in front, and it’s quite healthy. I will plant more privet in the back, and I’ll find all sorts of interesting things—like the doll’s plate, clay marble, clay pipe, and shards that I have already found, digging holes with my favorite spade.

Most of my plans for the back yard have been cramped by The Dog, Susquehanna. My ideal is to have a place where children want to play. I already have two sun gardens and a shade garden out front, so I don’t try to make Hanna behave in a flower border—as she gets older, I might. Despite her, I do have a square garden room enclosed by wooden fence and lilac, rose wall with arch, and stone wall. Inside is a dining table and chairs and bench and assorted jungly plants. And I have a tiny gazebo covered with Dutchman’s pipe, assorted lilacs and rugosas, a lovely Bali cherry (there were more before my husband ran wild with the lawn mower), a wild plum, a Maiden Blush apple tree, a stone fairy table by a birch tree that is growing out of an apple-tree stump, and several raised beds for vegetables. There was also a splendid hydrangea standard before the Amish roofers dropped their dumpster right on top of it. A yew hedge loops around a greenhouse connected to the garage, but it looks fairly awful, because the dog uses it as a giant body-scratcher. That’s why yew is out of contention for the hedge maze. I don’t think privet will be as satisfying, but I might be wrong.

Nothing can happen until thousands of dollars tumble down the drain; the skyscraping killer ash that throws limbs about the yard must be dragged from the clouds. I hate to see her go, but since she is under stress and has already impaled the van and filled the yard with branches on three occasions, I think she is doomed, despite the best that cabling can do. As a mother on three on days that can be wild and windy, I have a fellow-feeling for her…

What, I wonder, should the maze paths be? Grass? Isn’t that a pain to mow between hedges? Pebbles? And how small can a hedge maze be and still be satisfying?

It’s raining. The ground is nice and soft and easy to dig. I suppose when the ash comes down, the soil will be hard and tough and resistant. As it should be, I suppose, since a labyrinth is not meant to be too easy.

***********
A site for turf labyrinths, by Jeff Saward.
Online copy of W. H. Matthews’ Mazes and Labyrinths (1922).

***************
The lake has entered the town, going far past the STOP signs and far past the No Parking Past This Point signs. The number of tourists is delightfully down, and most shops are closed. Lake Street will soon be Lake Street. Daring people sit on benches, neck deep, and six hapless teens try to raise a sunken boat and motor. Susquehanna-the-dog stinks. Susquehanna-the-river is green milk. The overflow drain in the lakefront park is a pretty little fountain. The garden of boulders and flowers and informational sign is giving pleasure and knowledge to the freshwater mermaids.

28 June

Oh, and the book promotion page will float back up, now and then, during the summer, like something tossed up on the Susquehanna, now a green muscular carrier of death and fertility. I hear that, down by Binghamton, at least one house slipped from its foundations and sailed down the river... And 25 miles of I-88 have vanished, so they say, along with some tractor-trailers. I hope the ferrying-to-camps goes well, or well enough.

Hmm. Can't take the van in for repairs, because "Portlandville is underwater." The dam is just a wee bit out of control. That sounds ominous. Maybe I'll try to check out the back roads this afternoon. Early tomorrow part of my crew is heading to faraway Turkey, but it's funny--so far we can't manage getting to the car rental! Dry us out, sun!

29 June

Blogger is being very, very whimsical. If I vanish, you know why.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Advice to an aspiring writer

Hi my name is L---. I'm 39 years old and I love to write in my spare time. I'm wondering if you have any advice as to what kind of education is necessary to become a successful author?

The only ‘education’ that is essential is a great deal of reading and a mastery of the mechanics of the language. It is quite possible to gain these things without ever crossing the threshold of a “school.” Schools give a structure, a reading list, companions, teachers, and deadlines. If these things would help you, then go for it.

I would love to publish my book someday, but I know I need to strengthen and sharpen my skills to complete it.

I have inquired about college, writing schools like Winghill, online classes (writer's digest)...not sure which is the best way to go.


Well, I looked up Winghill’s web site; I know nothing about it, and would want to see what sort of person is involved. I’m always dubious until I see the roster of instructors. Then sometimes I’m even more dubious, so tread with care and try to talk to somebody who has gone through their program. (Maybe the whole world knows about Winghill, and I’m a dunce! But make sure.)

If you would like critiques, there are online writer’s groups like “Critters,” or you can try to join a local writer’s group. In-person groups can be useful or can be harmful, so don’t feel that you can’t quit and look for another. I sometimes share pieces-in-progress with other writers via email.

Are you interested in a certain 'kind' of fiction? There are intensive writing programs in the summer that could be useful and give you a circle of friends who write—and who might like to continue a relationship afterward. I’ve never done anything like this, though I’ve taught week-long classes, but I’ve noticed that some summer workshops are extraordinarily useful. The very competitive ones seem best. People who go to Clarion, for example, are followed by that achievement for years, and have an advantage when they submit stories to markets in speculative fiction. The graduates keep up with the people who were in “their year” and support them; in addition, one works closely with six different writers and editors in the field. I’ve thought about this way of going about a writing life quite a bit, because I have a child who wants to be a writer/illustrator of fantasy and science fiction. The path from working on fiction and reading to going to Clarion to being a 'known' figure in speculative fiction circles seems to be a common one. I have no doubt that there are counterparts to this sort of workshop in many genres. I haven’t really paid attention to this subject otherwise, but I know there are long-established literary workshops in Squaw Valley and Saratoga and many other places.

Please let me know what you did to become a sucessful writer.

L--- H---
New Jersey

I don’t think that much helped me except my obsessive nature and my passion for reading and writing, plus--in discouraged moments--the knowledge that certain people I respect in the field thought that my writing was very good. My education had little to do with it, though I did read many things in school that I might have skipped otherwise.

The question of ‘success’ is an interesting one, and I’m not really sure what is meant by it.

In some ways I am a very ‘successful’ writer; in other ways, not. I’ve written books and stories and poems, and I’ve haven’t stopped striving toward what’s beautiful and alive and true. Yes, I’ve won some awards for short and long fiction, gotten plenty of pleasing reviews, and I'm grateful to the writers and publishers and editors in the field who have volunteered wonderful things about my writing. Most of my books have been published with what is, arguably, the premier major publishing house. I have a wonderful new agent. Best of all, I still take deep pleasure in the act of writing.

If that is “success,” I have it.

But perhaps that is not what the world means by success. I have a novelist friend who always calls me the Artist of the Beautiful; he means that I hew to my own course and have an instinct for the beautiful. Yet in Hawthorne's story of the same name, while the artist is utterly fulfilled and transformed by his magical artistry, he is wholly a failure in the world's eyes. Meanwhile, there is absolutely no doubt that in Hawthorne's eyes, the artist has triumphed. What could be more ambiguous--or more accurate about the artist's plight in our own time?

If success is having a large readership (something I would, naturally, like) or making filthy mounds of money (not bad, especially for paying back the sort of student loans you may be contemplating!) or being a ‘name’ (meaningless to me, but a corollary to having readers), then I do not have it.

Why not?

Like most in the vanishing 'mid-list,' I have never had a ‘push’ from a publisher. I’ve done many things that are ‘wrong’ for success. I don’t like to do the same book twice. In fact, my books often leap to a very different audience. I am fatally ‘nice’ and undemanding. In addition, the world has changed greatly since I began publishing, and writers have a new challenge in trying to find a niche in a frenetic electronic landscape. But I don’t regret not being pushy. I don’t regret not writing variations on the same book, over and over, as many writers do.

And I often feel an intense joy when the words are streaming onto the page. I guess that means that I’m going to go on doing what I want to do in the way I like to do it, and that I accept all of the consequences.

I don't know if any of this is a help. You may feel differently about many of these issues. However it is with you, I wish you much pleasure in making stories.

*****
I spent the afternoon grubbing in my garden, so the picture above is in honor of my little Eden. It's from Laurelines--lavender with oyster shells, at www.laurelines.typepad.com/. Okay, I see that Blogger says "no." Imagine it! Or go find it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Things That Should Not Happen

Here are some handy guidelines for the nearest committee about to committ the error of a Middle School graduation ceremony.

1. Principals should not--never, no time, no how--be allowed to choose a poem to read at a graduation ceremony, particularly if they once served in the classroom not as English teachers but as P. E. teachers.

2. If Principals do get away with choosing a p-o-e-m by some awful happenstance, particularly chuckly little poems by Anonymous, they should not be allowed to read it to our Youth.

3. Principals should not invite their friends who manage local sports centers to speak to said Youth.

4. Principals should not invite people who will talk too much about themselves. Overheard conversation between two locals: “Why’d they ask X to speak? He just talked about himself!” Reply: “That’s all he ever talks about!”

5. People who cannot write their way out of the Proverbial Paper Bag should be muzzled shortly after approaching the podium. It is impossible to stifle too many of these guileless souls who clutch the podium with unwonted, beamful enthusiasm and burble forth to our Youth, and to us, who have neither the Youth nor the stamina nor the helpful swaths of innocence to help us endure.

6. Let’s all vote for a bit less of this freedom-of-speech stuff at the podium, a small but dangerous place, clearly booby-trapped.

7. Phrases that fill the minds of young people and their unfortunate families and friends with a subtle ache and a dense white batting, somewhat approaching the nature of cotton candy, should not be allowed.

8. Phrases that, with a little polishing, would feel comfy and meet and right in the mouth of Polonius (the guy standing there behind the arras, with the blood and so on) should not be suffered to live.

9. Anything that smacks of "The Lion King" must be booted toward the moon with cruel boots tipped with steel and hobnails galore. No more of this circle of life crap!

********************

I could add a picture of graduating 8th-graders, looking remarkably adult. I could add a peaceful picture of a classroom after hours. I could add a picture of a big yellow bus on monster wheels. All this I could do, if only Blogger would be sweet and not so recalcitrant about the posting of pictures! Later, maybe. Update: Later, afraid not. More suggestions for graduation frolics in the Comments...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

One Day Closer to Paradise

Exhibit 1201

Among the assorted notes and debris in my box this morning, I found an Opinion Journal (WSJ) article by Lionel Shriver, author of We Need to Talk About Kevin (HarperPerennial, 2004) and winner of The Orange Prize. It is an interesting little commentary on the state of art, rather like the tales of janitors sweeping up an exhibit or mistaking an artwork for trash left by a visitor at the Tate Modern.

It seems a hastily-prepared plinth was separated from the sculpture it was intended to support. The head, a work demanding two months of careful attention from sculptor David Hensel, was rejected by the Royal Academy. The plinth and the head's little boxwood prop were accepted as "Exhibit 1201."

Here's the good and the bad news, as Lionel Shriver sees it: "For those who despair that artists these days seem to have lost the skill of fashioning meticulously crafted objects, don't blame Mr. Hensel. While the slate base took only four hours to hack from a mortuary slab, and the little boxwood prop less than an hour, he had painstakingly carved and polished that laughing head for two months. But alas, the sculpture itself has--shudder--emotional content. It was originally christened 'One Day Closer to Paradise,' a far too expressive title; Mr. Hensel would have been better off with the portentously enigmatic 'Exhibit 1201.' His laughing head is not only fatally well rendered, but exudes a sense of joy and hilarity, and the overtly evocative is declassé."

We are not amused! We are not amused!

As has been pointed out before, all parody dies in this constricted, airless view of art. Shriver offers an example: "Me, I just put a brick on my desk. I gaze in wonderment at the contrast in textures--the smooth, unyielding sides of the brick, the rough, almost sexual crumble on its chipped corner, the humbler, more submissive sensuality of the scarred plywood desktop. I marvel at the fierce, affirmative perpendicular of the brick, in firm opposition to the languid, taciturn serenity of the lateral . . . But that's not even funny, is it? Joseph Beuys has piled bricks on a floor of the Guggenheim and called it art. How exasperating, a field so far out in la-la-land that it is impervious to parody. You see what I mean about being out of a job." She ends by pointing out that artists are out of a job as well, in this context--and likewise the R. A.

Who ain't?

As Twain said, "Who ain't an artist?" Well, almost. Those famous words were, "Who ain't a slave?" But I think either line will work in this setting.

Déjà Vu all over again

If only David Hensel had intended "Exhibit 1201," the "work" would be no different from one of Marcel Duchamps' "readymades" (they seem not to have been entirely "found" objects but often slightly-different duplications of found things, thus adding a slightly odd and interesting note to the whole enterprise.) And that would suggest that in 2006 some of us are stuck in 1913, the year of "Bicycle Wheel"--or perhaps 1913, the year of "Bottle Rack." Or perhaps some of us are abiding in 1917, when a urinal titled "Fountain" shocked its day, almost a century ago.

The Most Official Work of Art in the history of the Royal Academy,
and, perhaps, the world

The plinth-with-boxwood-support was seen by the Royal Academy as a work of art. Therefore it is a work of art. Therefore, it is titled by the Academy. Therefore, "Exhibit 1201" is actually a Duchampsian readymade created by the Royal Academy!

Sadly, "Exhibit 1201" offers neither humor or playfulness, shock or surprise. We feel only weariness that once again the art world of 2006 should befool itself with faded shadows of Modernism.

More on that little matter of surprise...

Indeed, we in 2006 cannot be shocked by anything much in the way of art--except, perhaps, by an unexpected and masterful incursion of the beautiful.

Daddy Duchamps at the chess board

What would Duchamps think? Duchamps turned his back on many modes (post-Impressionism, Cubism, Dada and Surrealism) and on groups of artists in the course of his progress. It certainly made him an interesting figure. Perhaps he would refuse to reply, turning his back on art--as he did in life--and sit down at the chess board. As he said, chess "has all the beauty of art - and much more. It cannot be commercialized."

Oops!
Or, words & the wrong worldview

While Shriver is dead right that the well-rendered and the emotional is still far out of fashion (in academic and intellectual circles and often elsewhere), another element surely came into play. Think of Duchamps and his titles--The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (commonly called The Large Glass), Prelude to a Broken Arm (a "readymade" snow shovel), or Fountain. Many were whimsical or included rude puns intended to upset the bourgeousie. Now think about the title of Hensel's piece.

Words are things of power, and David Hensel used them in a way clearly forbidden by the art world--indeed, by a whole segment of the powerful and educated in Western society. Whether he 'meant' them, I don't know, but I do know where he made his fatal error. "One Day Closer to Paradise" emphasizes the joy of the sculpture, but the title also makes clear reference to a wholly unacceptable world view in the realm of the arts--a religious world view that affirms space for joy and that calls on the artist to fulfill his call not with detritus and evidence of the meaningless but with well-made things of truth and beauty.

What was the poor man about? In our era, this sort of thing is patently a thought crime!

This view reads the world as a place of trial, defeat, redemption, and victory--as a region bursting with complex and dramatic story, where joy is still alive. It is a view that proclaims that men and women--even artists--have souls, and that they can damage them by perverting their gifts. To borrow from Keats, it still affirms that a thing of a beauty is a joy forever.

And to point with a scattering of words at that out-of-fashion vision of the world and art and the role of the artist is, quite possibly, the source of David Hensel's downfall.

**********
There is a picture of the sculpture here. I'd borrow it, but Blogger is feeling whimsical and will not post images!

**********

Postscript: Laura's comment made me think that I should have pointed out that there is a great lively jumble of sites and organizations devoted to the return of beauty and the renewal of art--and just as surely, there are other sites accusing the "renewal" sites of squelching the "wildness" in art. Here are a few disparate examples: the Art Renewal Center is "committed to reviving standards of craftsmanship and excellence," and has sited itself firmly in the frying pan; Terry Teachout's article, "The Return of Beauty," deals with the subject--and even talks about the little Yankee snowdrift where I now reside (look for Glimmerglass Opera!) The sidebar of this blog contains links to Makoto Fujimura’s International Arts Movement, web site, and blog, with reflections on “a 500-year art,” suffering and beauty, the resurgence of beauty, and many other topics.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

On the threshold

Cory Anne Sharer, the daughter of one of the Cooperstown librarians, has just graduated from R. I. S. D. Needless to say, I have been known to haunt the local library (Wooo....) and make good use of interlibrary loan for me and mine. (Of course, I still have way too many books.)

So Cory Anne’s mama, Martha—also a painter—gave me a link to her daughter’s web site. I thought passers-by who love fairy stories and water color and books might like to visit the site.

At www.coryannesharer.com, you can take a look at the ink-on-Bristol-board turbulence of the wind gods next to a windmill, a watercolor-and-acrylic of the girlish Viviane of the lake with floating leaves and sword, a Navajo wolf in a magic blanket-garden, the “steam man,” the spiral-stair tree, aged paper and books, oils, and much more. Here is one sample, a Rapunzel with arabesque hair—another young woman on the verge.

If you like the pieces, please leave a note here, to let her know about your pleasure in them, and to help others follow a thread through the maze of the web to Cory Anne’s pictures. It’s a sweet thing to encourage a young artist on the verge of the nest, about to fly out in the world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Carolina picks

J. Peder Zane, books editor of The Raleigh News & Observer, has published a new column, Books on the Tar Heel Mind: 32 writers of our region weigh best fiction of the past 25 years, that defends "lists" while it takes a jab at the "parochialism" of the recent New York Times list of "the best" fiction of the past 25 years.

I had the fun of being a pick--or perhaps I should say, one quarter of a pick--as well as the fun of being asked to contribute a pick. It is pleasant not to be wholly forgotten at home, even when one has been dragged away to a Yankee snow drift. The heat kicked on this morning. That's June 12th. It has been known to snow here in July...

Here's the pick:

A final tossup

Louis D. Rubin Jr., the distinguished writer and founder of Alqonquin Books of Chapel Hill, refused to play favorites -- at least not absolute favorites.


"It really isn't possible for me to select a best novel of the last 25 years," he says. "I'd have to choose between Clyde Edgerton's 'Raney' (1985), Lee Smith's 'The Last Girls' (2002), Jill McCorkle's 'Ferris Beach' (1990) and Marly Youmans' 'The Wolf Pit' (2001). How could I possibly do that? Of course I'm biased! And I'm probably forgetting someone."

And here's my choice:

* "Eudora Welty: Stories, Essays, and Memoir" (1998).

"Measured by my desire to reread, Welty's stories reign. ... I knew the stories in high school, and had the scary thrill of eating lunch with their sharp-witted author at college. And all these years later, I still want to go hunting for a drowned bride with William Wallace and to sit on a stile in the rain with Virgie Rainey, listening to the magical beat of the world." -- Marly Youmans.

*****
I am the only non-Algonquin writer of that foursome... I have a wide, deep respect for Louis Rubin--a writer of fiction and nonfiction, a critic, founder of the Hollins College writing program, holder of a chair at UNC, and founder of Algonquin Books.

Take a look at the list before it vanishes into archives. It's fun to see what the "picks" are. Mine was the first Library of America volume awarded to a living U. S. writer.

**************
I know the eminent Mr. Keillor does not waltz by the Palace at 2:00 a.m. However, the e-aetherial plaints and comparisons emitted by the Palace may have wafted west and touched his tender sensibilities, because on the morning of the 13th, he read a poem by Yeats and one by Wilbur. No dull professors drinking coffee and reading the newspaper with a dog. No women having to pee while chatting on the phone. No lack of music and general scratchiness on the ear. Hooray!I hope he'll have a greater number of contemporary poets who have a love for singing-school in the future.

**************
The picture above is from Laurelines, the blog of Laura Murphy Frankstone (Creative Commons license). And it's a writer's cabin--once belonging to playwright Paul Green--now ensconced in the botanical gardens at Chapel Hill. I often paused there, and my children always loved to peek into the loft and run in and out the doors. I love the shimmery light on the tin roof in this drawing.

As you can see--or not see--that's a complete fiction because the Blogger image upload has been ailing lately, and at the moment it's as dead as a crooked old roofing nail. You'll have to imagine it, visit Laura, or wait until Blogger rises from its sickbed--and then I shall add the playwright's cabin. Picture anon, I hope.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The palace against pontification

Up ahead, down below--

1. Yes, I know that I was just pontificating.
So I offer this dear old chestnut in excuse.

2. A pontification against pontification.
(But but but!)

3. Small bite of a book;
or, what I am reading.

4. In which all
really is grass.

**********************

1. "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."
--That, of course, was Leaves of Grass and Walt Whitman, who was just speaking under my feet--there, in that sensuous blade of grass, the crooked one with the dew drop hanging from the tip.

***********************
2. On reading political rants by writers--

Be it hereby known that no poet, no playwright, no maker of stories, and no writer of novels has wherewithal and authority whereof to speak of matters political.

If you have any more authority than, say, a hill of stunted beans or a patch of crab grass, that authority flows from the poem, the play, the story, the novel, etc. When you speak of political matters in your blog or on your personal soapbox, you have no more authority than the Nepalese sherpa in that splendid bright hat, the friendly watch seller on a street corner in China, or the pock-marked teen who scrubs out the grease pan at your local McDonald's.

Go right ahead and yammer, but remember that.

Nobody cares what the teen who scrubs out the grease pan thinks about George Bush, Iraq, Somalia, and a thousand other issues. And nobody cares what you think, either. This is the cold hard steel of truth, my companion in the art.

So get back to the place where you have authority! The grass-growing place...

And remember, once you get there, that you must live in all skins of all shapes and colors and even beliefs. Otherwise, you'll never be a shapeshifter and storyteller worth a blessed bean.

***********************
3.
"In a hundred years, will the mountains
exhaust themselves? Will the lake move on?
Will my hand, severed from mind, lie fallow
forever?"

--from today's reading, a book of poems
about mortality and the death of a mother:
Elizabeth Spires, Now the Green Blade Rises (Norton, 2002)

****************************
4. The photograph "Grassbook," "a book of poetry coverd in Indoor/Outdoor turf with the words 'you're invited'" is a www.sxc.hu royalty free photograph by Steven Parry of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. I thought that Walt Himself would like it...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pontificatory Palace, etc.

The Palace at 2:00 a.m.
menu du jour:

1. small pontification
of the Beggar Queen,
pontificated over laundry--
possibly ridiculous,
as is the wont of
pontifications

2. poem with God and also
an unexpected zipper

3. lunar Rilke, without glowworms

not 4. I am desolate: we are all out of the wild boar pâté de campagne.

yes 4. haywire credit
***********************


1.
In between bouts of laundry, I’ll be working on a longish novella today. This morning I’ve been mulling about how few people there are who see a thing whole for what it is, and not for how it deviates from some set template of the thing—a “poem,” a “story,” a “novel”—already implanted. This lack of freedom goes for writers and readers, editors and reviewers.

And that idea of a template… How quickly one settles and solidifies in the mind! A story can be perfectly satisfactory—indeed, superior of its “kind”—and yet not fully satisfy because it has not gone beyond the maker’s own prior sense of what “story” is and can be. In a particular story, that may mean that he has not gone beyound his mental construct of what a character is, what a shape is, what causality is: any number of elements.

Those leaps beyond what has been imagined in the writer’s past and into some newness carry with them blood and vigor and electricity that convey fresh life to the story. The little trodden world already created in past stories is a world where the writer is entirely too cosy. The inner landscape of the writer herself needs to be transformed before the work gains newness of life. And I imagine that is true in all the arts, whether one is a painter or choreographer or poet or some other permutation of the artist.

*****************
2. NeoVictorian / Cochlea just picked up the only poem in the universe that contains both God and a zipper, "Dream of a Waltz with God." Perhaps there is another... And yet I doubt it. If there is, it couldn't possibly fool around with waltz rhythms as well. I gather that after print publication, it will appear on the website.

The above makes me feel virtuous, because I finally sent out a couple of those little envelopes stuffed with poems--something that I detest doing. Needful for a book-to-come, yes, but an annoying frittering of time.

*****************
3. From today's reading--

Uncollected Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke,
selected and translated by Edward Snow
(New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986)

Forget, forget, and let us live now
only this, how the stars pierce through
cleared nocturnal sky; how the moon's whole disk
surmounts the gardens. We've sensed so long already
how the darkness breeds many mirrors: how a gleam
takes shape, a white shadow in the radiance
of night. But now let us cross over
and invest this world where
everything is lunar--

Paris, early summer 1909

And isn't it lovely to be Rilke in 1909 at this particular moment, when fragrance is rising from the gardens and a single star is jumping a hurdle and falling, falling, falling with a splash that breaks up the moon caught in a distant fountain?
*****************
4. The photograph of book browsers at Haye on Wye was taken by Anne Koth of Dresden, Germany, www.sxc.hu.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Baroush Baroush

I just opened up the Penguin Young Readers Group catalogue for fall, and I'm pleased to find a double page spread in the Firebird section for The Curse of the Raven Mocker and Ingledove, just after one for Diana Wynne Jones' The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. The books look lovely and have fine quotes and are clearly distinguished as "American" in mode, something that I hoped to see. If you'd like to see for yourself, hop over to the e-catalogue and skim along until you reach pages 68-69.

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I've been a bit lax about the blog, because I haven't been lax about my three children, N.'s multiple 9th birthday celebrations, N.'s recycle tiger project, the still-forthcoming will-it-ever-end end of school, the summer schedule, and writing. I'm making the O. V. A. not to spontaneously combust. That's Old Valiant Attempt. Ought to be a Wodehouse acronym, really. Be a good egg and pretend it is, will you?

In other breaking news: N., among other delightful gifts, received additions to the current menagerie. (Thank you, very much, Dr. Laurie. I really needed two more pets that poop.) We now have two Russian (and never, ever rushing) tortoises. The tiny gentleman tortoise, named by N., is Baroush Baroush. After this important decision was made, N. graciously allowed his elder sister to name the much larger lady tortoise. She is now known as Louise Louise. Louise Louise is a real hog on grapes, carrots, and lettuce, and in general manages to keep her mate on the small side by kicking him ever-so-slowly away from the food that she is gently, steadily devouring.

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