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

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bottles, qarrtsiluni, more--

New wine

Illustration to my story, "Drunk Bay," in the current issue of Postscripts: here.

Old wine in an old bottle

In honor of Advent, the annual money-grubbing Christmas movie rush, "The Golden Compass," and the "dust" kicked up by Philip Pullman, I resurrect an old post from the depths of blogdom--back in the era when I was mostly writing for myself, no doubt! Here is "Pullman, Lewis, & the world-changing redemption of the ordinary."

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New wine in a brand new bottle
qarrtsiluni is sputtering and spinning along in good bug fashion. Ivy Alvarez and I are working on our sixth batch of submissions right now and will probably wait until the deadline of the 15th to begin on the seventh, unless there is an unexpected Deluge. One of the great things about accepting a call to work on a project like this is getting to know the co-editor and managing editors, and I have enjoyed the contact with all three.

One thing that I have re-learned is how very satisfying it is to take a piece that has some flashes of brilliance but really needs more work and help somebody shove it closer to perfection. I feel very pleased with the pieces that are up and those that are in the queue waiting for a turn. It would be interesting to have a site where one attempted to help somebody revise every day--one poem or story per day--but it would take an inordinate amount of time. Of course, it would also be pleasing to have one's own pieces treated in such a detailed way!

Another thing I notice is that the level of competency out there in the world is quite high. The difference between the poems taken and the ones not taken tended to be in the areas of style, love of language, or something we might call vibrancy: the illusion that a work has some degree of life. However, some pieces we didn't take were interesting and lively but seemed to demand more revision than we felt we could fit into our schedule--and the room in our schedule simply had to decline as we moved closer to the submission deadline of December 15th. Some pieces we didn't take were well done but felt too familiar; others we seized on immediately managed to de-familiarize and enchant the ordinary.

We have some surprises hidden up our sleeves and hope to delight and please some more before Christmas. The last postings will be up by early January at the very latest.

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Photo: Artist's bottle house window in bright sun with a misbehaving camera, Wilmington, North Carolina. August 2007.

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Bottle trees

One of the things I want next year is a bottle tree. In a dreary Yankee February, one needs (this one needs) a little bit of Southern color and dash and trash. Otherwise, one might just take the dirty snow at the edge of the street too much to heart. The magpie and the homesick child in me demand nothing more than a bottle tree.

13 comments:

  1. did you ever see the bottle tree part of Because of Winn Dixie. It was really magical

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  2. Down the street from my daughter L.'s house in Durham is a bottle tree. The lady only uses blue bottles. I find it fascinating because she does not put strings around the bottles and tie them to the tree, but instead puts them on the end of the branches.

    I found a blue bottle attached to a copper wire on sale in a store and attached it to one of my trees. I would love to have a bottle tree, but the king of the house doesn't like them. I think they are a fabulous piece of Southern life, we have no such thing in the Midwest.

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  3. Hmm. We've had that book in the house, Susanna. But I don't think anybody has seen the movie... Good?

    B. Q., that's the traditional way. I remember some splendid big ones near my grandparents' houses west of Savannah. The clear ones had turned amethyst--looks wonderful with blue and a scattering of other colors.

    Perhaps your husband is attracted to ghosts and so does not want bottle trees. I have used ghosts and bottle trees in a story called "Rain Flower Pebbles."

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  4. As it turns out my partner and I have been contemplating replacing part of our bear torn cabin with bottle walls. Your photo is inspiring. I encourage you to import bottle trees to the frozen Yankee landscape; I am certain it will be an improvement. I still recall the desperation of the New Haven winters long ago.

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  5. Oh so that's what bottle trees are for. I just thought they were a pretty southern tradition. Little do I know. That makes me want one more, although I do sometimes like ghosts, if they are friendly.

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  6. b. q.

    Oh, nonononono--everything has to mean something! But you probably have to have native eyes to read it all. But now you know about bottle trees, whether you like it or not. I have a story with a bottle tree in it. I need a yard with a bottle tree in it.

    jarvenpa,

    That sounds marvelous. I saw some photographs of a cabin partly made from logs and partly made out of locust sawn into fat disks (what is that style of building called? the name has dropped into the abyss of my brain) and bottles. It was utterly lovely.

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  7. This just made me remember a childhood holiday in, I think, Hastings, Sussex, and a 'bottle alley', a subterranean passageway lined with pieces of coloured bottle, especially the bottoms, set into plaster.

    I really enjoyed your old post on Pullman and Lewis and the fantastic. It articulated many things I'd felt, but hadn't quite been able to put my finger on, and the skipping rope and broken cyclamen were beguiling.

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  8. A bottle alley sounds wonderful--although bottles want light, and a subterranean alley wouldn't have so much. Must have had mysterious glints from lamps, though.

    Glad the Pullman note pleased you. He has somewhat changed his tune on Lewis--perhaps because it is not seemly to bite your literary father in public--and now is busy denigrating Tolkien.

    I'm sure that I would've completely forgotten that moment with N skipping rope in the kitchen were it not for that post. The way he froze, sure he was in trouble--the way we knelt and looked at the roots, sparkling in the black dirt.

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  9. Merry Merry Christmas Marly and thankyou for writing your most marvellous blogs.
    They really are a treat.

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  10. Merry Christmas-to-come, Jan--

    Thanks for the little vote of confidence! I liked finding your world too...

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  11. a site I sometimes visit, wishing I were more crafty, is at
    http://housewife.splinder.com/ (I'm sorry, I don't know how to turn that into a working link). At the bottom of the current page are many glorious bottle trees and some information and links about them.

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  12. Merry Christmas Marly,

    I hope you got your bottle tree for Christmas.

    I had a lovely one with just family.

    Anyhow a very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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  13. Hi b.q.--

    My internet is down (and I am in the library) so I'll just say Merry 2nd day of Christmas here!

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.