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

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Christmas-to-Epiphany

2009 WRITING RESOLUTIONS

Finally, finally, finally come up with a topic for the nonfiction book request because in the current Titanic-going-down publishing climate, one should be grateful for requests from a high-class house. Then work on it!

Don't be lazy. Send out those dratted little white envelopes now and then. I still hate submitting poetry and am glad some magazines have online submissions.

Work on collecting a book of stories.

Don't be lazy, no. 2; do something about What Sits on the Shelf.

Don't be lazy no. 3; do more readings.

Another long narrative poem? More poems, definitely and already.

Write a ghost tale worthy of M. R. James and Henry James. Perhaps a few other stories.

Commit surprise.


NEW YEAR'S EVE

I usually post our dinner menu (8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. this year), but I don't seem to have kept track of wines and champagne and drinks. Unless I extract them from my husband later, you'll just have to keep imagining the stars in the glass...

It was a bit like Epiphany, as we had three Kings from afar for dinner--one from Australia, one originally from Canada, and one who was born on runway nine at Heathrow, back when it was a village and not an airport. Peter King, the runway child of 86, is one of the funniest men of my acquaintance and gives me hope that elder ages can be joyful.



Appetizers
Tapanade
Seared ahi tuna kabobs marinated in soy sauce and sesame seed
with wasabi mayonaise dipping sauce

Soup
Eggplant and roast red pepper pother

Fish
Backfin Crab cakes
with Rutabaga Scratchbacks and mongolian fire oil

Salad
Candied Walnuts, Blackberries and smoked gouda
on greens with olive oil and vinegar

Main
Braised short ribs and rosemary-cabernet sauce
Gorgonzola, wild mushroom and shallot polenta

Dessert
Old-fashioned gingerbread cake with mango ice cream
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WHAT I'M READING IN THE NEW YEAR
I'm reading the Potter books to N at bedtime and finding that I've changed my mind about Rowling, so that's interesting. I'm reading an old Godine book that collects essays of William Plomer--right now I'm reading some about English and Welsh poets and wondering if I am related to all these Welsh poetry-committing Thomases, as I have a fiery Welsh Thomas in the bole of my tree. I just picked up a copy of Eudora Welty's "The Robber Bridegroom" illustrated by Barry Moser and thought I might reread it and see if it's still on my love-list. Lots of poetry. Some William Logan essays. An anthology of ghost stories edit by Brad Leithauser.

SOME QUOTES FROM ELECTRIC DELIGHTS BY WILLIAM PLOMER
The electric delight of admiring what is admirable. --Charlotte Bronte, Shirley

Plomer puts me to shame, genre-wise. In these days of uniform packaged goods, I am inconvenient because I don't stick to one thing but write lyric poetry, long narrative poetry, novellas, stories, and novels. But Plomer! Poetry, novels, stories, biographies, autobiographies, children's book, libretti (with the great Benjamin Britten), and diaries (as editor). What a time that was, when one could be anything!

Although he declares that "poetry is simply an art to which the special gifts of women, who excel in so many things, are not as rule adapted," he is clearly in love with Christina Rossetti's poems and biography: "We have seen what that experience was: it was the experience of a woman of deep feeling who was frustrated in love and continally oppressed by illness, and whose heart and mind were subjected to a religious discipline, but who could not help singing; her sensuousness, her playfulness, her longings and regrets, her dreams and fears and fantasies, all found expression in her poetry. She has been called morbid, and if it is morbid not to take an easy way out of one's difficulties, not to except life on the cheap and easy terms that are good enough for most people, not to compromise, not to be ashamed to be sad and admit it; if it is morbid to be oppressed by the vanity of human wishes and worldly shows, well, then, she was morbid, and morbid in good company. But in reading her, we do well never to lose sight of the religious discipline, which causes her to strike often a strong and stoic note."

"A poet is liable to be a kind of exile in his own country or time: the consciousness of difference, and the effort to communicate it, may provide his motive power as a poet."

"It is needful for a serious writer to try and measure his own limitations; it must be his hope and it may be his luck to transcend them. Much of the verse offered to editors and publishers, and some of the verse they cause to be printed, is deformed by the inability of its authors to harmonize what they intend to say with their way of saying it, or to convince even the well-disposed reader that it is worth saying. Looking for poetry, that reader is often confronted with feeble or facile or bardic posturings, empty rhetoric, strainings after effect, reach-me-down diction, turgidity, false simplicity or false complexity." That was a passage from a positive review of R. S. Thomas in 1956. I wonder how he would sum up poetry's weaknesses in our time. It seems to me that ours are far greater than these.

ILLUSTRATION
That's a quick doodle by R, a few years back. She must have been around 15. I'm on my husband's computer and found it in his collection of pictures... And today is a Snow Day, free of school.

8 comments:

  1. Hi Marly. Marvelous dinner menu and resolution list! I have never known you to be lazy. Anything but.
    And I still remember what a wonderful dinner I had at your house when my son was little and knocked down the Christmas tree.
    I like to cook, but I don't think I am as accomplished. Same for the writing.

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  2. Hi Robbi,

    Happy New Year!

    Somehow I still feel like a time-waster... but thank you all the same.

    Mike just made a wonderful pears-and-pork roast stuffed with herbs, alongside red cabbage and apples. I'm not a great carnivore, but I loved it. He passed me by as a cook long ago.

    Our tree used to be prone to disastrous fallings-down. Happened twice back in Chapel Hill.

    Ah, now, don't be too modest. Keep hammering on the metal.

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  3. Yes, excellent resolution list - it's what we all should be doing, I think.

    And yes, I often long for the era in which it was okay to have a go at lots of things. Now we seem to be constrained into specialisms and woe betide anyone that attempts to nake a small foray out!

    Your daughter is very talented! That figure has such an elfin quality.

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  4. MMM the dinner menu sounds so wonderful.

    And I too think you are not lazy. Goodness you are a prolific woman who also manages a house full of younguns.

    Your daughter is a fine young artist. I like the picture.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog. I am sorry I didn't get to say thanks sooner. I had a new grand baby this week and have been totally immersed in all things baby.

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  5. Donna,

    Happy baby times!

    If I were to believe you, I would probably be even more lazy, and that would be bad. Of course, definitions of the word vary.

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  6. Your menus sound so tasty. I think one of the first things I read at your site was a menu, actually. And some wisp of wandering and wonderful poetry.
    Thanks for the epiphany greetings; your daughter is indeed talented. We're still trying to get ours talked into painting a huge bold sort of Art Deco book sign for our shop. Curiously we have a sort of billboard at the edge of the grapevine. An elfin billboard, now painted white. My partner thinks its current state is very Zen.

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  7. So much to comment about in this feast of a post! You are so NOT lazy---just remember the frenzy of writing that was your last six months of 2008! Now it's maybe time to rest a bit?
    Your new year's dinner sounds exquisitely yummy, as usual. And your guests, including Runway Baby, were a perfect group to help mark the beginning of a new year and era!
    "Bardic posturings:" I know someone who is an expert at this. Not anyone you know, I hasten to add. Not Jeffery or Peggy, but someone I knew in college, with whom I've recently come into contact again.
    Belated happy new year to you! I was so submerged in family and travel from midOctober on, I lost sight of the palace and much else.

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  8. jarvenpa,

    Zen state probably is not quite a book-buying state, is it? You'll have to post a picture if she agrees to decorate it. An elfin billboard with grapevine seems like an attractive idea, much better than the usual.

    Yes, I can imagine that the first you read might be food! People are always asking me why I'm not a regular plumped-up dirigible, given my husband's cooking. Perhaps that will come!

    Laura,

    I was just thinking about your pictures and how I need to go visiting the e-gallery. Fledgling B arrived back at college a bit after midnight, and so I have a little extra time today.

    "Bardic posturings" are funny, embodied. Enjoy!

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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.