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

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Questions for Mrs. Nose

This is for my friend Robbi, who asked.

Nobody else ask! Consider yourself asked in turn if you want to be asked.

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Yes, my mother, Mary Sue Morris Youmans. She was probably not completely pleased because she never admits to "Sue." Of course, as a child in south George she was called "Mary Sue." My father named me.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
Do tears in the eyes count? In that case, I think it might have been reading Yeats.
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3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
You can find out the curious truth about my handwriting here: http://thepalaceat2.blogspot.com/2007/09/little-man-of-letters.html. Today my hand has relaxed considerably from the Palmer method and is more eccentric and more itself, but people tend to admire my handwriting all the same. Of course, good handwriting is not a virtue and helps nothing much.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
The words "lunch meat" disgust me. I refused to admit to having eaten such a vile phrase.
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5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
No to young goats, yes to children: three, two sons and a daughter ranging in age from 11 to 19. Children are more important than writing. I can't say that about much.
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6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
Hard to say. Yes, I think so. After all, I love being with my daughter, and we are much alike.
*
7. DO YOU USE SARCASM?
Seldom. I was too domesticated by my Southern ancestors. If I do use sarcasm, it generally refers to a child's midden or personal heap of debris, otherwise known as a bedroom.
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8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yes, and doctors always report that they are Guiness-record size.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
I rebound. That's close enough for me.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
I'm on a narrow-minded diet, thanks. No cereal. Don't even mention foods not on the list to me.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
I haven't the slightest. Probably I'd have to say "no" because I only have one pair with ties, and they vanished into a child's midden long ago.

Usually it's "13" that is missing. WHY IS 12 MISSING?
12 has evidently been excused. It was probably WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WISH? or WHAT HARRY POTTER CHARACTER WOULD YOU BE? or WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CELEBRITY?

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Didn't I say not to mention foods not on The List?

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Whether they feel "like me" or where on the spectrum of interestingly different from me they appear.

15. RED OR PINK?
Red is no longer my color. Pink, which I like less, is. Pink: a pale pink, the inside of a shell, perhaps.
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16. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
A deep-seated conviction that I am a fool and that the word "Fool" will someday appear in golden, beautiful letters on my forehead: perhaps that is true; perhaps it is a fiction. You pick.
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17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
My dead.

18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO COMPLETE THIS LIST?
That is a terrifying idea. I do not want everyone to do anything. Nothing in this world appears to be exactly right for everyone. I do not even want everyone to read my books, for pity's sake. I wouldn't mind if they all bought them and gave them to a beloved friend, though.

19. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
Barefoot. Grey shorts for rebounding--just yo-yo'd up and down and about for an hour.
*
What happened to #20? First 12, now 20. It's not a bad idea. We could get rid of a few more...

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
Birds craking against the dull sky and snow. The hiss of this computer. The small crik of a branch.

22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
Verdant green. (Happily "verdant green," not as in the famous poem wherein grasshopper's "verdant green" becomes "green ice.")

23. FAVORITE SMELL?
My mother's cooking, my husband's cooking, violets in bloom, gardenias in bloom, sea salt in the air.

24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
A fat man with blue hair. A lama. A storytelling liar.

25. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU?
Yes, and I wouldn't bestir myself if I didn't! She is my longtime friend Robbi Nester, a tiny woman of 4'11" who is a poet and college teacher and mother and wife and reader and much else. She is a woman of vim and energy. She blogs at Shadow Knows.

26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Anything that my son of 11 plays. As he was the lightest person in the entire football league last year, I watched those games on tenterhooks--uncomfortable seat, tenterhooks.

27. HAIR COLOR?
I was born blonde and slowly darkened to brown. Now I have a splot of less desirable color, hidden by the usual magic.

28. EYE COLOR?
Green. You knew that.

29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
I am quite near-sighted and have sensitive eyes, and contacts make my eyes not green but green and red. Most unattractive except during the Christmas holidays, when I might consider them festive, worn with a holly crown.

30. FAVORITE FOOD?
Utterly impossible. I grew up with a great Southern cook and married a man who became a great cook because I wouldn't eat anything that wasn't good. (That's what he claims, anyway.) I have a great weakness for all kinds of Southern things, especially okra and lady peas and black eyes. I also have a weakness for chocolate, Asian food of all sorts, fiery dishes, TexMex--I just like good food, though I'm not a huge carnivore. I could easily give up meat, were it not on the menu. Among game, I prefer antelope. Probably if I had to make a wish right now, I'd wish for a bowl of hoppin' john (fresh black eyes, though, none of your dried-our rubbish) garnished with scallions and hot peppers. Now that's comfort.

31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
If it's me, I'll take the happy ending and hope there's not a thing scary about it. Yes, yes, I know what the question meant! Okay, I refuse to answer. Stupid question, really. I prefer whatever it is to be good of its kind.
*
32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
Last re-watch: Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle."
Last first-time watch: Lotte Reiniger, "The Adventures of Prince Achmed," (1926, I believe). Utterly lovely and strange silhouette animation, very complex and detailed and surprisingly emotional: this is a movie definitely worth digging for. My penpal Clive once worked for somebody who owned Reiniger puppets: how scrumptious!

33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
A skimpy blue top for rebounding with a white shirt pulled over.
*
34. SUMMER OR WINTER?
I detest being cold (as any proper Southerner in upstate New York ought to do), but adore Yankee autumns with colored leaves and blue cobalt nights with snow falling and the northern lights pale over the frozen lake. On the other hand, there's no spring to speak of here. I'll pick spring. Yes. Spring: a long Southern spring with redbuds and flame azaleas in the mountains.

35. HUGS OR KISSES?
Yes.
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36. FAVORITE DESSERT?
Impossible when you live with cooks. There are too many wonderful dinners. All sorts of chocolate desserts. Then there was the three months when my husband became obsessed with baking cheesecakes of all sorts, and cheesecake turned out to be something different than I had ever imagined... And when he did homemade croissants. I think those took three days and were some of the best pastries I've eaten. I like poached pears fixed in simple ways with creme, and little pear and nut tarts. I could write a little book about this topic... It would be a fan letter to my husband and would probably also explain why I'm going on a brief little diet.

37. MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
To this?
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38. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
A pebble.

39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
Just finished Jedadiah Berry's The Manual of Detection and am currently reading Derek Walcott, Selected Poems and Geoffrey Hill, Selected Poems, and a brand new book of poems, Elegies for the Water by Philip Lee Williams. I just pulled it out of the mail basket and so have only read two poems. My husband is engrossed in a book about Stalin and reading me terrifying, astonishing bits. We don't know nearly as much about those times as we ought, I think: some of the saddest stories in the world.

40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
A roof. I'd hardly call it a "pad" though: more a rural bungalow.

41. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT?
Nothing, same as usual. I do not have t.v. connection, though I have one to watch movies.
*
42. FAVORITE SOUND(S)?
Katydids, cicadas, bells, mockingbirds (oh, I miss mockingbirds! though not at 4:00 a.m.), Southern drawls, my children singing, the words "I love you" and "I just cleaned up my room," Taverner, etc.

43. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
Sure.

44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
An airplane over Iceland, maybe? Vancouver? I've missed a lot of good spouse-trips because I stayed home with children. However, this year I'm supposedly going to Thailand and some adjacent country or other as well.
*
45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
Yes.

46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
Aiken, South Carolina. I think the hospital is now county offices.
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47. WHOSE ANSWERS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING BACK?
Anything from another world. Okay, I know what you meant!
*
48. HOW DID YOU MEET YOUR SPOUSE?
I was bending over a desk, wearing purple wool pants. A smallish purple bottom caught his eye.
*
49. IS THE CUP HALF FULL OR HALF EMPTY?
My cup runneth over, thanks. Sometimes I don't notice, though...

50. IF YOU COULD SIT DOWN TO DINNER WITH FIVE PEOPLE WHO WOULD YOU CHOOSE.
Well, I shall have to ask Robbi, who inflicted this on me, but in revenge and friendship I shall make her the hostess. I'm assuming that the five people have to be alive and walking or wheeling around on the planet at this very moment. It would be interesting and amusing to have dinner with some of the people who have corresponded with me but whom I have never met or have only met once. How about: Clive Hicks-Jenkins, the painter; Howard Bahr (I have met him once and written about it on my blog, and I would like to see him again) the novelist; Ingrid Hill, novelist and short story writer, Philip Lee Williams, novelist and poet and essayist; Laura Frankstone, painter. However, that is quite a mishmash and would give the hostess quite a lot of work...
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Probably it would end in tears and a food fight.
*
So I'd be perfectly content and happy sitting down with my family: we are five, and I would ask my mother to make me-plus-five.
The Food Fight Party:


PICTURE: Think my husband took this one; it was taken at the same time as one that is at Mezzo Cammin. I don't sit still for a snap often. I think these are two years old... Different hair, different glasses.

11 comments:

  1. Oh dear. I did inflict this on you, didn't I, and invited you to my little soiree, but I think, all things considered and my own spotty cooking taken into account, your dear husband the doctor and chef should preside in the kitchen. I still remember the wonderful meal he made for us when we visited so many years ago, as I have mentioned before.
    I love your picture, even if it isn't current. I personally am way too lazy to take pictures and too awful at it. You'd probably get a close up of my nose or some such thing.
    But I love your answers and it is a real treat to read them.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is very good of you to inflict things on me because I have the blog blahs...

    Robinka, I realize that I didn't put in a link to your page, and I will!

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  3. I promise not to cry or throw food, I do! Wouldn't it be great fun, though? I'm hoping your husband would cook.
    (The feeling is mutual, too.)

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  4. Laura,

    Yes, it would. Although something horrible would be bound to happen. Perhaps I would have five nights of dinners, one with each! Or maybe five nights of all of you. Something astonshing.

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  5. Or we could do a cooking lesson with your husband. I just went to an Indian cooking lesson, and it was too hilarious that they all oommed before eating, with the dog omming right along. It was a large bearish half-chow.

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  6. By the way, I'm teaching lining in poetry to my little workshop this week. Any suggestions I might not have thought about yet?

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  7. Robbi,

    I hope the meal was a whole chow, though.

    I'm sure you have lineation (lineage?) well covered. My listserve sent a pile of things through on that topic, and I didn't know half of them, so you may know more critical approaches than I do. Besides, since I quit doing free verse, I think about line in a whole different way.

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  8. Miss S.,

    You would!

    I'm sorry to say that I didn't have on a hat. Liked your new one, by the by.

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  9. Go visit my blog again soon! Thanks for the link.

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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.