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

Monday, January 26, 2009

Poems in "Mezzo Cammin" winter issue

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The winter issue of Mezzo Cammin is up. It includes some short poems by me and my sequence, "The Throne of Psyche."

I'd love to get feedback on this group, so please fire away!

Look below for titles and the first two lines of each poem or section--a bite of the meal.



THE FOLIATE HEAD

Peering from medieval churches,
Dressed in leaves of ash and birches,

ARTIFACT

To me, the Magical Museum's prize
Looked made from barley-twists of glass, not horn,

THE THRONE OF PSYCHE

A soul's mysterious as any tree--
It drives a root as deadly low as hell,

I. HER GIRLHOOD

You see the limestone wall that catches light--
Those olive trees inside the circuit of stone?

II. ZEPHYR

A wind-horse or a man with wings of air,
A scent of resin and the greening earth. . .

III. THE MARRIAGE-BED

And if the palace seemed enchanted, how
Much more the bed, a marvel of the gods--

IV. TWO INCIDENTS OF CURIOSITY

My sisters armed me with a blade and fright
And oil-fire in an alabaster lamp

V. SYRINX SONG

A dazzle like a star that hid in stars,
Love flew away from me--he let me drop

VI. PSYCHE IN HELL

My former life was but a shade that drank
The blood of memory to speak the past;

VII. PSYCHE ENTHRONED

Beside my throne there stands a changing tree
Cleverly branched with winter icicles

THE GOOD-BYE

Good-bye, my borrowed bits of loveliness,
You necklaces of pomegranate seeds,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New anthology, soon-to-be-new book

WE THINK, THEREFORE WE ARE


Somehow I neglected to mention that Pete Crowther's anthology of stories centered around artificial intelligence(Penguin/DAW) is out, including--oddly enough--a story by me. Note the interesting male-to-female numbers here.
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Contents:
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“Tempest 43″ by Stephen Baxter
“The Highway Code” by Brian Stableford
“Savlage Rights” by Eric Brown
“The Kamikaze Code” by James Lovegove
“Adam Robots” by Adam Roberts
“Seeds” by Tony Ballantyne
“Lost Places of the Earth” by Steven Utley
“The Chinese Room” by Marly Youmans
“Three Princesses” by Robert Reed
“The New Cyberiad” by Paul Di Filippo
“That Laugh” by Patrick O’Leary
“Alles in Ordnung” by Garry Kilworth
“Sweats” by Keith Brooke
“Some Fast Thinking Needed” by Ian Watson
“Dragon King of the Eastern Sea” by Chris Roberson
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Harriet Klausner, who is surely the quickest and most prolific reviewer on the face of the planet, already has a review and notes, "the compilation is superb as the authors contribute diverse tales with some seemingly weird like Marly Youmans' 'The Chinese Room' adding depth and variety." "Weird," eh? This was the last thing I wrote during my Yaddo stay, and when I fired it off to Pete, he did mention something about it being just a bit different.
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For those of you who are allergic to artificial intelligence, it may comfort you to know that there are no robots whatsoever in "The Chinese Room," though there is a computer. There are midgets and ex-jockeys and general commotion. There are sausages in bed. There is childbirth. There is pent-up love from here to China.
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The story is based on the "Chinese Room" thought experiment of John Searle. As our friend Wiki says, "The Chinese Room argument comprises a thought experiment and associated arguments by John Searle (Searle 1980), which attempts to show that a symbol-processing machine like a computer can never be properly described as having a "mind" or "understanding", regardless of how intelligently it may behave." For more about the original Chinese room, go visit Wiki, right here.
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VAL/ORSON

“Flap copy” for spring’s book, Val/Orson, is up at last. As I am feeble and Milquetoastish when it comes to proper boasting, I enlisted help. And now the thing seems properly flappy and boastful. See here!
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The two limited editions (plain or signed and fancy, take your pick!) are available through the online catalogue at http://store.pspublishing.co.uk/. Thanks to bloggers and reviewers who have let me know they would like a pre-publication e-copy of the book to review or feature; if anyone else would like to sign on, write me or leave me a note here.

Catherynne Valente has written a lovely introduction as well, so that will go up some time closer to the spring pub date, along with a jacket image and other news.
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This book is also associated with publisher Pete Crowther because he and Nick Gevers were kind enough to ask for a short novel for their novella series (U.K.: P. S. Publishing). I love to be asked, as does every writer I know, and I love it when people read and like my work and want to see more. Thanks to both of them.
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CHILDHOOD & WRITING
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I was talking to my mother yesterday, and she mentioned that I knew in third grade that I was going to be a writer, and that it was perfectly clear to her what I would be. Interesting. I find that I have a rather soupish memory which renders much down to alphabet when I would like to have clear text.
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She was standing under the pear tree in our family home in Collins, Georgia. The blossoms were not quite open... This summer I canned pears off that tree. One of my childhood memories is of my Aunt Sara fishing a snake out of that tree with a hoe and killing it, chopchopchop.

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.