Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.

--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Another award for Howard Bahr

Howard Bahr has received the Mississippi Governor's Award for Literary Excellence! And that makes me glad--Howard is one of those writers who quietly works in solitude and semi-obscurity, devoted to the beauty and power of the muse.

He is also one of the most charming correspondents in the whole great multi-verse, and he still writes on paper! A letter in the mail from Howard makes the day brighter, more adventurous. I am lucky in my pen pals, but Howard is almost unique among them in his aversion to email--my stash of letters is a visible reminder of his artfulness and heart.

Howard may strike you as a writer cut from bolder cloth than most.  He was a gunner's mate during the Vietnam war, and he was a brakeman and yard clerk in the South and West.  That doesn't mean that he doesn't have graduate degrees; he does, and he teaches at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. He is also the former curator of Rowan Oak, Faulkner's home.  Howard is the author of The Black Flower (Nautical & Aviation Press, 1997), The Year of Jubilo (Henry Holt, 2000), The Judas Field (Henry Holt, 2006), and Pelican Road (MacAdam/Cage, 2008).  He also has a children's book, Home for Christmas, also from Nautical and Aviation.

Howard suffered a setback when MacAdam/Cage toppled shortly after his last book was published, but the company has a bit of the phoenix somewhere in the bones, and is struggling up from its own ashes.  Pelican Road is still available for purchase, and so if you don't have a copy, please consider buying one from a legitimate source. (Readers need to remember that when you buy the book of a "mid-list" writer, you cast a vote in his or her favor that matters and is counted--and upon which the publication of the next book may depend. People often think that our "votes don't matter" in the political realm, but in publishing they matter a great deal.  In a publishing world where marketing departments have the most power, sufficient "votes" make a great difference.)

I'm glad to say that A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage is dedicated to Howard, and it offers a quote from Pelican Road on the dedication page. It's good to give thanks for those who stand against the meretricious and the trendy and stand for the shapeliness and beauty of a made thing.  The Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts are only given to those who have made significant contributions to our culture through their work. Like Howard Bahr.


  1. Oh way to go Mr. Bahr!!!!!!! What a great photograph of him. I have a first edition of the The Black Flower that he signed for me and I count it among my most valued treasures.

  2. You are a lucky woman! Put on a swashbuckling black hat and take a bow!

  3. Sounds like a fascinating person! I will try to snag a copy at the University Library, or if they don't have it, will recommend that they buy it.

  4. Yes, Howard is interesting and has a great base of experience from which he writes.

  5. Beautifully expressed Marly. Congratulations to both the poet and his praise-singer.

  6. Thanks, Clive. Howard is actually a novelist--I guess I should have noted that for people who live oceans away! But a bit of a poet in his soul and prose, too!

  7. As a railroad Veteran of nearly 20 years, I can attest that Mr. Bahr has written a railroad novel that rings utterly true to my experience, no matter the era or advances in technology. In his book there is not a page I have not lived nor a character i have not known. As Mr Bahr well knows, the fundamentals remain the same as 1940, and maybe 2 score still die in the line every year.

    After i read aloud to my father a passage from the novel, he took the book and read it twice. Afterwards he told me he finally understood what my life was like. I cannot think of a higher compliment than that. So far I have purchased 5 copies of the book and given them away. Pelican Road demands to be well known, and so does the writer, Howard Bahr.

    D. W. Bassett

  8. Dear D. W. Bassett,

    That is a lovely compliment to the book, and I will make sure Howard sees it (though he is not big on the internet!) Thank you for sharing his words...

    Howard is an interesting, wonderful person.

  9. As you so eloquently wrote, Howard Bahr is a treasure. He was one of my professors at Ole Miss in the 80's, and I was mesmerized by each and every one of his lectures. I also knew him outside of class, and I still remember him as one of the most charming people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

  10. Hi Walt Barlow--

    He is indeed charming and interesting! You should drop him a line c/o the English department at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.

  11. Mr. Bahr,

    Thank you for The Judas Field. Please share "As The Deer" with Dr. Cross. Do you write poetry?


  12. Hi Joel--

    I'll forward your note to Howard, who does not do all that much on the internet!


  13. I had the great privilege of working on my master of arts in English literature and serving as a teaching assistant at Ole Miss at the same time Howard was getting his doctorate, also teaching classes at Ole Miss and serving as curator at Rowan Oak. I too have a note from him I will always treasure. I would love to be able to write to him and have written a children's book I am looking to publish. could anyone tell me how to get in touch with him?

    1. If you want to send me a note to my email, I will be happy to forward it to him. Either leave it here or send it to me (address at upper right of the page.)

    2. oh, thanks. he knew me as pat swain. tell him I'd love to catch up and find out if he knows anything about our fellow graduate assistants in the English department at that time. I don't see your email address. Mine is

    3. It's just below the Thaliad picture at upper right... Shall send to him. Good cheer!


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.