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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Bright story, new year

The year past was a long and complicated journey, a tempering one--an interesting Bilbo sort of journey, where one grows older and means not to come back. And somehow I feel unready for New Year's resolutions. Perhaps I will make mine around St. Valentine's day, when it used to be said that the birds would fly back to summer homes... By that date, I start to believe that spring will come to the North.

Here is a story like a wish in exchange for resolutions.

One day some years ago, the poet (and rancher, elsewhere) Drum Hadley invited the five of us to walk around the lake and pools and waterfalls he had designed for his mother's property above Otsego Lake. We wandered around, picking up leaves and improving the time, as Thoreau would say. The scene was a pleasant mix of nature and artifice, with rustic lampposts sheathed in bark set up around the edge of the lake.

When my daughter fell behind on the path (how long ago was it? was she thirteen or thereabouts?) I turned to look back. Her hand was stretched out in a formal gesture, the palm and fingers not quite touching the bole of the lamppost. Out of memory, she glances at me, her eyes shining--or is it her face, or her whole body in the faint first shimmer from the lamp?

Narnia, she says.

In the eye of the beholder

Thanks, Alisa Alering. It's always interesting to find out what appeals to a young writer who has been digging around in one's word-hoard, and how one appears--what the strengths are, according to another mind. And I always wanted to be silver-tongued and maybe a bit strange around the edges! Nicely deckled, shall we say...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Huswifery

"My conversation make to be thy Reele..."
           --Edward Taylor

Sent my husband to the wrestling tournament in Cobleskill and spent the day in "huswifery" and the occasional shoveling of snow--four more loads of laundry and I shall put my feet up and be devil-may-care for the evening. Took a whirl by facebook and noticed people arguing that blogs are no longer the "done" thing, so what are you doing here? And now I whirl off to the Laundry Doom Room. If you have a question or a subject you'd like to see a post on, here at the end of things--past the Mayan calendar, past solstice, past Christmas and on the way to Epiphany--leave word in the comments.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Higher

Here are a few Robert Duncan quotes, plucked from an Angle Mlinko article on poet Robert Duncan and good for the third day of Christmas. Capes and hats and amber necklaces...

I love the way Duncan raises his vocation to the highest levels. He aims at the stars; he aims at God.

As portrayed in Mlinko's description, Duncan the fluent and ecstatic lecturer reminds me of descriptions of Emerson the lecturer. For the whole article, click here.

***

Duncan rejecting "workshopping": “We will be detectives not judges…. Week by week we will study . . . vowels, consonants, the structure of rime.”

Duncan on the stakes of art: “Poetry is not my stock in trade, it is my life.”

How high are those stakes? Duncan takes them higher: “In language I encounter God.”

Duncan on the poet's transformation: “To become a poet, means to be aware of creation….”

Duncan mid-lecture: "I write poetry for the fucking stars!"

Duncan on language: “Vowels the spirit, Consonants the body.”

Duncan on confessional poetry: “I loathe these personal problems that have no deep root but are all social currency—case history of a social worker. Wld. as soon attend divorce court.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The state of poetry, 25 years on--

I went back and reread Joseph Epstein's "Who Killed Poetry?" I wondered if it might have discouraged me from Thaliad if I had remember it better back in 2010 when I wrote the poem. I think not, as I do exactly what I want to do in the kingdom of words. (My luck: I have no merit raise to gain, no academic promotion to seek, no faux-muse to follow.) But it should have done so, no doubt, with its talk of the impossibility of the long poem in our day, and the silliness and rarification and professionalization of poets! Nevertheless, he says this:
But in taking up the lyric as its chief form, contemporary poetry has seriously delimited itself. It thereby gives away much that has always made literature an activity of primary significance; it gives away the power to tell stories, to report on how people live and have lived, to struggle for those larger truths about life the discovery of which is the final justification for reading. Thus has poetry in our day become, in the words of the intelligent young poet and critic Brad Leithauser, "a sadly peripheral art form."
He does make me glad that I abandoned teaching after five years in the trenches, and that I live a very ordinary life with a household full of children. But. He certainly showed little hope for poetry or the long poem 25 years ago: "...just now the entire enterprise of poetic creation seems threatened by having been taken out of the world, chilled in the classroom, and vastly overproduced by men and women who are licensed to write it by degree if not necessarily by talent or spirit." Would he find us in a better state now? Or would he count the increasing number of MFA programs (low residency programs abound) and laugh?

Box of gratitudes no. 2: the designers


End-of-the-year thanks:
  • To the design team of Burt and Burt (new parents Mary-Frances Glover Burt and Jim Burt) for the immaculate design on A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (Mercer University Press - The Ferrol Sams Award), which had such high production values that for the first time a just-published book of mine passed muster with my librarian mother (that means she thought it better made than books I've done with houses like Farrar, Straus & Giroux and David R. Godine;
  • To the generous Andrew Wakelin for working with artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins (and sometimes me) on the design for The Foliate Head and creating an exceptional book. All the design work was done outside of normal Stanza Press (UK) staff; while we had to rely on the base template for the poetry series, The Foliate Head is very much its own self. Thank you, Andrew, for giving your time, and to Pete Crowther for giving us that freedom.
  • To publisher Elizabeth Adams of Phoenicia Publishing (a small press based in Montreal), who did a marvelous job of balancing Hicks-Jenkins artwork with a long-poem text in sections for Thaliad. The decisions regarding placement of text, titles, or image on the page are thought-out and well-judged. An accomplished artist, writer, and designer, Beth wears a great many hats well in her work for Phoenicia. Thank you, Ms. Wonderful Hatter! All three books this year were exceptional in production.
  • And while we're on the subject of design and books that took up my time this year, what a wonderful choice of artist in Alexander Jansson for William Alexander's Goblin Secrets, winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. I enjoyed being on the judging panel and think we found a lovely book in all ways.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas-to-come! Today's posts below: one on rhyme; one Box of Gratitudes; and one recommending weaver Susan Leveille of the famous Morgan family of North Carolina, transformers of mountain crafts and culture, and her Oaks Gallery.

Susan Morgan Leveille and Oaks Gallery

If you would like a gift certificate or gift promise here on Christmas Eve, I'm recommending Susan Morgan Leveille's Oaks Gallery in Dillsboro, North Carolina. If not, I'm suggesting the gallery and Susan as a future source of gifts.

The Morgan family is responsible for much of the revival of western North Carolina crafts in the early twentieth century. Lucy Morgan, Susan's aunt, was the founder of the Penland School. Her parents were the founders of Dillsboro's Riverwood studios. The Oaks Gallery has suffered from the recession and from the loss of a train line into Dillsboro. A few of their items are on display at the website... Please keep them in mind if you are wandering in western North Carolina.

Susan is a superlative weaver and teacher of weaving, a great person to commission. She is in demand for shawls and scarves, and you can't find a better at overshot coverlet weaving--a thing that often seems a lost art. She has taught at Penland (where she started weaving at the age of seven) and the John C. Campbell Folk School, is a lifetime member and former president of The Southern Highland Craft Guild, and is a co-founder of Stecoah Valley Weavers.

The Morgan family transformed crafts in the mountains of North Carolina. Susan is a flower on that illustrious branch. I recommend her work and gallery.

Box of gratitudes no. 1: art kindred

Here we are on Christmas Eve Day--a good time to say thanks. I'm starting with a few of my art kindred.
  • To Yolanda Sharpe (artist and singer based in Oneonta but frequently in Cooperstown), and Ashley Cooper (artist and classicist around the corner) for going on their own wondrous paths with resolution, and for being part of my everyday life in the arts.
  • To Clive Hicks-Jenkins, for the deep pleasure of collaboration across the Atlantic, especially this year for his marvelous work in making beautiful The Foliate Head and Thaliad.
  • To novelists Peg Leon and Alice Lichtenstein and sometimes Ginnah Howard for the Occasional Lunch Club Frolic that reminds me that I'm not alone as a novelist in the wilds between the upper Adirondacks and the Catskills. (Let's have lunch!)
  • To Paul Digby for doing exactly what he wants in the realm of composing (and various other arts and crafts that catch his fancy), and for the fact that making videos for my poems is one of the things he wants.
  • To Mary Boxley Bullington (Mary, bad thing! Update that blog...) for making a painting inspired by The Book of the Red King, for introducing me to the work of potter Steve Mitchell, and for visits in Roanoke. (If you want to see more of her work, visit facebook.)

Exactly so--

As I spent most of the afternoon singing passages of The Messiah, and most of the evening taking an accidental nap (no doubt from all that focus on notes and dynamics and so on), I failed to post on what is now yesterday. And so I leave you with a thought and tumble (deliberately this time) back into bed...
I think there does persist, however, a basic misunderstanding about rhyme and the use of rhyme. Rhyme is not an “ornament”—it is essential to a rhyming poem; without it, the poem would not have happened. That is, the poet does not “know” exactly what the poem is going to say and “translate” it into rhyming verse—or shouldn’t, in my book. On the contrary, it is the strange dream-logic connections of the rhymes themselves that lead the poem forward, perhaps into territory the poet herself had not intuited. Rhyme is a method of composition. 
                           --Alicia Stallings
Read the interview here.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A little mystery for Advent

A challenge still with us fifty years later from the woman who turned my head around when I was a mere child:
It is the business of fiction to embody mystery through manners, and mystery is a great embarrassment to the modern mind. About the turn of the century, Henry James wrote that the young woman of the future, though she would be taken out for airings in a flying-machine, would know nothing of mystery or manners. James had no business to limit the prediction to one sex; otherwise, no one can very well disagree with him. The mystery he was talking about is the mystery of our position on earth, and the manners are those conventions which, in the hands of the artist, reveal that central mystery (Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners, 1962,p. 124.)
What a grand book of essays! And who couldn't love a girl who began with a chicken taught to walk backward and went on to be a woman of words and peacocks?

Friday, December 21, 2012

THALIAD and lake monsters

Luck has riotous marketing skills: it didn't occur to me until just now how odd it is that a post-apocalyptic epic in blank verse was catapulted into the world just at the solstice close of the Mayan calendar. Timing! It's a thing marketers are always going on about, and for once I have it--alas, if only I had realized, had thought ahead and made the requisite Mayan Calendar Apocalypse Marketing Plan, and established a post-apocalyptic marketing event...

Would have been helpful to arrange for a gigantic stone statue to shoulder its way from Lake Otsego, waterfalls pouring from its chest and thighs, followed by reeling birds and the coils of our lake monster. He might flog books door to door like a big Fuller Brush Man who can't take no for an answer. Would be good. Effective, at any rate. And everybody local wants to see what the shy lake monster really looks like. (One of the characters in Thaliad does catch a glimpse of the monster.) Imagine a basalt army of golem-like book salesmen, each with a Santa-pack of books, led by a stone captain, lake monster flung around his neck as a living scarf.

The air is dark and pouring outside, lake blurring into louring cloud and ground and sky... Could be a scene from the start of Thaliad.

* * *
On a less silly note, and just in case you want to get your copy before it really is entirely too late, Thaliad is available: in hardcover (limited edition) and paperback from Phoenicia Publishing's online store; in paperback (stocked via Ingram) for bookstore orders; in paperback from Amazon here and abroad. For more information, hop to the Phoenicia Thaliad page.

  • ORDER FROM PHOENICIA'S ONLINE STORE
  • ORDER FROM AMAZON.COM
  • ORDER FROM AMAZON.UK
  • ORDER FROM AMAZON EUROPE

  • Mayan Apocalypse or Mayan Party Day report:  First it poured so hard that the lake and sky became confused. Then it sleeted a while. That was when I did my errands and took the forgotten mushrooms to school (part of a book report, if you can believe it), as my youngest remembered scales, lemon drop, peasant vest and hat for "The Balek Scales." But not mushrooms. Now the roofs are white, and the snow is sticking despite the soaked ground. A three-story sparrow frolic is going on at the feeder just beyond the window. The least upset, and they whirl into the ravel of rugosa vines and sit for a moment before flitting back. But the little kestrel will be too fast for them if he comes . . . poor little party-sparrows.

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    Myers and more--

    A THANKS

    I am grateful to noted critic D. G. Myers, who first listed Catherwood with best historical novels, then put A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage on a list of best books of 2012, and afterward reviewed the novel.

    I'm  also glad of John Wilson, editor of Books and Culture, who introduced the novel to Myers (a fact I learned via Twitter), and who has consistently supported my books.

    MYERS, AGAIN

    And now he has posted a response to Paul Elie's article in The New York Times, Has Fiction Lost Its Faith, that includes A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage. It's lovely to be in company with Christopher Beha, Marilynne Robinson, Frederick Buechner, and more...

    WHO

    is D. G. Myers? In his own words: A critic and literary historian at the Melton Center for Jewish Studies at the Ohio State University, I am the author of The Elephants Teach and have written for Commentary, Jewish Ideas Daily, the New York Times Book Review, the Weekly StandardPhilosophy and Literature, the Sewanee Review, the Journal of the History of Ideas,American Literary History, and other journals.

    APOLOGIES

    to those who commented on the two lost posts! I'll try not to do that again...

    ADVENT

    Just have to say that I adore singing the soprano part in Benjamin Britten's setting of Robert Southwell's  "This Little Babe" (actually the lines are a portion of "New Heaven, New Warre" (1595.) I do wish Elizabeth had not been so murderous in Southwell's case (hanged, drawn, quartered) but flung him back to the Continent to write more poems. And I also wish that I had had a proper musical education! Nevertheless, it's thrilling to sing this one with a choir.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2012

    On another book round-up...

    I am pleased to have two books on John Wilson's annual book list: Favorite Books of 2012. He is the editor of Books and Culture and a formidably well-read man. Please hop over to the online annex to the magazine and see what they are and what he has to say...

    The previous list for year's end was from critic D. G. Myers, Best fiction of 2012. His review was here.

    Monday, December 17, 2012

    Advent hymn commission--

    Some time ago I had a commission to write words for a hymn celebrating the Bicentennial at Christ Church Cooperstown. The lyrics were first sung to the hymn tune St. Anne, though later to another that suited them better--I've forgotten which one it was and shall have to look it up.

    And now I've had another request, this time to write words for an Advent hymn, and to a particular tune, Merla Watson's Awake, O Israel. Advent hymns are somewhat rare, it seems. The words seem to beg for a more lyrical and perhaps mystical tune, but they fit the distinctive meter of the music. It has been sung three times this season. The second stanza has been used as a chorus, as well.

    When I was younger, I disliked being asked for occasional poems--as though one could only write such things when burning with inspiration--but now I find them an interesting challenge. That may say that age brings a hint of wisdom, or it may say something else entirely.


    INFANT LIGHT
    Advent Song 

    In winter comes
    The snow and darkness
    Of the ebbing year when breath
    Is white on air
    And all the world
    Shrunken, leaning into death.

    Let’s braid our branches
    Into an Advent wreath,
    Weaving boxwood with bay,
    And light our candles,
    The rose and purples,
    Leading us to Christmas Day.

    In the mid-winter
    The seeking Magi
    Pursue a star in flight—
    We are the Magi
    Still trailing after,
    Waiting on the infant Light.

    O starry Christ-child,
    Who knew our names
    Before the worlds were made . . .
    Again in winter,
    We’ll hail thee, Child
    In peace and love arrayed.

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Myrrh for innocence

    Borrowed from Wesley Hill's Writing in the Dust tumblr log:

    In the same way, the only thing that my religious tradition has to offer to the bereaved of Newtown today--besides an appropriately respectful witness to their awful sorrow--is a version of that story, and the realism about suffering that it contains.

    That realism may be hard to see at Christmastime, when the sentimental side of faith owns the cultural stage. But the Christmas story isn’t just the manger and the shepherds and the baby Jesus, meek and mild.

    The rage of Herod is there as well, and the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, and the myrrh that prepares bodies for the grave. The cross looms behind the stable — the shadow of violence, agony and death.

    In the leafless hills of western Connecticut, this is the only Christmas spirit that could possibly matter now.

     --Ross Douthat, “The Loss of the Innocents”

    ***
    Wesley is a young theology professor, a recent Ph.D. grad of Durham University (UK) and professor at Trinity in Ambridge, PA. His first book is Washed and Waiting.

    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Stowaways! Or, mice twice, thrice--

    Sent my daughter for birthday cake from our corner bakery, and she reports two little mice flashed by her feet when she got in the car. Drat! Southern forest mice invaded my Corolla again in Cullowhee. They build nests in my air filter, and I am forced to release the little Southerners into the cold Yankee wild or else snap their tiny backbones in mousetraps. Then I go get yet another clean air filter so I don't breathe mice-pelleted and -nested air. Alas for all of us.

    ***

    ". . . the true protest is beauty." -Phil Ochs

    ***

    I have come to the end of a great many things, not just a long trip, and now I am going to polish the long sequence of poems, The Book of the Red King, and also the wild 3-in-1 fantasy tale that I wrote for my youngest, The Aerenghast Trilogy (The Infinite Library, Magna Wildwood, and Wizardry.) And I need to get back into the swing of choir and Advent, as Christmas is coming...
    2:27 a.m.
    Back from shenanigans in Atlanta and Cullowhee... More anon.

    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    D. G. Myers and A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage

    Literary critic D. G. Myers has posted a long, insightful review of A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage on A Commonplace Blog. The essay is beautiful; I hope you will read it.

    If you have a comment, please post it there. Comments off.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    The Next Big Thing - author meme

    Lovely poet friend Luisa Igloria invited me to join the self-interview experiment called The Next Big Thing. Writers participating get to answer 8-10 questions, and then tag five other writer friends to post their own “next big thing” the following Wednesday. I'll add a list of the writers later.

    1. What is the working title of your book?

    In 2012, my ninth, tenth, and eleventh books came out--a thing that, combined with a stint as judge for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature, seems and was insanity.

    The first was a novel, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, winner of The Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction (Mercer University Press.) This book combines various threads from family lore into a new fabric of adventure. Soon it will be out in paperback.

    Then came a collection of formal poetry, The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press), wonderfully decorated with green man art by my friend Clive Hicks-Jenkins. It hasn't been out long but is a limited edition.

    And last is December's Thaliad (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing) a post-apocalyptic narrative in blank verse, centering on seven children who leave home.

    So 2012 saw three books in three genres in three countries. As Thaliad is the most recent, I will focus on it. (Upcoming books: Catherwood will be back in print; Glimmerglass; and Maze of Blood.)

    2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

    In July of 2010, the story simply appeared in the curious corridors of my brain. I never expected to publish the poem as a book (an epic poem? in 2012?) but wrote entirely for my own pleasure. I published a section of the fourth part in qarrtsiluni, and afterward received the surprise of several requests to publish based on the excerpt. (Another fragment of the poem appeared in Kim Bridgford's Mezzo Cammin.) One was from Elizabeth Adams (managing editor of quarrtsiluni with Dave Bonta), and I decided she was the most appropriate publisher. And I like her Phoenicia Publishing. In fact, if you don't know her small press, please go take a look.

    3. What is the genre of the book?

    Blank verse poetry that hews to epic conventions, translated into our day. Some novelistic conventions.

    4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

    Why should a book be a movie? That is the proper question. Because for once a mid-list writer might make a living? Because people don't read poetry?

    Unknown child actors, for the most part.

    5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

    If I had wanted it to be one-sentence long, I would have written it so!

    Their world destroyed, seven children fare forth to make a new world? Children build a matriarchal world in the face of natural-world and human violence after devastation? The long effort to build something of beauty and meaning in the face of catastrophe?

    6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency/publisher?

    Phoenicia Publishing of Montreal. Owned by that native New Yorker, Elizabeth Adams, designer and artist and writer and more.

    7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

    I wrote it in an intense burst through July and into the beginning of August. Then I fiddled a long time.

    8. What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

    I am going to have to take that one as a question about artistic debt, since I don't think the book is like much contemporary work. No doubt I would never have written such a poem if I had never read the Anglo-Saxon poets, the Gawain poet, Chaucer, Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Logue, and others. A reader versed in poetry may detect some homage to Homer, the Anglo-Saxons, Milton, and Cavafy. And though it is post-apocalyptic, I would say that the narrative owes a bigger debt to a passion for fairy tales than to an interest in, say, the current spate of post-apocalyptic novels. I am afraid that I have read none of them, aside from those read in 2012 while on the NBA judging panel, and that was too late to influence Thaliad.

    9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

    It blossomed in my head. No doubt the reading mentioned above made a difference. I also have a fondness for blank verse. Every time I try to add a sentence about why, it sounds downright erotic. Flexible. Pleasurable. Easy-to-muscular rhythms.

    10. What else about your book/your writing might pique the reader’s interest?

    Thaliad is a spectacularly beautiful object, from the jacket or cover to the framing full-page illustrations to the title page to the wealth of gorgeous vignettes by Clive Hicks-Jenkins. The design by Elizabeth Adams is immaculate. The profuse art that decorates the pages subtly adds to the narrative.

    Monday, December 10, 2012

    Home.Clive.Pinned

    HOME 

    I'm posting from beautiful Cullowhee, North Carolina, where the clouds have bedded down on the mountains, and those in turn have gone a lovely fawn color while the eldest trees (clothed in lichen) are a luminous pale green in the rain. Everything is soft and waiting, with little birds flying to and from the feeders. It has a lovely Advent sort of feeling.

    CLIVE

    Clive Hicks-Jenkins has been working on the bookplate for lucky early buyers of Thaliad (Phoenicia Publishing, just out!) You may see his work here.

    PINNED

    Although my daughter declares Pinterest a silly site (which, indeed, it often is--though not here, I hope), I have collected a lot of Thaliad images here and made a page collecting all my books into one place here.

    Sunday, December 09, 2012

    Mercer Frolics in Atlanta

    I'm back in Cullowhee, North Carolina after two days in Atlanta with the 23rd annual Mercer Authors Luncheon. You might think that a luncheon would be a luncheon, but in this case it is a reception and dinner for 65 dear friends of Mercer University Press and some authors, and then some more events the next day, primarily book signings and a fancy luncheon for a much large number. It was quite posh. I was terribly well fed, and aspire to stay at the Intercontinental Buckhead more often... I didn't take a single picture but will post some links when Mercer pictures go up. Lisa Alter spoke (another wonderful Globe Pequot book! one popped up as winner in nonfiction at the National Book Awards), along with Ann Ross, Jeffrey Small (who I met the night before at the reception), and Louis W. Sullivan.

    I had a grand time meeting Marc Jolley, Marsha Luttrell, Mary Beth Kosowski, Jenny Toole, and sundry other Mercerians. In addition, I chatted with a large number of bigwigs (the President, the Provost, and other vital P-people.)

    And when it was all at an end, I had a lovely visit with Robin Rudd, future children's book author, who was one of my students when I did a summer gig as writer-in-residence for the MFA program at Hollins in 2010. We used to get up early and walk the loop of campus a couple of times before the world got--as it did--hot.

    Friday, December 07, 2012

    Idle thoughts on the road--

    On the road... Zipping from western North Carolina to Atlanta today. If you are insanely curious, you may go to the Events page and see why. Otherwise, I shall report tomorrow night.

    Last night I was watching Stephen Colbert and laughing heartily (though still  not regretting my longtime lack of television--and after all, I can see him with Peter Jackson or the late Maurice Sendak on the web), when it occurred to me that he must have had the most astonishing case of ADHD when he was a boy. I do hope he gave his mother a medal when he grew up. I think it's interesting that he loves Tolkien so much because Tolkien is the king of slow pace, and I am tempted to blame Colbert as a zeitgeist figure for increasing the pace of books and movies.

    On the other hand, I feel oddly akin to him in certain ways. Family tragedy in childhood seem to be tempering for some people. And he is a fellow South Carolinian who got rid of his accent in childhood because he observed that people found Southerners to be stupid, often based on their accents. (Of course, I got rid of mine, or most of it, because my Yankee teacher was sure I was more than stupid!) It's lovely to have a South Carolinian known widely for his intelligence and quick wit.

    Wednesday, December 05, 2012

    Tumbleweed

    I have abandoned the family in New York and gone rambling down South--last night I was in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and tonight I will be in Cullowhee, NC. On the 7th I'll be going to a dinner with Mercer University Press and their supporters in Atlanta, and the next day I'll be doing a book-signing for my 2012 novel, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, and The Throne of Psyche (2011 poetry collection) and attending an author luncheon for 400. And this will be my last set of events for 2012. I'll be doing more for this year's poetry books, The Foliate Head and the just-out Thaliad, in 2013. (Click on the tabs above if you want to know more about any of those books...)

    Tuesday, December 04, 2012

    Sweet collaborations--

    Artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins and poet and Aberystwyth University professor (now department head and Rendel Professor) Damian Walford Davies talk about poetry, painting, collaboration, and more here. Various poets come in for a mention, sometimes obliquely, and Damian reads some of his poems inspired by Clive's paintings. I'm glad Clive also read a poem by his dear friend Catriona Urquhart, who passed from this world on May Day seven years back.

    The recording is a little wonky at the start, but hang on.

    * * *
    In related news, today Clive will post an image of the hand-pulled bookplate for Thaliad. Those will go to the first 50 who bought the book after launch plus the hardcover pre-orderers, I believe. I'm grateful that he and Beth Adams are going to such pains.

    Monday, December 03, 2012

    To the poets--

    Thoughts after reading some contemporary poetry... They might be in place of a few reviews, or maybe they're reminders to me about things I knew but felt like jotting down. 

    * * *

    If you are [insert sex or color], please love the world's people in your poetry. All. No matter what color and sex. To put it another way: give the people in your poems your full and fair attention, even if their behaviors are feckless or monstrous.

    Aspire to be like God. Remember this? "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten...." Give your only-begotten verse child to the world so that people may have more life. More life, raised and intense. (That means the poem must have life. And that's a difficult demand.)

    Love the reader. He does not need to be clubbed on the head with your ideas of social justice. In fact, lay off the ideas of social justice in your poems. If you love the world well and truly enough in your poems, you don't need to "say" a thing about social justice. Go volunteer at your local food bank or soup kitchen; you'll be a lot more useful to this world. And you might get some of those raised and intense poems out of the experience...

    Forgive. Have mercy. If you don't forgive and have mercy, your poetry will be marred by hate and rigidity and the inability to remove your metaphorical sunglasses and see the world's light, falling without passion on all men and women everywhere.

    Careful about your progenitors. Never follow writers who are possessed by a spirit of rage and unforgiveness that leads toward the use of poetry as a form of vengeance.

    Sit with humility at the feet of the great masters.

    Be willing to suffer transformation.

    Even if you write short lyric poems, don't leave out story. It worked for Homer, Shakespeare, and Yeats. It can work for you and me.

    Sunday, December 02, 2012

    Small horn toot for Catherwood--

    Trala, Catherwood is coming! (The novel was originally published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1996, and afterward by the Bard imprint and in French, Spanish, and German translation. And Braille...) I was just writing some materials and packaging up review clips and so on for Mercer. I am so glad. It's always a good sign when publishers want to bring one's out-of-print books back into print. I've kept the ebook rights for myself, so it'll be a physical book. And the rebirth of a book seems like a good thing to announce on the first Sunday of Advent.

    Saturday, December 01, 2012

    Thaliad, etc.

    Marly-mama
    After nine hours to and fro and in Bug Tussle, New York for a wrestling meet, I slept briefly and rose to roust the youngest for another day of it. As I must go sing some Benjamin Britten and Handel, I escaped my wrestling-mom duties...

    Thaliad thank you
    I want to thank everybody who ordered Thaliad on launch day. Much appreciated! It's not your average Jill and Joe who are up for an adventurous post-apocalyptic epic in blank verse, even when the book is profusely adorned by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins and beautifully designed by Phoenicia Publishing's Elizabeth Adams. If you are curious and would like a peep at excerpts, author comments, early reviews, and images, please go here and here.

    Present time
    As it is the time of gifts for various holidays, I have a duty to my various publishers to remind you that I have published three books this year and one last: my 11th book, Thaliad from Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal; a collection of poems with gorgeous "green man" art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, The Foliate Head, from Stanza Press in the UK; the wanderer's tale related to my own family history, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, from Mercer University Press; and The Throne of Psyche, another collection, from Mercer. Also still in print is--oddly--my very first book, Little Jordan, still in hardcover print through David R. Godine, Publisher.

    Postscript Addendum, clarifying much, 

    and using my J. K. Rowling license to SHOUT in CAPS
    CLARIFICATION: Man, the things my friends write me letters about! Particularly the facebook friends. Hey, I call ALL HAMLETS, VILLAGES, and DOTS on the map where Cooperstonian kids go to wrestle BUG TUSSLE, irregardless of the name.