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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mole surveys Thaliad

A hand out in thanks to poet Dale Favier--
vignette by Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Thaliad

To have a thoughtful poet linger over Thaliad is a privilege, and that's what I am lucky enough to have in Dale Favier. "Zodiacs," a third installment of his musings is up at the Mole's burrow. Clearly he intends more, and I am grateful to him.

1. Thaliad
2. Thaliad: Upside Down From Us
3. Zodiacs

Elsewhere: excerpts from 2012 books (A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Thaliad, The Foliate Head) at Scribd. Thaliad at Phoenicia Publishing. See tabs above for more.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thoughts on a living art--

I'm reading Book XIII of Augustine's Confessions for a class tomorrow, and finding certain interesting correspondences between creation and the sub-creation that is art. Creation happens and subsists from the creator's abundance and fountaining-forth of light and goodness; so exuberance and abundance in the artist leads to living art.

A work must be alive not to vanish in the press of time--not to vanish almost immediately. It may be overlooked when new, yet still live and eventually make itself known. But something living must be snared in its bottle of words. To us, it often appears quite hard to detect what contemporary work has life in it, and what does not. But for sickle-handed Time, this work is easy.

Times alter. Realists may throw off the weight of Romanticism, or a group of artists flower in the sun of new ideas and common aspiration. An obsession with chasing the new in form may lead to diminishing returns, dwindled matter, and lifelessness. Artists may see the new glimmering in front of them because of some radical change in the conception of the universe (Earth orbits the Sun! Infinite universes may exist!), or because of something quite different--the constraints to free speech imposed by tyranny, say. Often the new opposes the just past. Sometimes to get to the new, artists must bushwhack back through the tradition.

Because there is no such thing as progress in the arts, even though no work can avoid being of its time.

Look at a circa 20,000-25,000 B. C. figurine like the so-called "Venus" of Dolní Věstonice, now on loan to the British Museum's "Ice Age" exhibition. It has a curiously Modernist look, its sexual features exaggerated and the whole body sleek and simplified.

Instead of progress in the arts, there is a continuous fountaining-forth of new work. Some of this work will manage to retain a sense of abundance and light, even as time passes. Some will not. But the artist's seeking is, in itself, a thing that partakes of light and participates in abundance.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bartlebyesque un-post.

1.   In which I am Bartleby, that strange curled-up, non-reader

As I have written and then deleted three posts (forever, in ruthlessness and high boredom), I find that I must be a Melvillean Bartleby today, one who unaccountably prefers not to--at least in the matter of posts. Because it might be dangerous to wander past that point of preferring-not.

2. Whatever

shall I write a post about, since I throw everything away? Requests and questions solicited. Am thinking of making some podcasts... Or perhaps I prefer not to. Perhaps I prefer something else. A little ragery or growlery or some skipping-about. Or not. Please relieve the agony of my not-preferring with a request that I might possibly prefer. That might make me wonderfully frisky and manic, outpouring nonsense and ideas and dancing with the Wild Things. Or not. Hey, Muse of Blogs (MOB), over here!

3.   Thaliad elsewhere--favorite public mentions from the last few days. You know, perhaps it's a splot of flapdoodle, and perhaps it's true. The only way to find out is by curling up to read. Please do.
  •  novelist Nathan Balligrud at facebook:  I just finished reading Thaliad, by Marly Youmans: a story of group of children discovering how to live after an apocalypse, told in blank verse. It's brutal and gorgeous, and like nothing else out there.
                "I want to go where ground is not a waste,
                 And where my life is not a ruined town."  
  • poet and writer William P. Baldwin at facebook:  I finished Thaliad in the wee hours of the morning. An amazing read. Starts strong and gets better and better. You're something else, Marly. Again. Amazing.

  • more Nathan: This joins Anna Tambour's Crandolin as a work that deserves to be on the World Fantasy ballot, but is probably published by too small a press to get sufficient attention. There's such wonderful work being done out of the spotlight.
4.  Other comments were good but I especially liked these because: 
  • a.    Who doesn't want the brand new book to be like nothing else?
  • b.    Who doesn't want it to get better and better?
  • c.    Ms. Bartleby needs some refreshing words now and then to encourage her to prefer.
  • d.    And I love book recommendations Crandolin looks wild! 

    by Anna Tambour

    Publication Date: 14th Nov, 2012
    ISBN: 978-1-907681-19-6
    Paperback, 382 pages

    In a medieval cookbook in a special-collections library, near-future London, jaded food and drink authority Nick Kippax finds an alluring stain next to a recipe for the mythical crandolin. He tastes it, ravishing the page. Then he disappears.
    So begins an adwentour that quantum-leapfrogs time, place, singularities, and Quests – from the secrets of confectionery to the agonies of making a truly great moustache, from maidens in towers to tiffs between cosmic forces. Food, music, science, fruitloopery, superstition, railways, bladder-pipes and birth-marked Soviet statesmen; all are present in an extraordinary novel that is truly for the adwentoursomme.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Trala / Unterecker / Wings

In which I am dutiful

At last, outfitted Thaliad pages for Amazon appear--at the link, and another here--at least for the paperback (hardcover, available through Phoenicia Publishing.) Anything to wish for, anything to dislike?

More Unterecker

"The achieved form, the symbol which the poem itself is, useful to the reader, but not useful as a motive for action, gives him a 'vision of reality which satisfies the whole being.'"

An otherworldly poem for the Sabbath

Here's a poem from the collection called The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press, 2012.) The "foliate" head is a leafy head, a green man head, and the book contains many leaves and many strangenesses. Here's one suitable for the thin part of the week, when our time impinges on sacred time. The poem was originally published in qarrtsiluni, and if you go there, you may listen to a podcast and read comments as well.

 “I HEARD THEIR WINGS LIKE THE SOUND OF MANY WATERS”

In the dark, in the deeps of the night that are
Crevasses of a sea, I heard their wings.
I heard the trickling of tiny feathers
With their hairs out like milkweed parachutes
Floating idly on the summer air,
I heard the curl and splash, the thunderbolts
Of pinions, the rapids and rattle of shafts —
Heard Niagara sweep the barreled woman
And shove her under water for three days,
I heard a jar of fragrance spill its waves
As a lone figure poured out all she could,
Heard the sky’s bronze -colored raindrops scatter
On corrugated roofs and tops of wells,
I heard the water-devil whirligigs,
I heard an awesome silence when the wings
Held still, upright as flowers in a vase,
And when I turned to see why they had stilled,
Then what I saw was likenesses to star
Imprisoned in a form of marble flesh,
With a face like lightning-fires and aura
Trembling like a rainbow on the shoulders,
But all the else I saw was unlikeness
That bent me like a bow until my brow
Was pressed against the minerals of earth,
And when I gasped at air, I tasted gold.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Thaliad / surprise / artist and reader

The week past

was a pleasant one for Thaliad, with wonderful things said privately and on the net. As a number of people have asked me if there is anything they can do for Thaliad or another of my 2012 books (A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, The Foliate Head, and Thaliad), and as I seem to be irredeemably shy about asking people to do anything at all, I am linking to a pretty good list (from somebody who is not a bit shy about telling us!) of what anyone can do for any newish book they want to help. It's accurate enough, though I think that the importance of "likes" and reviews for Amazon's secret algorithm is underestimated. Those things change how (in)visible a book is, and determine whether it comes up as an alternative in searches and "you might like" lists, as well as in such things as Amazon newsletters.

A surprise 

that I hope people will find pleasant is on the way! If you want a hint, go here, although it won't be quite like what has gone before. I'm feeling pleased and glad that other people like Thaliad and want to celebrate it. I'll be recording a portion of the poem this week in advance of this interesting surprise...

Addendum: I wasn't so sure that people would be lured by surprise, but now that I have seen some immediate remarks by people at twitter and facebook, I feel pressed to add here that the work at the link was done by the marvelous Paul Digby, who is a fascinating man--UK-born composer, videographer, photographer, painter, bespoke framemaker, carpenter, etc. He has an artistic sensibility that affects everything he touches. Thank you, Paul!

I left a quote

on poet Dale Favier's blog yesterday, in response to some comments on his second post on Thaliad. I remembered the quote this morning and add it in here, as I think it sums up something I believe and also pays tribute to readers as co-artists:
If an author interprets a poem of his own he limits its suggestibility... Ultimately meaning in art--both meaning of literary symbol and of that greater symbol the work of art itself--is a joint achievement of artist and audience. As the artist pounds into his symbol all the richness he can summon, as he 'takes a word and derives the world from it,' so to the symbol the intelligent reader brings all of the past he has been able to gather into himself. --John Unterecker, from his guide to Yeats

Friday, February 22, 2013

A marketer and a poet weigh in--

"Building community one stanza at a time"

Despite the rumor that I loll all day in my golden bubble, dreaming and eating bon-bons, that bright imagination man Gary Dietz has included me in one of his 6by7 Reports as an example of a writer adapting to the changing world of publishing. Though I am sure he has been extra kind here, I am curious to see how writers in general and I in particular appear through his marketer's lens.

Here's a clip from the piece: "On her blog, amidst the wonderful discussions of her and others’ work you will find some of the best discussion and perspective of marketing challenges you can read from the persona of a successfully published writer in the midst of major changes in the markets." There's more, interesting to anyone who cares about the vagaries of publishing and the adaptation of writers.

Because I don't think of building a seaworthy craft of "readership" in quite this analytical way, I find it especially challenging. Writers area always interested in the gaps between one view and another, and here's one related to me and what I do. I can no doubt learn from it.

Mole continues looking at Thaliad

Poet Dale Favier has lodged a second installment in his thoughtful series on my epic adventure in verse, Thaliad, this time about a major loss in Chapter IV that shades the entire poem and the changes in Thalia. (His first post was a lovely introduction to what he called "a rapidly running, easy-to-follow narrative poem.")

I won't cut into what he has to say about "Gabriel the Weeper"; please take a look for yourself and see what you think. One small thing I especially like about this post--he's the first commentator to point out that the small, additional voice in the header glosses is different from the rest of the poem. I certainly meant it to have the feel of a later addition.

He ends with this sharp-tipped thought: "The deepest kinship of this epic, formal, emotional, and moral, is with the Aeneid. There comes a time, reading that poem, that an acute reader suddenly realizes that Augustus Caesar was sold a bill of goods, and that Virgil, despite all his show of politically correct patriotism, was not really sure that Rome should ever have been founded at all. A similar dismay and foreboding runs through the Thaliad: its beauty is wounded and dark, from beginning to end."

P. S. A thanks is due writer and seminary prof Wesley Hill

for re-posting a portion of my Athanasius (etc.) post in his tumblr log, Writing in the Dust. I've been glad to see a stream of readers coming from there logged in my stats. Thanks, Wes!

Common things

Clive Hicks-Jenkins interior art for THALIAD
COMMON THINGS

An effective symbol, as a matter of fact, must almost always be based on something as dry, and as familiar as dust. In the long run, the symbolist celebrates the importance of the obvious--by making the obvious important. The great literary symbols have almost all been common things. --John Unterecker, William Butler Yeats, p. 40

So Yeats returns again and again to the moon in all her phases, the sun, the rose, the mask, the tower, the tree, and the bird. I'm thinking again of his great simplicity conjoined with a sense of great artifice, and all in the service of making a seamless edifice of poems.

SYMBOLIC FUNCTION

That function is ultimately one of offering us not "meaning"--no symbol gives us that; it's the worst vehicle in the world for "meaning"--but instead the feeling of meaning, a far different thing, for the feeling of meaning is an undefined sense of order, of rightness, of congruence at the heart of things. --Unterecker, William Butler Yeats

That line sends me to Wallace Stevens and his "metaphysician" twanging on a wire in the dark, letting sounds pass through "sudden rightnesses, wholly / Containing the mind." The poem is a wholeness, the register of completion, a perfect symbol, or what Stevens calls the "finding of a satisfaction."

THALIAD

Here is but a snip of wild weather from Ch. 11, The Rebel Sky:

The roses blossomed on heat’s lattices
In blues no earthly rose could conjure up—
Great cabbage roses, bruising cumulus
With pearly dew that sluiced the prickled stems
And, sliding on cold streams within the air,
Vaulted from a moveable precipice
To slam from heights on wind-lashed surfaces
As lightning’s forests sprouted upside down.

Somewhere impossible to breathe and be,
Where cataracts are ring-tailed roarers seized
And then let go, where hail is grown from dust
Like instant pearls to rattle in the sky.
A power struck war hammers on the rose
And rock of anvil-clouds: the rain obscured,
Erased the land, ascended as a mist.

New visitors: For more on Thaliad, go here, or visit my Scribd site to read excerpts from my three 2012 books, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, The Foliate Head, and Thaliad. Review clips and information for those and my 2011 collection, The Throne of Psyche, can be found by clicking on the page tabs above.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Athanasius, Kamassian, etc.

One of the many vignettes by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
that decorate the pages of THALIAD.
Doves and cardinals, sparrows and juncos are puffed and perched in the rose canes, waiting for somebody to push through the snow and give them seed. Poor little fussers and cheepers, this Southern somebody is not quite ready for the cold world as yet. What am I doing instead?

Today I am going to a class on Athanasius. That should be strange and interesting. I have been reading in his life of St. Anthony and imagine some people will have fits over his casual disposing of the guardianship of his sister (and possessions that had belonged to their parents) and his desire for the complete abolition of all memory--not of, say, his knowledge of the faith but of his parents (and I suppose, his sister--highly convenient!) and the events of his prior life. Both efforts would appear profoundly odd to either a secular or a religious person in the 21st-century West, I imagine. One longs to know whether he succeeded and never dreamed of his mother bending over him when he was an old codger of 105, or had an unexpected memory of walking along a path by the river with his father--or felt a stab of panic about his sister, dropped in a convent.

This morning I am also reading Poetry of Asia: Five Millenniums of Verse from Thirty-three Languages, Beyond the Lyric: A Map of Contemporary British Poetry, and A Reader's Guide to William Butler Yeats. I was rereading Godric until I misplaced it yet again, so that rounded out a week of poetry and ascetics.

According to that book with all the numbers in the title, the entire known literature in the Kamassian language is a single folk poem. (What is Kamassian? "One of the Samoyed languages which with the Finno-Ugrian make up the Uralic family. The last community to use the language was discovered in 1914 at the confluence of the Yenisei and Angara rivers in central Siberia.") Appropriately, it's a lament about being unmoored from one's clan, the tents rotten and the ways overgrown.

* * *

New vistors: I'm never quite sure what sort of attention one should pay to the hundreds of passers-by who go by the site daily and don't leave a message on facebook or twitter or in the comments. But if you would like to know more about my work, please check the tabs above for my 2012 books--A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (novel/Mercer/Ferrol Sams Award), The Foliate Head (collection of poetry/Stanza Press), and Thaliad (epic adventure in verse/Phoenicia)--and 2011's poetry collection, The Throne of Psyche. For the brand new Thaliad, the Phoenicia Publishing page for the book has a collection of review clips and comments and good help on how to order in hardcover or paperback. You may read samples from the three 2012 books at Scribd.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fallen powers: on journalism

Vignette by Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Thaliad

The great powers and we the people

One temptation for great powers like the media is that they become fawning and cease to see what is before their eyes in an accurate way, fail to name what issues are important, and then obfuscate reality for the rest of us. One of the jobs of great powers like media and government is to be vigilant in fighting against a fallen, devilish tendency to align themselves against ordinary people. If journalism ceases to ask penetrating, needful questions and use precise, unbiased language, then it is a fallen power that can do nothing but harm people by throwing veils over our sight. Journalism is then against us and not for us, and that occurs no matter what our politics and opinions are. 

A reality-based fantasy

Picture a country. Beloved Leader goes away to have a vacation with a Renown Instructor in a popular sport and a Famous Celebrity of that sport. The press is disappointed that they are not invited, but they gather for his return. Many matters ought to be addressed--wars and rumors of war, economic crises, and so on--but the press corps shows nothing to the outer world but celebrity-style fan-boy, fan-girl affection for Beloved Leader. In planned and synchronized unison, they chorus, "Who won?"

To the journalists

Take up your homely, needful mantle. Respect language. You are a people anointed to be the arrangers of words and the clarifiers of the Babel-language that comes burbling from congressional offices and ivory towers.

You see, my journalists (you are supposed to be mine, you know, and to belong to us all--this is a glory and burden of your vocation), I am discouraged about the inaccuracy of words and the devaluing of language in our era. In fact, I am back to considering that marvelous William Stringfellow quote about the Powers and their manipulation of language, ending with "diversion and demoralization, and the violence of babel (including verbal inflation, libel, rhetorical wantonness, sophistry, jargon, incoherence, falsehood, and blasphemy.)" The media is, indeed, a "great power," one that appears to have wandered into strange paths of late.

Journalists, help us be a "more perfect union." Give us the gift of clarity. Don't base the news or the choice of what's news on your personal opinions. Avoid the trivial and the trifling. Ask the questions that burn to be asked. Never fawn.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dream words

Northern lights!
Please fullview.
Rebecca Beatrice Miller,
quazdraws.tumblr.com
One of my favorite things is to write or read in a dream, close enough to the edge of waking to remember the whole or part when I wake. Whole chapters in a book I was working on have come to me in that pleasant, rich state.

Often a poem in a dream seems to me of a massively different order than a day-poem, and I have sometimes wakened in tears because the thing I wrote or read seemed so dazzling, magnified by dream. This morning, just as my husband rolled out of bed and woke me, I was dreaming that I saw a poem on a table in a shadowy room. I bent over it and had taken in a few glimpses when I woke up.

Of course I immediately wrote a poem. And of course it was not the poem in the dream because I hadn't gotten to read the entire poem and only had a few beams of light in my head. But it captured those bits of light and wove them into something that is a kind of souvenir of the dream.

It was a delicious way to start a day. Have a good one!

* * *
If you're a new visitor and want to know more about my writings, please check the tabs above for my 2012 books--A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (novel/Mercer/Ferrol Sams Award), The Foliate Head (collection of poetry/Stanza Press), and Thaliad (epic adventure in verse/Phoenicia)--and 2011's poetry collection, The Throne of Psyche. For Thaliad, the Phoenicia Publishing page for the book has a collection of review clips and comments and good help on how to order in hardcover or paperback. You may read samples from the three 2012 books at Scribd.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dale Favier (re)reads Thaliad

I'm always interested when poet Dale Favier a.k.a. Mole posts on books because he is meditative and his thoughts shoot off in interesting, often curious directions. He has begun what appears to be a series of posts on Thaliad--as he did, earlier, on A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage. (The easiest way to read all his Orphanage comments at once may be to go to Amazon, where they are gathered in one fat bundle in customer reviews. I am grateful to him for posting them on his blog and Amazon.) Here's a clip from the first Thaliad post:
I hope readers will not be put off by a modern poem being called an epic. “Epic” has come to mean “gargantuan” or “undisciplined”: it's used of great sprawling things, and, particularly in modern poetry, of monstrously fleshy lyric poems stuffed with obscure allusions, and no narrative skeleton to hold them up: things like Pound's Cantos get called “epics.” It leaves us no name for the Thaliad, which really is an epic: a rapidly running, easy-to-follow narrative poem. Those who don't like poetry can ignore the fact that the right margin is ragged, and read it as a quick short utopian/dystopian novel.

In any case, my response to finishing this poem was – as I know it has been for others – to turn immediately to the front, and begin to read it again. Epic is always an attempt to find origins, isn't it?
For more about Thaliad, you may visit the Phoenicia Publishing page about the book, read a sample at Scribd, visit my Thaliad page, or read customer reviews at Amazon.com or Amazon.uk (the reviews differ on the two sites, and I'm pleased to already have six when so many poetry books never have any at all.) Note: The best way to obtain a hardcover is to go to the Phoenicia page. Also, if you want a peep at some of the gorgeous vignettes made for the book by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, you may peep at some of them here, or else see some of the process here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Paperback coming, hardcover going--



The hardcover run of A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage is almost out of print, and soon the paperback will spring into the world. If you want a hardcover, time's ticking toward the midnight hour.
Books and Culture Magazine's Favorite Books of 2012
Critic D. G. Myer's Best Books of 2012 
excerpt, ABOUT.COM CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE It is seldom that a novel from a small university press can compete with the offerings from the big houses in New York. A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage may be the best novel this reviewer has read this year. Its quality and story-telling remind one of The Adventures of Roderick Random, Great Expectations and The Grapes of Wrath among others. The winner of the 2012 "Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction," A Death has the potential to become a classic American picaresque novel. / One wishes, however, that this novel will not get shunted into the regional box and be seen only as a Southern novel. Its themes and the power of its language, the forceful flow of its storyline and its characters have earned the right to a broad national audience. 30 July 2012 John M. Formy-Duval  
 For more review clips, go here. To read a chapter, go here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Childe Phoenix" again--

Illustration by Galen Dara
SF Signal has reviewed Lightspeed 33. Here's a consideration of my story from that issue. You may read the entire review here.
Prolegomenon to the Adventures of Chílde Phoenix”                            by Marly Youmans http://www.sfsignal.com/mt-static/images/stars4p5.gif
A coming of age story, a metamorphosis, the remembrances of a young boy now deemed a man wrapped in the imagery of familiar childhood folklore and fairy tales.  Youman’s language is often lyrical in its beauty, conjuring up fantastic images.   Blaise’s sister Vesta lays in a glass coffin inset into the floor. His loving mother is either very much present with him or absent and cannot be found. His father is an alchemist who will not allow his presence to be disturbed.  His grandmother tells dark, black tales from the Old World.  Without the presence of other children in his life Blaise feels very much alone, his only playmates the books in the house’s wondrous library.  Blaise’s recollections are underpinned with melancholy and a miasma that takes the form of an abyss that is slowly tearing his home apart.  This was my first experience with the work of Marly Youmans and I look forward to tracking down more of her work.
One thing I really like about playing in the sandbox with speculative fiction writers is that a story that does not quite "fit" in categories--like an odd, surreal piece--is welcomed and is reviewed more than once. There's a huge, enthusiastic support for the form of the short story that's lacking in the "literary" world.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Epic and epic hair!

An epic adventure and adventures in epic hair

Thaliad

Here's link to a qarrtsiluni podcast of a fragment of that wild adventure in verse, Thaliad--one in which the children make an early, terrible mistake that colors the rest of their lives. You can also find pieces of the poem at Mezzo Cammin (scroll down) and Scribd.

Seni Crines

If you have an interest in ancient art, you will be fascinated by the video of how hair stylist and scholar Janet Stephens recreated the seven-braid crown seni crines hairstyle worn by Roman vestal virgins with only simple tools--a comb, t-pin, bodkins, and a woolen cord. She bases the design primarily on the vestal virgin in the Uffizi but looks at many models as well. Her aim was to prove that vestals did  not have to be wearing wigs to achieve their complex fashion.

More on hair archaeology

Stephens also is looking at aristocratic Romans and their stylings, such as edifices of hair worn by Faustina the Younger and Empress Plotina. Another video here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

St. Valentine's Day / Dulac, Yeats / Thaliad


Edmund Dulac, from Gods and Mortals in Love
Persephone accosted by Hades,
soon to be wrenched from the world of spring.
A Valentine for snowy climes
longing for the return of spring to the earth.
See more of this series at artpassions.net.

Edmund Dulac, Yeats, Valentine's Day

I picked a Dulac image for Valentine's Day, as I have been realizing how close he was to Yeats at various times--right to that strange, macabre business of Yeats's bones, moved from grave to ossuary and confused with others before they were returned to Ireland. I suppose in this age of inspecting the bones of kings, we will be digging him up next, to make sure we have the right pieces of him.

Long ago I felt absolutely transfixed by the presence of bones--if they were his!--in the churchyard under the shadow of Ben Bulben. I was 24, riding my blue-green Peugeot around the perimeter of Ireland. I still love Yeats, and never blame him for being "silly like us," as Auden says, because a major part of his silliness was in order to draw from himself those poems he left behind.

Thaliad in WNC

An article about Thaliad is in this week's The Sylva Herald in western North Carolina. Athough you have to sign up to read the entire piece and see images, alas, a good portion of the article is visible without signing in.

Lines for Valentine's Day--Yeats, again--
The wrong of unshapely things
is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew
and sit on a green knoll apart,  
With the earth and the sky and the water,
remade, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms
a rose in the deeps of my heart.
           --stanzas from "The Rose in the Deeps of His Heart"

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thaliad bookplate--

Update on the Thaliad bookplate: Clive has not had time to print the plate as yet, though the plate is complete, so those of you who ordered early will have to wait a little longer. He is involved in a time-consuming theatrical project with elaborate maquettes so will have to wait to pull the prints until he has time. Then he will need to mail them to Montreal, and Phoenicia Publishing will then send them to each of you, so that will add time as well. I do think that it will be worth the wait, though. In fact, I know it!

Ashes to ashes

Flannery O' Connor meant a great deal to me as a young woman, and probably some day I will have to go back to her. The only book of hers I've reread in the past decade is her wondrous book of essays, Mystery and Manners. Here are some quotes from it in honor of Ash Wednesday.

The Regional Writer: When Walker Percy won the National Book Award, newsmen asked him why there were so many good Southern writers and he said, ‘Because we lost the War.’ He didn’t mean by that simply that a lost war makes good subject matter. What he was saying was that we have had our Fall. We have gone into the modern world with an inburnt knowledge of human limitations and with a sense of mystery...

On Her Own Work: I have found, in short, from the reading of my own writing, that my subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil.

The Grotesque in Southern Fiction: There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored. The reader of today looks for this motion, and rightly so, but what he has forgotten is the cost of it. His sense of evil is diluted and lacking altogether, and so he has forgotten the price of restoration. When he reads a novel, he wants either his senses tormented or his spirits raised. He wants to be transported, instantly, either to mock damnation or a mock innocence.

The Regional Writer: The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.

Click on her name below if you can't get enough of Miss Flannery of Milledgeville.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Reading and dreaming by Glimmerglass

The Feckless Marketer
I become one of Mary
Boxley Bullington's

exuberant people... 
Shakespeare and Sendak

Here's a clip from Stephen Greenblatt's lovely New York Times article on Shakespeare and Sendak:

But it is not in the early comedies nor in the great middle tragedies that I feel the most intimate connection between Shakespeare’s work and Sendak’s sensibility: it is in those strange late plays known as the romances. Here Shakespeare turned to stories of children stolen from their parents and then miraculously found again; stories of wicked stepmothers who take advantage of fathers in the grip of sloth or depression; stories of sudden, violent outbursts of mad jealousy; stories of terrifying loss and the sweet, autumnal experience of reunion.

During his lifetime, Shakespeare was ridiculed for this unexpected turn in his work. “If there be never a servant-monster in the fair,” Shakespeare’s rival Ben Jonson snorted contemptuously in the preface to a new play he was mounting, “who can help it?” Jonson was loath, he declared, “to make Nature afraid in his plays, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like drolleries.” Drolleries: it was for Jonson as if Shakespeare, near the end of his career, had started to write children’s books. But the author of “The Winter’s Tale” and “The Tempest” did not care. He understood that to reach down to the deepest wellspring of creative power, he needed to explore the child that was still miraculously alive and intact within him. The courageous ability to plunge into that strange innermost being, as into a dark, fathomless pool, was Maurice Sendak’s special gift, and it is the indelible sign — like a birthmark — of his Shakespearean inheritance. That inheritance, so rare and so precious, commands our gratitude and our wonder, for we know that it means that Sendak’s work, like Shakespeare’s, will continue to give intense delight, long after we have all vanished, like breath in the wind.

Marly in the tower

Am I the sort of poet and novelist one pictures hunkered by the fireplace in a little tower? I'd like to live in our Kingfisher Tower, which I can see standing in the edge of frozen Otsego Lake (a.k.a. Cooper's Glimmerglass) from my writing window. At least I'd like to live there if it could be made warm and snug. I could live in Kingfisher and dream my dreams and occasionally emerge blinking in the sunlight, only to be bewildered by the mad, busy ways of the marketplace.

Why might I be that sort? Fecklessness, it seems--

I declared myself a marketing maroon yesterday. After 11 books, I finally grasp that the Amazon algorithm for sharing and promoting work depends on Amazon reviews! And that's despite having had several agents and lots of book friends and so on. That's what comes of dreaming up stories and poems in an ice hut, a snow hill, a positive igloo in Utter Boondocks. So this is a thank you to those who have posted reviews on Amazon--I was pleased, but all this time did not realize how much they mattered. I hope some of you who wrote me lovely letters or notes on facebook and twitter about my three 2012 books may wander over as well.

Capote

Did you see Kevin Helliker's Wall Street Journal article about Truman Capote's evasions and fabulations on the little matter of facts and In Cold Blood? While I find things to admire about Capote, In Cold Blood has never been one of them. For me, it is one of those books that feels like cold iron burning the soul. I read the book long ago, and would never reread.

Paula Byrne on NPR: Jane Austen

I expect Janeites will be interested in Paula Byrne's entertaining interview about her biography of Austen, traced through emblematic possessions. The biographer says that she was inspired by character Fanny Price looking over the objects--her small, special treasures--in her modest room.

Interview clip:

The topaz cross was a real-life present, it's her own cross I used, that Charles Austen, who was in the Navy, gave to [his sister] Jane Austen. ... And she repays the compliment in Mansfield Park when Fanny Price is also given a topaz cross as a present from her brother. And there's this amazing moment in Mansfield Park, when she wants to wear it to go to the ball, but she doesn't have a chain for it. And she's given a chain by Henry Crawford, and the chain won't go through. And she's secretly delighted because she doesn't like Henry Crawford and she doesn't want to marry him. And then Edward gives her a chain, and the chain goes through the cross. It's a wonderful symbolic moment. But you know, it's also a reflection of the fact she was a Christian. He didn't buy her a locket, he bought her a cross. So these objects lead us into all sorts of different alleyways...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Northern Lights

Northern Lights x 2



Here's a new digital picture by my daughter Rebecca, who finished up a second year in filmmaking at Bard College and is soon going off to The Center for Cartoon Studies. Northern Lights. See more here. To go with it, here's a poem of mine (published last April) that has to do with the northern lights. There's a podcast of my reading of the poem as well.

He lives in a bowling alley!

Managing editor of Weird Fiction Review and copy editor of Cheeky Frawg e-books, Adam Mills reviews "Childe Phoenix" in a roundup piece (you can read the entire roundup here):
“Prolegomenon to the Adventures of Childe Phoenix” by Marly Youmans: Lightspeed Magazine recently reprinted this story, which I enjoyed immensely. It’s a coming of age story, more or less, that uses its fabulism and imagery as an extension of the protagonist’s emotional state. His father is an alchemist, his mother is a ghost, his sister lies in a glass coffin in suspended animation, and the house is falling apart around them. The sheer strangeness and poignancy of it is what keeps you reading. In a way, it reminded me of the intense emotional fantasy of some of Bruno Schulz’s stories.
The thing that I loved about this tiny review (aside from the fact that I am compared to Bruno Schulz) is that it made me see my own story in a new light; I had not thought of the mother as a ghost, not at all, but I can see that it works as a way to read the story--and certainly her nature is just as strange, appearing and disappearing without rhyme or reason, and as helpless to stop what she does not like.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Snowy morning with books

Nemo

Mike and I rolled from bed at five to shovel snow and send your youngest off to Syracuse for a wrestling tournament, as he wanted to see the seniors wrestle in sectionals. My brain is full of light, fluffy stars this morning . . .

Reading Yeats's Ghosts: a few quotes from Yeats I did not recall

I began to wonder whether I have and always have had some nervous weakness inherited from my mother. . . . I escaped from it all as a writer through my sense of style. Is not one's art made out of a struggle in one's soul?

She read no books, but she and the fisherman's wife would tell each other stories that Homer might have told, pleased with any moment of sudden intensity and laughing together over any point of satire.

I have a great sense of abundance--more than I have had for years. George's ghosts have educated me.

Reading Ink and Spirit

There is something about the best poetry that is above time. So when we talk about literature, and put it beside the word 'millennium', there is a danger that we will forget literature's great gift of getting to the heart of things outside the dimension of linear time. In this, religion and literature share a room; poetry, with its sharpened point of word-choice, and polished crystal of rhythm, does it very powerfully. --David Scott, "Religion, Literature, and the Third Millennium"

Friday, February 08, 2013

Snow. Birds. Thaliad.

ONE SOUTHERNER, ONE BROODY SKY

It has snowed in the night. It will snow more. The sky sags, weighty and entirely serious with snow. Assorted corvids have appeared, making punctuation marks in all the whiteness. The positively multitudinous sparrows and one chickadee are in the rugosa ravel again, darting back and forth from rose canes to feeder. They know the kestrel is coming, and the snow as well.

Still, they go on hop-running along the prickly rose canes, and they light on the broken lilac and then flash away. Everything for them today is pleasantly horizontal, except for the snow and the kestrel, violently vertical.

THANK YOU, CRIER--

Thanks to journalist Michele Miller of Cooperstown for a nice fat article about Thaliad in the Cooperstown Crier
According to a media release from the publishing company, the book is about how the children remake their world after cataclysm, led by the youngest yet most determined among them, Thalia. The release states that children settle in a deserted northern village very much like Cooperstown, and in fact one may pick out versions of Otsego Lake, Lakefront Park, Lakelands, Kingfisher Tower, Christ Church, The Village Library and more as major parts of the world of the narrative poem.
...“Thaliad” has won praise from novelists, poets and other readers for its vigor, characterization and dramatic story.
“In ‘Thaliad,’ Marly Youmans has written a powerful and beautiful saga of seven children who escape a fiery apocalypse — though ‘written’ is hardly the word to use, as this extraordinary account seems rather ‘channeled’ or dreamed or imparted in a vision, told in heroic poetry of the highest caliber. Amazing, mesmerizing, filled with pithy wisdom, ‘Thaliad’ is a work of genius, which also seems particularly relevant to our own time,” novelist Lee Smith said in the release.
According to the [book] release, the book has been reviewed as an “exciting and heartbreaking myth of origin.” It states: “The book partakes of mythic and fairy tale elements while using the ideas of the heroic epic to tell a marvelous story about vivid characters. The result is a poem that is a highly readable adventure and story of rebirth with more in common with the excitement and drama of Homer’s epics and Beowulf than with difficult works of the recent past.”
“The epic form is not an easy one, and in lesser hands this audacious project would have failed,” poet Rachel Barenblat said in the release. “This is a beautiful and powerful book worth owning, worth reading and rereading. I am so glad that it exists in the world and that I can turn to it, time and again, glorying in the language and the hope.”
The poem marries story and adventure with compression and joy in language, Ellen Kushner, writer and longtime host of WGBH’s “Sound and Spirit,” said in the release. She called the book a “remarkable and daring work … combines the best of epic poetry with modern fiction” and is “by turns funny, insightful, and deeply moving.”
Youmans, a poet and novelist, had a busy year in 2012. She served as a judge for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature – reading 316 books between June and early September. Before that, she did a book tour in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Youmans’ [2012] novel “A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage” was selected as the winner of The Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction for 2010. The award is given by Mercer University Press “for the best book that speaks to the human condition in a Southern context.”
Youmans has won various awards for her short fiction and has received a wide variety of recognition for her work.
Read the entire article here.  

MORE


For more information about my recent books, please use the tabs at the top of the page, or go take a look at excerpts at Scribd.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The teeth of Richard III

The owl shriek'd at thy birth,—an evil sign;
The night-crow cried, aboding luckless time;
Dogs howl'd, and hideous tempest shook down trees;
The raven rook'd her on the chimney's top,
And chattering pies in dismal discords sung.
Thy mother felt more than a mother's pain,
And, yet brought forth less than a mother's hope,
To wit, an indigested and deformed lump,
Not like the fruit of such a goodly tree.
Teeth hadst thou in thy head when thou wast born,
To signify thou camest to bite the world...

and

The midwife wonder'd, and the women cried
"Oh! Jesus bless us! he is born with teeth!"
And so I was: which plainly signified
That I should snarl and bite, and play the dog.
        Shakespeare, History of Henry VI, Part III

and

Then forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept
A hellhound that doth hunt us all to death—
That dog, that had his teeth before his eyes,
To worry lambs and lap their gentle blood.
        Shakespeare, Richard III

The battle at the end of a long game of hide and seek has begun. Richard III has his adherents who claim that he was unjustly maligned--that he was a good and pious king distorted in the view of history by being the last of the House of Plantagenet. Thomas More and Shakespeare (in Richard III, particularly) and others suggested that a twisted body was an outward and visible sign of a twisted soul, though Francis Bacon praised him as a lawmaker.

I was interested to see that his supposed birth with teeth noted in comments on novelist Elizabeth Hand's facebook page this morning. Folklore extends its long hand...

Oddly, my husband had just been reading to me about that little matter of folk beliefs and birth teeth. Recently he has read me startling bits from a book by that extremely odd personage, Montague Summers. Our daughter brought home a copy of The Vampire, picked up at Willis Monie's, our used bookstore, and he dips into its curiosities now and then. Here is Summers on what it means to be born with teeth, and how that might "signify thou camest to bite the world":
Since the vampire bites his prey with sharp teeth and greedily sucks forth the blood it is not surprising to find that those who are born with teeth in their heads are considered to be already marked down as vampires. Even in countries where the vampire belief was lost this circumstance was considered of the unluckiest, and in Chapman and Shirley's Chabot, Admiral of France, V, 2, Master Advocate exposing the villainies of the Chancellor declares: "He was born with teeth in his head, by an affidavit of his midwife, to note his devouring, and hath one toe on his left foot crooked, and in the form of an eagle's talon, to foretel his rapacity. What shall I say? branded, marked, and designed in his birth for shame and obloquy, which appeareth further, by a mole under his right ear, with only three witch's hairs in it; strange and ominous predictions of nature!" [Summers quotes from George Chapman and James Shirley's The Tragedie of Chabot Admirall of France: As it was presented by her Majesties Servants, at the private House in Drury Lane. Licensed by the Master of the Revels on 29 April, 1635.]
Historian John Rous praised Richard III while living under his rule, but was quick to jump to Tudor propaganda under his successor. Suddenly Richard is described as ill-favored, the sinister shoulder rising higher than the right (due to his scoliosis) and marked by ominous birth signs--teeth and shoulder-length hair, said to be caused by having stayed in the womb for two years. The Montague Summers quote suggests how neatly teeth in the head and bodily distortion went together as signs of the demonic:  "It is evident that the old physical characteristics which mark a creature of demoniacal propensities had been remembered as of ill-omen and horror when exactly what they portended and betrayed had been lost in the mists of ancient lore."

Shakespeare comes very close to declaring the king a vampire: "thou camest to bite the world." However, looking at the various portrayals, it seems that the teeth are more those of the bad dog who hurts the lambs (the princes in the Tower and others.) It seems that "old physical characteristics" of the vampire are recalled as "ill-omen and horror."

Clearly the preferred Tudor vision of Richard III was that of a monster. We no longer believe that a child born with teeth or who grows into a "slantdicular" shape is demonic, but the war over whether Richard III came to "bite the world" or not is now renewed with the finding of his crooked bones.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Marly goes Lightspeed

Prolegomenon to the Adventures of Childe Phoenix by Marly Youmans (illustrated by Galen Dara)The story is illustrated by Galen Dara.


Read at Lightspeed
"Prolegomenon to the Adventures of Childe Phoenix" (short story) is up at Lightspeed. Many thanks to writers and publishers Gavin Grant and Kelly Link for its original print publication in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (2007), and to Lightspeed editor John Joseph Adams for asking to reprint the story. (John Crowley also has a reprint in this issue.) I am glad to find that even the stranger dictates of the heart may find a welcome out in the world.

Listen at Lightspeed
Paul Boehmer's reading of "Prologomenon to the Adventures of Childe Phoenix" is also available for download (time 38+ minutes.)

Read more: Author Spotlight
Christie Yant interviews me, asking questions about the story in the areas of response, family secrets, poetry vs. prose, theme, and upcoming publications.

Later: Oops. I suppose that I should have noted that a place for leaving comments is at the very foot of each Lightspeed page... Enjoy!

Monday, February 04, 2013

The nun and the public self

He must practice; he must work hard; he must sacrifice mere pleasure to the demands of art; he must be, in a sense, both single-minded and monastic. Unless he is a polymath of the most formidable proportions, he cannot afford or support a second career as a public figure.
Sissman adds:
In a word, the serious writer must take serious vows if he is to concentrate on his chief aim. A vow of silence, except through his work. A vow of consistency, sticking with writing to the exclusion of other fields. A vow of ego-chastity, abstaining from adulation. A vow of solitude, or at least long periods of privacy. A vow of self-regard, placing the self as writer before the self as personality.  --Patrick Kurp, 'A Vow of Ego Chastity,' seen via D. G. Myers on twitter
Patrick Kurp quotes poet L. E. Sissman on his blog, and of course I measure myself by those severe words. In many ways I measure up. I work hard and in solitude; I regard my work as an intense pleasure, so that call to vocation is easy. Because I write and am the mother of three children, I am utterly without hobbies of my own (I should like them but have no time to devote), though I vicariously enjoy my husband's. I'm not sure I can be called absolutely single-minded, as I have those three children and husband (Is that a second career or just a life?), but I doubt that Sissman took his monasticism that far--he was married twice and his literary executor describes him as being fond of motor cars and photography. I do get grand praise now and then, but I can't say that it has shaped me, as I was brought up as a proper old-fashioned Southerner, obsessed with tact and not thinking too well of myself (after all, back then we Southern babies of the caucasian variety arrived with a certificate of national sin, thanks to the painful workings of history. Now nobody knows history, so the practice has been mostly discontinued.)

Kurp talks about being left with a bad taste in his mouth after hearing an author interview; clearly the radio interview violates Sissman's protocols. I've felt similarly about many interviews, usually because the interviewer and author talked about things that I felt were as intimate and secret as life events can be--things like the writer's mental illness or the death of a child or early sexual abuse. In part my distaste comes from the simple but enormous fact that I am a Southerner brought up by a Southerner who was the ninth baby of a mother born in the nineteenth-century. Essentially my mother received the training of the prior generation, and it was a genteel education that also tinted my childhood to some degree.

But there's a more important reason that such personal issues should be secret. Secret things have a power. They are seeds. They grow and produce fruit. They are essential wounds that never quite heal. Unless, of course, you talk them away... Power can be dispersed and lost like water running away from its source.

As a Southerner who has lived in Cooperstown, New York for some fourteen years, my first thought when I see an essay ending with something like "The rest is X" is Twain's hilarious evisceration of Cooper, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." Twain's essay ends this way:
A work of art? It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are -- oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language.
Counting these out, what is left is Art. I think we must all admit that.
For Twain, the "rest" was art, and the line is simultaneously tribute and condemnation. Kurp's post ends this way: "The rest is marketing." His X, marketing, stands opposed to all that a writer should be.

What are we to do about this little problem of marketing in the 21st century? Does any writer who does not receive a major push from one of the Big 6 or some lucky "black swan" accident (like an Oprah pick, a Big Read, etc.) have the freedom to say "no" in the current day when t.v. or radio or interviewers for print or internet call? I have tried the Big 6--I published four novels with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and have had paperbacks from Penguin and Harcourt and others in that rich group of publishers. But I have not received a push, not in all my 11 books. When John Wilson, the editor of Books and Culture, read one of my books many years ago, he asked this: "Why are you the invisible novelist?" I hope that I have improved in visibility since, but that question is evidence of the hard fact that it is difficult to collect a readership without assistance in this enormous, busy country.

In some ways I am an unusual case, as I have published novels, short stories, poems, an epic, and a couple of children's books. In just the past year various houses published a novel, a collection of poems, and a blank verse epic of mine. That variety means not doing what the publisher wants; that's not consistent, according to the worshipped doctrine of genres. Yet even if I had only written novels--and if those were related in some way, as mine are definitely not--I doubt that I could have achieved a very large readership without luck or a push.

Now the world is changing; I have ebook rights to five of my out-of-print novels and two forthcoming ones and intend to use them. Still, I don't have the luxury of being monastic about marketing. That choice would be terribly unfair to my publishers--particularly to a small press like Phoenicia Publishing, where each book means a financial risk for the house, and each review or interview is important. If I look at the just-out Thaliad, I see a book that was desired by the publisher but that was costly in many ways. The design work, incorporating the art Clive Hicks-Jenkins made for the book, was much more demanding and time-consuming than the average book, and it made the book more expensive to produce for the publisher (although not to buy for the consumer.) The whole idea of publishing an epic adventure in verse was a risk--is a risk--no matter how beautiful the finished product. I've always thought it silly for writers in this country to claim "risk" for their writing, but publishers really do gamble and take risks. To say "no" to marketing is, no matter how much I would like to live in a fairy tale world where no such work is needed, impossible.

 * * *

Notable responses to the post--

D. G. Myers on A Commonplace Blog
D. G. Myers is perenially interesting.

Myers has a grand, complex response to this post here. I agree with him, although I pointed out afterward that after I left my second agent (Liz Darhansoff), I simply did not bother getting another and have relied on presses that asked for a manuscript. There are all sorts of things such action and inaction might indicate... Should you ask me why in an interview, I might be willing to suggest the range of possible feelings that would make me act or not act in such ways. But I would not be willing to explain which of those actually were mine.

James A. Owen on facebook
I'm abashed by this one, but nevertheless was glad to see it go out to James's many fans. Repeating it here is definitely in the realm of marketing. It strikes me that the reason I'm a little reluctant is that it includes a phrase about me, and is not simply focused on the book. I could take out the line, but then I would fail to admit that I e-know James, who once published a story of mine in his lovely magazine, Argosy. Such things are what one dithers over--what I dither over--when I do anything that approaches marketing.

Marly is someone I count as a friend, and one of the smartest writers I know. THALIAD is freaking amazing. The last time I had such an emotional response to a book, it - KAVALIER and CLAY - won a Pulitzer. Read Marly's essay, especially if you do creative work for a living. Then go buy a copy of THALIAD.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Spam wars

Instead of watching the Ravens, first national team to be named for a poem, I am trying out comment moderation as a way of getting rid of both spam and the need for word verification. Let me know if you hate it (just as you let me know that you hated word verification!) Hello to moderation, good-by to the old warnings:
Here you will find no pesky word verification, no wait for moderation. If you leave me a comment, but your words do not appear, it may mean that you have fallen into the Gulf of Spam. If you are good and true and not selling V----, I will climb down and rescue you, bearing my trusty vorpal Sword. But if you have come to peddle some banal product, I fear that you will slip deeper into the Gulf of Spam, where you will (alas!) be eaten by roaming Balrogs.
Oh, and you have three more hours to obtain a free download of Jennifer Reeser's poetry collection, Sonnets from the Dark Lady and Other Poems from an Amazon site in North American or Europe. So please do.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Groundhog Day / Candlemas

Punxsutawney Phil says spring is coming, the demented little hog!

You may celebrate Candlemas or Groundhog Day with a free ebook of Jennifer Reeser's poetry here.

Unworldliness

Fra Angelico (1395-1455) Annunciatory angel
Here's an account of the "sublime exhibition"
where I encountered this angel in 2005.
Rose at five to roust a boy for a faraway wrestling tournament and dry the singlet (ah! forgot.) The world is still deep-blue-and-night-on-snow. I've had a number of reasons of late to remember how strange it is to be an artist of any kind--how odd my concerns look in a worldly light. And yet I am so blessed and lucky to live when I do, in a time when I didn't die in childbirth (but would have, in an earlier age), a time when a woman is allowed to twist words into shapes and a man is allowed to cook her dinner.

In front of me is an image of one of Fra Angelico's angels, the reality encountered and the print bought at an extraordinary show at the Met some years ago. The shape between halo and wing is full of grace and beauty, and the flushed, alien skin and rich hair are still alive with an unworldly light. The wings are eyed like a peacock's, seeing everything. How wonderful that half a millenium later, this angel is still speaking, and I am alive and harking to its lovely gestures.

In his turbulent age, Fra Angelico found again and again the peace to make such radiant paintings, ballasted with what Makoto Fujimura calls "angelic weight." In our time, so rife with visual noise and loud, time-frittering leisure and the world's terrible alarms, that peace is an island of hush that still exists if we can only sit still and wait--as I wait now on words.

Friday, February 01, 2013

The Dormouse Round-up

Why is a raven like a writing-desk?

People have come up with a lot of ingenious answers over the years to the Mad Hatter's nonsense question--as a child, I thought it must be "quills." I had forgotten Lewis Carroll's own, much later answer in an introduction: “Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!” Evidently the first typesetter corrected "nevar" and spoiled the pun part of the answer. In a proper Carrollian world, Tweedledum and Tweedledee's monstrous crow would have come flapping after him.

Lady Word of Mouth: Locus

Tomcat's wonderful review of Thaliad has been picked up by Locus Blinks--so very rare to see such a thing as a long, adventurous story in verse in the realm of Locus, even as a "blink." I'm glad. Lady Word of Mouth can be kind. In his wide-ranging review, Tomcat argued that Thaliad shouldn't just belong to poetry/literary readers but should be welcomed by the science fiction and fantasy world. I thank him and Locus.

The February Lightspeed

is now available in toto as an ebook here. I have a story reprint and an interview in the issue. Both will also be available for free later in the month.

Dummy-moi

I have finally noticed the feature element at Scribd. Either I didn't know what I was doing the first time I uploaded, or things have changed considerably in a year. I think the page looks rather appealing with its new bells and whistles.

The Friday tea party

Mad Hatter says, "Nobody but the Dormouse reads posts on a Friday. Whatever are you doing here? Move three seats along the table, make a cutting (hair-cutting, preferably) personal remark, and slosh me up a cup of tea."