Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Glimmerwords


I have found the lost microphone and fooled around with recording a snip from Glimmerglass. I may do more. Unless the general populace detests my audio self.

Like many people, I dislike recordings of my voice. My father once tried to record me reading Alice in Wonderland when we lived in Louisiana (Wonderland), and I was so self-conscious that I think I lost my mind in a sort of 5-year-old way.

Next time I am going to record in my closet, which is all buffery-buttery-soft and should make for better sound. And thank you to Paul for the gift of the microphone, which I will try not to misplace again. Both books and microphones wander, it seems.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fragile, perishable things--


My most important memories of early childhood are of Gramercy and Baton Rouge, places that seem in memory bright with color, drenched in light, alive with beauty. They are, I believe, memories that have fed me and made me the sort of writer I am. By the age of 13, I had lived in many places--South Carolina, Louisiana, Kansas, Delaware, North Carolina--but somehow those early memories of Louisiana have remained touchstones of the beautiful for me. The levee, the little mud towers under the house, the moonflowers at night, extravagance of blossom by day, the pink-throated lizards dangling helplessly from my ear lobes, the sugar garden in our backyard, the plants that spired up into the trees, the plums and bamboo, the shrimp in the rock pools: all these and more changed me. Did I regret leaving a place that was, to me, magical? Yes.

Back then I did not know that fragile, perishable things--civility, courtesy, respect, truth, goodness, beauty, order, civilization that allows the arts and human beings to flourish--are always at risk in our world. Though small, I knew death, even in the heart of my own family. But I did not yet know that such things as murder, chaos, and moral darkness could be.

And now we all know, over and over again, even on this very day, how fragile and perishable things are swept away. In Baton Rouge and Baghdad, in Dallas and Nice. We know lives lost needlessly to shadow. It is up to us, each one, to stand up for those fragile, perishable things, to praise them, to mourn when they are swept away, to do our very best to keep and protect them.

Father and son. Officer Montrell Jackson,
one of our public servants murdered in Baton Rouge today.
Dormit in pace.

I wrote this post especially for Greg Langley, the former (and the very wonderful) Books Editor of The Baton Rouge Advocate.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Foliate Head sends out a leaf--


Thanks to Roderick Robinson for writing about The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press, 2012) on his blog, Tone Deaf. The post begins, "I bought Marly Youmans’ The Foliate Head because I’ve liked other poems she’s written. She wears her wide experience of literature lightly and I know from her blog, The Palace at 2 am, she has things to say which interest me." Read the rest here.

Side note: Copies are still available in various places, but the second print run will soon be sold out completely. (Thank you, readers, that you made it possible for a second print run to exist.)

It's one of the wonderful things about the internet that books no longer vanish completely when the traditional three-month window for reviews is done, and bookstores ship back their unsold copies. Large, deep-pocket publishers still control what sells best through the marketing of "lead books," for the most part, but the internet means that other books--books that are not "lead books" at one of our largest publishers--have a chance to be known later on. And that's a good thing, as what sells best is always the best.

Requiescat in pace

Liberté, égalité, fraternité... Floating in my mind are words from a different unrest: “I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again" -Anne Frank, The Diary. So sorrowful to think of the 84--more to come--dead, ten of them just children, and all those suffering grief and bodily hurt in Nice.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Good words for a hard week

Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.  --Frederick Buechner
Buechner is the author of many good books, including that small but mighty and beautiful novel, Godric, told in the voice of Godric of Finchale (c. 1065 – 21 May 1170).

Frederick Buechner will turn 90 tomorrow. Happy birthday to him! He has lived long; may he live longer, long enough to see concord and compassion elevated over divisiveness and scorn in this country.

"Love one another."

Monday, July 04, 2016

The Fourth of July

Mary Boxley Bullington, "Independence Day,"
Ink, acrylic, gouache, gesso on museum rag board.

If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. 
--Abraham Lincoln

Neither James Madison...nor any of the other Framers of the Constitution,
were oblivious, careless, or otherwise unaware of the words
they chose for the document and its Bill of Rights. 
--Hon. Diane Wood

A wise and glad and free 4th of July to us all.
What happened to the signers of The Declaration of Independence?

Friday, July 01, 2016

Марія Затуренська / Marya Zaturenska

Wikimedia Commons, public domain
from January 21, 1983, The New York Times Obituaries: Miss Zaturenska, who was married to Horace Gregory, the Bollingen Prize poet, wrote eight volumes of her poetry and edited six anthologies. Her many awards included the Shelley and John Reed Prizes from Poetry Magazine, where her work was first published. Mrs. Gregory was born in Kiev, Russia, and came to the United States at the age of 8, living with her parents on Henry Street, near the Settlement House. While working in factories, she attended high school at night. In 1922, she received a scholarship to Valparaiso University in Indiana and, a year later, transferred to the University of Wisconsin. She graduated from the Wisconsin Library School in 1925 and was married to Mr. Gregory that year. Final Volume in '74 Her books included ''Threshold and Heart''[sic], ''Cold Morning Sky,'' for which she received the Pulitzer Prize, ''Collected Poems'' and, her final volume, published in 1974, ''The Hidden Waterfall.''
Marya Zaturenska appears to be almost wholly forgotten, at least so far as the internet is concerned. Several of her poems are online at American Studies at the University of Virginia, along with some rather dismissive comments:
Althoug [sic] she is still regarded as a technically skilled poet her adherence to the modes and methods of the English decadent school, a movement of the late 19th and early 20th century which, "proclaimed the superiority of art over nature and often found the greatest beauty in dying things" eventually "earned her a reputation as an 'old-fashioned' writer" and relegated her work to the status of "quaint epiphanies" (Contemporary Authors Online).
"Adherence to the modes." "Old-fashioned." "Quaint epiphanies." Rather scornful, no? Just think of her, a young girl laboring in a factory by day and going to school at night, already writing poetry! How dare someone at the University of Virginia put her in a "quaint" box and shut the lid without more of an inspection? These days, "technically skilled" is probably also a slap in her face, at least when it comes from the academy. More than a century on, the ivory tower still believes that "free verse" is "new" and form out of date.

Well, I happen to think it ridiculous to judge a poet by supposed adherence to a "school"; it doesn't even matter what poets call themselves in that way (school or no-school.) It just matters whether the poems remain alive.

She seems to be a lover of older poetry, though I also see connections to contemporaries. I've just begun noodling around in her Collected Poems but already see that Zaturenska loves the Renaissance--Waller and Herrick and Sidney and more. I have already caught a near-echo of Henry Vaughan (his "Silence and stealth of days") and some likenesses to early Kathleen Raine (and therefore to Yeats.)

Raine and Zaturenska were near contemporaries, but the utter dearth of information online (and the dearth of first-rate libraries in the boondockeries of central New York) doesn't tell me if they knew each other's work. The poems in Zaturenska's Threshold and Hearth (1934) keep reminding me of some Raine poems in Stone and Flower (1943.) Here's Zaturenska's Daphne-in-transformation:

Daphne

Roots spring from my feet, Apollo, like a tree
The silver laurels grow deep into me;
Undone, undone, these thoughts of mine that beat
With a great vigor in the drouth and heat;
So my blood answers, so with sap my veins,
So as leaves in whom no wind complains,
This is the metamorphosis, this the change
Through which my days now range:
That which was I, am now no longer I,
Among my branches let the wild birds cry,
Around me let the alien rivers flow,
Beneath my shade let other maidens go.

Like Raine, she wanders in mythic lands ruled by Apollo. But I've also bumped up against a few Zaturenska poems that take me back to another kind of myth, to Poe and his admirers--the vulture and the abyss, the pursuit of demons, the horror in the blood. Even in gentler, milder poems, Zaturenska's teller is restless and pursued by shadows. Here's a quiet, "unquiet" poem that reminds me again of Raine:

Images in Lake Water

The tree's sun-glittering arms are bowed
With graceful supplication in lake water.
Metallic-green and musically still
Float tree and water in one image, solitary and proud,
Till the bird-image joins them and the cloud.

Idly I watch the glimmering lights depart,
So gay falls summer glittering on the lake
And on the dreaming trees, on my transfigured heart
Grown iridescent for a shadow's sake.

Unchanging and transparent solitude
Where mobile waters haunt the enduring dream
That trembles like a lily on the stream,
A troubled whiteness on a heavy green,
A starry snowdrop on a summer scene.

Imagination colors all our watching mood,
The day contracted to a pool, a tree, a shade
All summer shining in a little space,
And the slow falling of the night delayed
With flowing images in the mind, betrayed
In mirrored silence, my unquiet face.

Raine's fish that is shadow and stillness, "unmoved, equated with the stream / As flowers are fit for air, man for his dream," comes to mind. And I'm thinking of Yeats again, his fairies who give "unquiet dreams," his "unquiet wanderer," or his fusion of heart and bird and cloud and stream and the troubling of waters here:

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute.

On a side note, Raine was quite frank and generous in regards to her debt to Yeats (and Blake.) Here's a little poem ("Returning Autumn") from Kathleen Raine's Stone and Flower:

All creatures passionate for grace
Quest their desire through groves and seas
That flesh may win a human face,
And pain be crowned with holiness.

And lovers out of present days
Float back upon the body's dream
Of a green branch that dips and sways,
Caught in the current of a stream.

Has anybody channeled Yeats more thoroughly than Raine in that second stanza? The lovers, body and the dream, the green branch, the stream: it is wonderfully Yeatsian. I don't know if any early twentieth-century poet could play with such images without invoking Yeats. After all, he is--to re-cast his own metaphor--a cloud that casts a mighty shadow on the living stream.

I can't help thinking that Raine and Zaturenska might have liked each other's poems. Among her contemporaries, Zaturenska seems not only kindred to Kathleen Raine, but to Louise Bogan and Edwin Muir in mythic focus.

So I shall read some more of Marya Zaturenska and see what I find. I think it would be interesting to take a peek at the Pulitzer winners from the last century and pay attention to why their work has lasted or fallen away. For now, I shall pay some attention to Zaturenska and her life in poetry.

* * *

"What is easier than liking a book?  All sorts of people do it every day."

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sunlit morning, interrupted--

Thanks to Noah Clark of Erie, Colorado, sxc.hu

Started the green, sunlit day by politely explaining my allergy to politicians to a nice telephone lady from the one or the other of the two major U. S. political parties. I do hate to be interrupted when reading, perhaps particularly when the words come from Nabokov. (I say perhaps because it occurs to me that I have not read nearly enough Nabokov. There's another reason to regret that life is so brief!) I like what he said in answer to a question about what it is best to be: To be kind, to be proud, to be fearless.