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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Writer-readers on The Book of the Red King

Illumination by Clive Hicks-Jenkins of Wales
Phoenicia Publishing, 2019

I continue to be grateful to novelist Scott G. F. Bailey for his ongoing and perceptive treatment of my work. As a reader, he always enters into a work with a free mind and writes engagingly of what he finds. Now he has written a long blog post about The Book of the Red King; you may read the whole thing HERE, at Six Words for a Hat. I include a few quotes below to entice you to visit.

* * *

"the coming night with its dying-deep 
but dazzling darkness"at Six Words for a Hat is an explication of the life and work of the artist (and possibly in this sense, Yeats' spirit also hovers over the book). Youmans is always powerful when she writes about art and artists, and The Book of the Red King strikes me as her most forceful (and possibly most personal) statement about art (and the artist's purpose) yet. Creativity, rebirth and transfiguration are the threads that stitch The Book of the Red King together...many of its pleasures are easily enjoyed just through the inventiveness of Youmans' characters and the angular, beautiful chemistry of her language.

. . .

He also creates beauty, points to beauty, loves and points to love, grieves and points to grief, is angry and points to anger, etc, all of this being the work of the artist. The Fool, I am telling you, is Marly Youmans (and Yeats and Shakespeare and Milton and let's say Matthew as well, why not). That's my theory; see the first paragraph of this increasingly-staggering little essay. You'll have to draw your own conclusions about the identity of the Red King. Youmans has said of him, "He is all the things he is at once, it seems."

. . .

Because Youmans always writes on a number of levels at once, this essay can only seem to diminish Youmans' artistry by so poorly describing it. I know that poetry has, even at the best of times, a limited audience, but The Book of the Red King deserves readers, and plucky Phoenicia Publishing deserves a reward for being brave enough to market collections that require thoughtful readers. A good deal of current American poetry is merely angry, woke, political, and shallow; or else it's merely pretty, saccharine, and shallow. And while Youmans' book could serve as a text for a contemporary course on the uses of beauty and empathy, she writes for the ages, which I think is in the long run a better idea. I don't know why Marly Youmans isn't much better known, for both her poetry and her novels. She always taps into the substrata of art and life.

* * *

"Marly - salutations" at Tone Deaf

Likewise, I need to thank writer Roderick Robinson for a post about the book at Tone Deaf, in which he offers some favorite quotes and says:

However in my sere, yellow and almost-dropping-off years I write verse. Marly’s good at that except hers is poetry. Red King may emerge as a narrative but in the interim I’m treating her poems as separate entities. Looking for what races my motor. Plenty does. It’s not exactly news but Marly loves words...

* * *

My gratitude, my delight

I'm especially grateful to both Roderick Robinson and Scott Bailey because they have said what they have to say. I've been happy to receive letters of praise for this book from older, better-known writers, but I am deeply grateful to people who talk about my books in public. Because I care deeply about the good of my book, the life of my book in the world. Word of mouth and reviews are precious to a book of poems--and to the Fool.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019


Photos by Laurie Kearns.
The Red King at the Green Toad.

UPCOMING: Clive Hicks-Jenkins has been showing me images for the next book, a novel, this week; he writes a bit about us, the book, and his other illumination work HERE.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Next reading: Oneonta - Green Toad

                    October 5 Saturday 2:00 p.m.
  Marly Youmans reading from The Book of the Red King
                     GREEN TOAD BOOKSTORE
                    198 Main St. Oneonta, NY 13820
                                  (607) 433-8898

I forgot to take any pictures at my North Carolina events for The Book of the Red King. But here's an article (thank you, Megan Pociask) about my reading at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro that has a teeny-weeny head of moi! There I am, talking away above a few giant heads...

One of many charming vignettes
by Clive Hicks-Jenkins of Wales,
maker of many beautiful things,
including the cover/jacket
and interior art
for The Book of the Red King

Friday, September 27, 2019

Hands across enchanted seas

Clive Hicks-Jenkins
vignette on Tomoe River paper
for Charis in the World of Wonders

Often I am asked about what it's like to work--I always think the verb should be dance--with artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins. He has illuminated and beautified my books for a long time now. I often thought of us as metaphysical twins (I can't remember who first came up with that thought) when we first tumbled into correspondence. The first year of exchanging letters was so inspiring! It's marvelous when you meet a person who inspires you and whom you inspire in turn.

But the image above relates to the sort of small, surprising occurrence that happens when I'm "with" Clive, even if he is across Atlantic in Wales. Sometimes we're walking around in our old houses--Clive's Ty Isaf and my Prentiss Cottage--and pondering each other's work. So magical! And odd things happen as a result. Unexpected elements coalesce. Some are tiny but curious. Like the bird in leaves. A few days ago I told Clive that I had a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign on my bedroom door as a child that reminded me so much of this piece. That's perhaps not wholly surprising, as Clive is using samplers as inspiration, and folk motifs often have some commonality. It seemed an interesting linkage since there is a thread and threat of witchcraft in Charis in the World of Wonders. So the book secretly holds an image that appears protective to me. Of Charis? Of the reader? Of me?

And when I stopped overnight in Middletown, VA on my way north from North Carolina, I had an evening adventure related to the image. I was staying at the 1797 Wayside Inn and went out for a ramble. I stopped by an antique shop that was a log house (built by German settlers who raised eight children there.) Although it was already late, the shop was open. I picked out a few gifts. Outside was a passionate, pleasantly unruly cottage garden, and I learned that there was a bigger garden with winding paths and night-blooming cereus plants and lilies and much more in the back. Though it was growing quite dark, I asked if Crystal (she credited her husband with the garden's design) would show me their garden. The paths were lovely, intermittently lit by solar lamps and huge open moonflowers. And there in the garden I was surprised by a hex sign exactly like the one that had hung on my bedroom door--an image I had not seen in decades--so that a sudden necklace of images flashed into my mind, its beads pilfered from Middletown, Virginia and Cullowhee, North Carolina and Aberystwyth, Wales.

And I guess that's one part of the half-hidden secret of why we like to dance together. Somehow when I'm in a Clivean-Marlyan mode, congruence seems to increase, and not just a congruence of minds. Surprise happens: things happen that suggest that the world is a more enchanted, spark-lit, symbolic place than we commonly know. It's as if we are turning around a hidden center, that we live in a place of abundance. And for moments I'm more congruent with the deep shapes and patterns of the world, and I feel heart-struck and tied in spirit to someone on the other side of the sea.

Log House Antiques and Collectibles in Middletown, Virginia

* * *

Novelist Midori Snyder asked me for "Praise for Dark Movements Toy Theatre" for the Journal of Mythic Arts. Although I write mostly formal poetry, I have a whole group of praise poems that draw on a Yoruban form and Hebrew parallelism, and this is one of that sequence. 

The poem has the Mari Lwyd flickering in thorn trees and Yeats in the form of a silver bird and the Starlight Torch and Book of Moon and two friends in a white tent and lots of cheeses! And pie. And of course we dance. Enjoy!

* * *


I've mentioned Charis, but I'm sure she wants you to be better acquainted with the Red King and the Fool and Precious Wentletrap! It's out there in our Wonderland with a BUY ME Alice-label tied around its pages. So why not skip lunch and support beautiful small presses like Phoenicia Publishing?



So strange to move quickly from summer lands to fall... Today the world looks even more symbolic and enchanted to me, a bright autumn sun streaming through dying red and yellow leaves as if through annealed glass. 

This glorious and transcendent place 
--George Herbert