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

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The beggar queen talks to the castle laureate about writing and "expanding the form"

B. Q.: So you think that there’s no progress in art? Is that right?

T. L.: Well, I don’t know. It just seems dreary, all this talk about expanding the form, as thought we were talking about a lady’s girdle—those big elasticized things that women used to wear in the 50’s or 60’s, before they burned their bras and, I would imagine, the girdles. Perhaps the girdles went first.

B. Q: Dreary?

T. L.: Boring, I suppose I mean. Expanding the form, expanding the form… What business is that of a writer’s? Just hush. Just do what you do, just dream it into being and let whatever can drift in unexpectedly drift in; then tidy it up and see what you have. Keep it or toss it back. The form will be there; how could it not be? And then let the academicians can come and determine in what precise way it has been expanded, or not expanded.

B. Q.: Hmm.

T. L.: Perhaps all this conscious nattering on about the need for expanding the form is, in the end, a curious kind of rigidity of message, and I dislike messages in stories and poems. Everybody does, you know, or almost everybody. A message belongs in a bottle. Cooped-up.

B. Q.: Riding on the sea, maybe?

T. L.: The sea—that’s a better thought for stories. Because it’s alive, vigorous, surprising… One could meet a giant squid or a tiny blue octopus...

B. Q.: A mermaid--

T. L.: With a cuttlefish.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.