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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Merchant sings Causley

Go here for an interview with Natalie Merchant and then a video of her singing a children’s poem by Charles Causley, a wondrous and a very underrated poet from Cornwall who died a few years ago. And, if you are curious, here are the words of the ballad Natalie Merchant sings:

Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience

I had a silver penny
And an apricot tree
And I said to the sailor
On the white quay

'Sailor O sailor
Will you bring me
If I give you my penny
And my apricot tree

A fez from Algeria
An Arab drum to beat
A little gilt sword
And a parakeet?'

And he smiled and he kissed me
As strong as death
And I saw his red tongue
And I felt his sweet breath

'You may keep your penny
And your apricot tree
And I'll bring your presents
Back from the sea.'

O, the ship dipped down
On the rim of the sky
And I waited while three
Long summers went by

Then one steel morning
On the white quay
I saw a grey ship
Come in from the sea

Slowly she came
Across the bay
For her flashing rigging
Was shot away

All round her wake
The seabirds cried
And flew in and out
Of the hole in her side

Slowly she came
In the path of the sun
And I heard the sound
Of a distant gun

And a stranger came running
Up to me
From the deck of the ship
And he said, said he

'O are you the boy
Who would wait on the quay
With the silver penny
And the apricot tree?

I've a plum-coloured fez
And a drum for thee
And a sword and a parakeet
From over the sea.

'O where is the sailor
With the bold red hair?
And what is that volley
On the bright air?

O where are the other
Girls and boys?
And why have you brought me
Children's toys?'
And if you want to know how the snow is going up here, well, it's as much snow as in a fairy tale. As I said elsewhere, there's a mound as big as a coffin on the iron table in the yard, and here's to hoping that King Winter is melting inside.
The medieval image is all Gode Cookery courtesye:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Beastly Bride approaches!

It's almost time for The Beastly Bride--and definitely time for a pre-order. Kirkus has given the book its blessing, saying that it "fits" the familiar, much-desired pattern of a Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow anthology with its Charles Vess illustrations, notes, biographies, bibliography, and solid introduction.

Here's what the reviewer notes about the contents: "The 22 writers include Jane Yolen, Ellen Kushner , Midori Snyder , Tanith Lee and Peter S. Beagle, among others. Delia Sherman ’s 'The Selkie Speaks' allows a seal maiden to tell her own tale; Terra L. Gearhart-Serna brings a trickster’s sly voice and a little Spanish into her first published writing, 'Coyote and Valarosa.' Marly Youmans turns to glassmaking and the Blue Ridge Mountains for the intensely romantic 'The Salamander Fire.' The three interwoven motifs of these tales, inspired by many cultures, are beings who shape-shift between animal and human of their own will, who are transformed as a curse or enchantment and who are both human and animal yet wholly neither. Rich reading that meets the editors’ high standards." Catch that? "Intensely romantic." That's with either a small "r" or a large "R."

So if you're somewhere between about 12 and about 112, you might just like it! Available for pre-order now and with a pub date of March 1.

The Beastly Bride and Other Tales of the Animal People
Preface by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Introduction by Terri Windling

Island Lake by E. Catherine Tobler
The Puma’s Daughter by Tanith Lee
Map of Seventeen by Christopher Barzak
The Selkie Speaks by Delia Sherman
Bear’s Bride by Johanna Sinisalo
The Abominable Child’s Tale by Carol Emshwiller
The Hikikomori by Hiromi Goto
The Comeuppance of Creegus Maxin by Gregory Frost
Ganesha by Jeffrey Ford
The Elephant’s Bride by Jane Yolen
The Children of Cadmus by Ellen Kushner
The White Doe Mourns Her Childhood by Jeanine Hall Gailey
The White Doe’s Love Song by Jeanine Hall Gailey
The White Doe Decides by Jeanine Hall Gailey
Coyote and Valorosa by Terra L. Gearheart
One Thin Dime by Stewart Moore
The Monkey Bride by Midori Snyder
Pishaach by Shweta Narayan
The Salamander Fire by Marly Youmans
The Margay’s Children by Richard Bowes
Thumbleriggery and Fledglings by Steve Berman
The Flock by Lucius Shepard
The Children of the Shark God by Peter Beagle
Rosina by Nan Fry
And see just below for some of the online things I've found interesting lately... I'll be back to talking about friends with new books just as soon as I wallow through the taxes-and-documents slough.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Illustration at left: Clive Hicks-Jenkins, painting for Val/Orson cover and jacket.

Here are a few Melvillean "fast fish" from the wide net. Each has made me pause of late; each has interested me. As you might expect from my writing, the catch contains poetry fish and children's-books fish and novel fish and more. And feel free to leave me a fish or two in the comments. There are an awful lot of "loose fish" in the sea.


This small essay packs into many of the problems created by a runaway poetry market full of back-slapping and academics and an overgrowth of poetry magazines. While it makes me feel very glad that I quit teaching right after tenure (costly thing, that, but it would have been more expensive in ways that matter not to do so), it also emphasizes that I ran away from the Club, and that I am out wandering in the wilderness where a would-be and occasionally genuine poet lurks under every stone and leaf. So far the comments jostle wildly--all to the good, I expect.

"Every now and then someone asks me, 'Who are the best poets writing today?' My answer? 'I have no idea.' Nor do I believe that anyone else does. I do have an uneasy feeling that a Blake and a Dickinson may be buried in the overgrowth, and I fear that neither current nor future readers may get to enjoy their art. That would be the most devastating result of the new math of poetry. The loss would be incalculable."


This is a delicious series of meditations on what is called "literary" and what is called "genre," proposing that the literature currently coming into being finds its roots not in modernism but in mid-twentieth century fantasy and science fiction. I've been to this site before and always find Ted Gioia interesting.

"A critic as astute as James Wood--who ranks, for better or worse, among the most influential writers on literature in our time--can continue to pretend that the "realist" tradition in literature somehow reigns supreme. Yet any perspicacious reader should be able to see that tinkering with reality is the real driving force in contemporary fiction, and has been for a long time."


Clive Hicks-Jenkins, who painted the wonderful cover of Val/Orson, has started an “Artlog,” and I highly recommend it. If you’ve at all interested in the visual arts, how painters think, or how a sensitive and highly verbal visual artist might describe his wanderings through the theatre (dance, set design, choreography, direction, more) and toward a life of painting, go! Clive is one of my favorite people, and his writing has great charm. See you there...


Though this approach to marketing is not new, the examples are illuminating and could be helpful to other writers: when she found that bookstores are often not as welcoming for new writers as they might be, Marie Mutsuki Mockett wrote a series of talks related to her first book. She used them in alternate venues as a way of promoting her novel. Every writer could use a dash of Mockettian boldness and enterprise.

I happen to be fond of The Baton Rouge Advocate, in part because I love Louisiana and in part because editor Greg Langley has been so supportive of my books and in part because it's one of the few newspapers left that has held fast to book reviewing. I remember doing my first book with FSG and being told that Greg Langley "was one of the good ones." He is. Here his wonderful in-depth interview with Ernest Gaines.

"Age, then, was a logical complication in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Gaines sees her age, her endurance as the defining facet of her character.

“I think anybody who can live to 110 years old, who can have baseball and ice cream at 110, they are heroic to me,” he said.

“I was criticized by a lot of my young, black militant critics in the ’70s (for that). Here’s this little old lady, there’s no shotgun, no machine gun in her hand — she’s not doing anything. What is heroic about it?"


One of the more interesting pieces I’ve seen on the subject of “boy books” is this consideration of what pleases boys in stories. David Elzey's references to research are useful; the bit about boys writing noisy prose and being reflective not about what is past but about what must be done next I found especially good. While not yet complete, the essay so far discusses the uses of humor, feeling, action, and violence. The examples and discussion of them would be especially illuminaing for a young writer. David Elzey also does a lot of reviewing on two other sites and is a brand new M. F. A. who plans to write many books for preteen and teen boys.

As I just finished the third draft on a novel designed especially for my third child, a boy of twelve, I was torn between being glad I hadn’t read this before beginning and some regret for the same.


Nobody at the Palace has read or seen anything of the Twilight series, but that didn’t stop me from being fascinated with John Granger’s reading of the books as Mormon allegory—I don’t know too much about Mormonism, so I’ll have to take his knowledge on faith.

Mr. Granger has long considered the curious business of why the Harry Potter and Twilight books have elicited such a huge response from readers. In both cases, he leans on this core idea: “Mircea Eliade, in his book The Sacred and the Profane, suggests that popular entertainment, especially imaginative literature and film, serves a religious or mythic function in a secular culture.”

Considering Twilight, he reaches this conclusion: “In a nutshell, Bella is Eve and Edward is the Adam-God of Mormon theology. Their “Fall”—when Bella/Eve/Man chooses the apple from the tray of Edward/Adam/God, although rife with dangers and difficulties, is the beginning of a spiritual transformation culminated by an alchemical wedding with the God-Man. The story is a romantic allegory depicting the roles and responsibilities of the divine and human lovers, but it has the specifically Mormon hermetic twist that sex within marriage is the endgame and the only means to personal salvation and immortal life.”

And that article made me look back to an older one…


Now and then I still think about this wonderful Joseph Epstein article about the art of Isaac Bashevis Singer. Need I say, to remember an article long after it was read is rather unusual? It has some lovely consideration of particular stories, and it sheds some light on some contemporary problems with triviality and lifelessness in the book-making line: “What makes Isaac Bashevis Singer's fiction so immensely alive is that its author understood that nothing has successfully replaced this drama, with its sense that one's actions matter, that they are being judged in the highest court of all, and that the stakes couldn't be greater. No contemporary human drama has been devised that can compare or compete with the drama of salvation, including the various acquisition dramas: those of acquiring pleasure, money, power, fame, knowledge, happiness on earth in any of its forms.”


Here's Annie Finch on the sonnet in “Chaos in Fourteen Lines: Reformations and Deformations of the Sonnet” at Contemporary Poetry Review: “The very familiarity of the sonnet expands a poet’s possibilities for working with and changing it, and, on exploration, the apparently confining poetic structure of this stubbornly persisting form may prove one of the most accommodating poetic shapes.”


Between gifts at Christmas and an unusual number of friends with recent and forthcoming books, I have a wildly tottering To Read stack. But somehow I need just one more…

Monday, February 15, 2010

Big blogging dummy finally adds Followers button. XD

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stanza Press (U.K.) anthology

In a recent interview, Robin Robertson said, "Any comparison between North America and the UK and Ireland always involves scale. They have many poetry publishers and almost too many literary magazines; we have too few." Into the breach leaps the brave and always-surprising writer and publisher Pete Crowther, who has now founded a new English poetry press: Stanza Press.

They're bringing out an anthology as their first book. I am curious to see it, and I like the idea of being included in such a lively mixture--Dana Gioia and Ursula LeGuin and Kipling and Kees and Neil Gaiman and Donne and many more writers, past jostling with present. My poem is "The Ghost Crab's Woman," previously published in John Klima's Electric Velocipede. It is the saddest of tales. Here's the information and the line-up:

Off The Coastal Path
a collection of dark poems from the seaside

Edited by Jo Fletcher
publication date: Early 2010
£15.00 [$24.00]
Hardcover Edition: Introduction: Donald Sidney-Fryer
Cover Artist: Ben Baldwin
ISBN: 978-1-848630-82-6

Atlantis by Clark Ashton Smith
Triptych by Donald Sidney-Fryer
The Sea Went Away by Ray Bradbury
The Storme by John Donne
Three Seas by Tanith Lee
The Port by H.P. Lovecraft
Pier, Beneath by John Kaiine
The Sea-Wife by Rudyard Kipling
To Her Sea-faring Lover from Tottel's Miscellany (1557 )
The Daemon Lover My Last Landlady by Neil Gaiman
Sea Fret by Brian Lumley
The Great Sellie o' Suleskerry
Shuck by Kevin Crossley-Holland
The Ghost Crab's Woman by Marly Youmans
Creation of the Horse by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Great Unknown by Joel Lane
A Half-Broken Heart (On Brighton Pier) by Robert Edric
Keepsake by Peter Crowther
Night Watch by Dana Gioia
Mermaid by James Reidel
The Beach in August by Weldon Kees
Cape Vacatown by Unknown (after Weldon Kees)
Lost by William Hope Hodgson
Admiral Death by Henry Newbolt
Souls Under Water by Judith Barrington
In 1962, on the Harbor Ice by T.M. Wright
Something Happened by Patrick LoBrutto
On Different Shores by Jo Fletcher
Day's End by John Gordon

Friday, February 12, 2010

Comfort for the changeable

"He is known as an author who changes greatly from one book to the next. And in these very changes you recognize him as himself." -Calvino on Calvino

Monday, February 01, 2010


I'm not sure how all this works, but I'm glad that one of my 2009 poems is nominated for a Rhysling Award and will be in the Rhsyling anthology. Poets appearing in past anthologies include: Isaac Asimov, MargaretAtwood, Diane Ackerman, Alan P. Lightman, Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, Bruce Boston, Peter Redgrove, Jane Yolen, Robert Frazier, GeneWolfe, Joe Haldeman, Thomas Disch, Catherynne M. Valente, Roald Hoffmann, John M. Ford, Michael Bishop, Lucius Shepard, Jeff VanderMeer, Mike Allen, David Kopaska-Merkel, and Amal El-Mohtar. And the poem is here.