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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 Readings in Advent: Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Picture: Clive Hicks-Jenkins, "My Dream Farm," from a show of art created for children at MOMA Wales, 2010. This one seems so Christmas-like with its town and church that look like traditional German toys and its Nutcracker-like gumdrop trees.

* * *

Today I recommend a blog, only because the writer refuses to write a book! Alas, we have to be content with the kaleidoscope pieces that are his online postings.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins is a special penpal of mine, somebody whose turns of phrase and beauties of mind I cherish. You may find him in at his delicious artlog,, and exchange a message with him there, for he is a good blog-keeper and responds to passers-by, often at length. He also has a lovely site featuring his work at I recommend both highly.

Clive has been many things: a young dancer; a set designer; a choreographer; a director (and much else in the theatre--is there a role there he has not filled?); a seven year's hermit hard by a magical tower that haunts his work; a painter; and more. His recollections and images from the past are always fascinating. One of the things I enjoy about him is a result of living in the UK: the world is small! Everyone is known, or at least seen having dinner in Cardiff. He often posts the steps toward a finished painting, and these are invariably fascinating to see.

But he has great sympathy for other people and for creatures. His descriptions of local artist friends or neighbors are always interesting, and some of his natural descriptions are so fine that I laugh outloud or find that my heart is lying in glittering pieces on the floor when death comes to the little animals of Ty Isaf.

I thought that for a little special pre-Christmas present I would offer something extra--something that's not on Clive's artlog but that says much about him and his writing. He wrote one day in 2009 that "We discovered a little hedgehog fast asleep beneath a pile of leaves under a quince tree, and tucked him back up with an apple for a snack should the thin Winter sunshine wake him too early." Another day he writes of an elderly visiting dog: "Stout and stately. But nevertheless she killed a baby hedgehog in the garden this morning, a sweet little thing the size of a very small orange. As I ran to the rescue I heard a skittering in the undergrowth, the mother no doubt, making her escape. [The dog] had completely eviscerated the little thing, and it shuddered into death." And later: "The hedgehog slaying haunts me. The little creature's evident distress and pain.... panting, its tiny face screwed up, eyes squeezed shut and muzzle furrowed with grimace lines... and the fact that Andrew the gardener said that when he reached down to try to help it (he'd reached the spot ahead of me) the poor thing screamed in agony. After it had died I carried it over the the far side of the field so that [the dog] wouldn't go dragging it about, and I was moved beyond description by the tiny palms of its paws, so much like hands, with long flexible fingers. Heart-rending. Oh I am so cross with [the dog], though she's quite impervious to disapproval."

Excerpts with permission of Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Name deleted to protect the incorrigible and the feelings of the incorrigible's owner.


  1. I will surely visit these sites. He has visited my site and I am looking forward to returning the visit.

  2. Lovely true things said about a lovely true man...

  3. Lucy,

    One of the things I miss during excessively busy times is seeing your blog, which of course has been around much longer than Clive's... But has always been full of special beauties.

  4. Oh that's a kind thing to say. I'm always happy to see you as and when, and am sorry too that I don't get here as often as I might, but I'm glad you're still about!

  5. I suppose if we had all the time in the world to visit each other's blogs, that would just mean that we weren't getting as much done...

    Hope you have a fruitful and joyful 2011.

    And now, back to the computer grindstone.


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.