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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday, sundry--

Photographs by Mary Morris Youmans.
My Sunday afternoon shenanigans--

By the time you read this, I may well be tootling past the Saratoga battlefield, on my way to summer camp. The mother of three is a perennial ferrywoman... And the youngest child of three is busy, busy, busy.  He has a lot of excess energy to discharge after a year of football, wrestling, hurdling, high jump, and relay.

Why I haven't read your novel yet, and also why if you don't have a novel you should not bother writing one for me because--

I have the  most enormous of all enormous stacks of novels that I have promised to read, all by people I know or e-know. With a life like mine, that appears to have been an insane set of promises. Please read me your book and copy it onto CD, writer friends, so that I can listen to it when I am ferrying. (And while we're at it, tell me why, why, why did I give birth to children who don't give a hoot about learning to drive? The only one who cares is the youngest, but he's 14. Ferrywoman forever!)

I like the sound of this one--

I'm going to have to read Jeffery Donaldson.  He's Canadian! Review here.  I thought Jeffery Beam was the only poet "Jeffery" rather than "Jeffrey." (I also have a brother-in-law who is a "Jeffery.") Donaldson is yet another neurologically interesting poet, too. Nothing like loosened brain wiring to help us out!

You poets out there, pondering where to send--

I sent to Pirene's Fountain for the first time, and I must say they are boomerang masters! They're right up there in the top ten fastest returned answers ever. I sent them something late at night and found the decision in my box when I looked this morning.  (So I now have 50 Red King poems coming out or recently out. I need to send more, need to polish more, need to find hours more.) More and more I like webzines because nothing else can match the number of readers.

What mac should I get, and what frills should I get?

I'm still pondering that question, having a generous-hearted mother who says I should no longer have such a piece of  *&%#! as this thing I type on... Left to its own accursed devices, it leaves out many letters when I type fast. It also practices cursor-leaping, in which the cursor zooms to a new spot for no good reason whatsoever, so that if one is not watching, a great muddle is made. Gary says a MacBook Air, and I think that a good idea.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

More "The Book of the Red King" poems

Two tales of the Fool, "The Yellow Day" and "The Silver Cord," are up at Lucid Rhythms, edited by poet and  fiction writer David Landrum.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dreaming, hand-in-hand with François Houtin

This little post mailed to the universe at large doesn’t really need to be anything but an arrow pointing to François Houtin and Galleria del Leone. I’m not sure how I survived in the world so long without knowing his intricate etchings that have all the rightness of dreams and sometimes remind me of something he must have seen by looking through one of those fey stones with a hole worn through the middle. His etchings are half Earth, half Faerie, half Heaven—unlocking vista on vista through arches and shapes that give way onto marvelous lightening skies. And yes, I know that makes three halves. It would take that many to make up the whole of Houtin.

I love his little garden structures that seem to have grown from some mossy nook, wherever that green dream earth might be found. If I close my eyes and wish hard, perhaps one will seed itself on my back lawn, next to the birch that springs out of an apple stump.

And he’s young as printmakers go—only 61, it seems, and that means time for more dreams. For an instant, looking through the arch of a crumbling ruin onto a vista that slides back forever, you might think him quite as old as Piranesi! I can imagine that Steve Cieslawski likes his work… Houtin has interesting kindred but is quite himself and wonderfully obsessive, it appears, and I am always drawn to the obsessive--those who find "a fire was in my head." That multitude of tiny leaves! The delicacy and intricacy of his dreams! The radiance of skies at the back of his arches and the wonderful eye-peeps drawing our gaze onward and onward from here to mystical there...

I, having the lavish freedom of the mind, shall imagine Houtin as a sort of wandering Aengus, who composes his own "hollow lands and hilly lands" and then passes into them, seeking to catch what "faded in the brightening air." And surely if we can only clamber over the sill of a frame and into one of his etchings, we can "pluck till time and times are done / the silver apples of the moon, / the golden apples of the sun."

How glad I am, François Houtin, that you spent all those hours scratching at a wax ground with your etching needle! True metal and other worlds lay underneath, all the time.

In a mere eye-twinkle you may flit to Galleria del Leone and see many more Houtin etchings in dizzy, heaped-up profusion, along with dream-like titles and a bit of information about the artist and each picture. Here are are few mysteries to entice:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pilfered from facebook--Laura Murphy Frankstone & "The Throne of Psyche"

Illustrations in this post:  a peek at Laura's paintings at her beautiful site, Laurelines. If you don't know it, you should! She is an artist who lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (a place where I have lived three times in my life, and where my youngest child was born.) Oddly, I met her after I moved to Cooperstown, New York. Poet Jeffery Beam introduced me to her site years ago.

Marly Youmans' 'The Throne of Psyche'

by Laura Murphy Frankstone on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 4:26pm.

Just closed the covers of Marly Youmans' gorgeous new book of poems, 'The Throne of Psyche,' and, gosh, it was hard coming to again, on this hot July day. Here there're no freshets, no dryads. No one here uses words like auroral or boreal or louse-pickage. Truth told here doesn't pack a smart punch like Marly's. Ineffable, here, hardly ever happens. But there... oh, yes. I only meant to dip into the book for now, but once in, there was no way out but through. My advice to you: buy this book and read it. Poetry, in THIS world, needs all the support it can get. And, oh, that Clive HIcks-Jenkins cover---a brooding mix of Ucello, Thomas Hart Benton, and Chagall. Sublime.

The Throne of Psyche at Amazon
The Throne of Psyche at Powell's (indie)
The Throne of Psyche at your local independent bookshop (pick a store)
The Throne of Psyche direct from Mercer University Press
The Throne of Psyche at

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tracy Roberts does it again!

The illustration is Papa Gatto, "program spokescat,"
from Ruth Sanderson's book, Papa Gatto.

If you have a better memory than I do, you might remember that about a year ago I talked about one of the MFA students I worked with at Hollins while a writer-in-residence there. She won The Shirley Henn Award at The Francelia Butler conference at Hollins for a story, “Head-on,” that we had gone over together, although it was a very good story before I put in an appearance.

She has done it again with the other story we worked on, “Slew-foot.” Once more, I can say it was already a fine (and highly amusing) story before I got to read it. And now they are going to have to graduate her to keep her from doing it again, tic tac toe…

Tracy is interesting and loveable and has goats that stand on jeeps and generally make a goat-fuss.  She shows and raises cutting horses and is all-around a strong and lovely mountain woman. She is also generous. All year I have enjoyed a big sack of her home-grown and home-ground Bloody Butcher meal, made from a type of corn that has been raised for meal and seed in her region of Virginia for three hundred years. And she even sent Lucius Shepard a sack of Bloody Butcher (yes, it’s a ruby red) because he is the coveting type when it comes to heirloom-seed Virginia corn meal, and he coveted mine. She probably prevented some ninja-esque robbery in the stealthy part of the night.

Confetti, Tracy! You are on the upward trail, which is the right one for a mountain child to follow...

* * *

And speaking of Lucius, Jack Dann and Nick Gevers write that the Ghosts by Gaslight anthology from Harper has won a starred review in Publishers Weekly. And that the powers there pronounced all the stories to be good—rather unusual and what Lucius (who has already read it in manuscript) said as well. It will materialize via print and e-ectoplasm and manifest itself everywhere at the start of September.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Marketing poetry books: helpful links

Here are the links promised in "The Peddler's Comedy, a post about doing events for The Throne of Psyche and discovering that I know nothing about the conjunction of selling and poetry.  Hence, the digging-about for knowledge...  If you desire the introduction and lots of sometimes-indignant comments, go there first!

Feel free to argue, object, or add a link of your own. Although I have rooted about to find these, no doubt I missed some good truffles.

The Belletrist: Selling Your Book

Amusing summation of the way it is from poet Quincy Lehr.  Make that Quincy R. Lehr. I wonder what the "R" stands for. Be sure and check out the comments as well.

Kickstarter sample projects in the realm of poetry. I’m not thinking about Kickstarter as a way of raising funds for a current book, but I am contemplating how it might be used as a sort of subscriber base for a more obscure sort of project in the future. I’m pondering Samuel Johnson’s great projects, which always began by establishing a funding base of subscribers.

Diane Lockward recommends and discusses a post by Marie Gauthier of Tupelo Press and especially likes salon-style events where a friend hosts and guests buy a book.  This idea seems quite pleasant, although I can’t picture asking somebody to do a thing like this… I suppose that is something amiss with me, though.

And here’s the original source on trying and trying too hard and more.
“How very difficult it can be to sell a book of poetry. At full price. To strangers. You can't take poor sales to heart. But all things being equal (quality of the work etc), I've noted that the poets whose books sell regularly tend to be active members of some sort of poetry community. Translation: poets who take joy in all aspects of poetry, who are interested in other poets and other poems beyond their own, who seek out ways to be involved.

Diane’s article in Poet’s Market. "Promoting your book is the business of poetry, but don't expect to make money." 

Nic Sebastian on an inherently non-profit activity and giving away poetry. I doubt that will work for my publishers, but she has lots of interesting ideas. Oh, and she likes Kickstarter, and there’s a link to Unbound as well. Interesting.

Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing (UK) (and a wide consulting business including Blackwell, Cavendish, and other publishing clients) with 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell: The Salt Guide to Getting and Staying Published" T. As "Chris Emery," he is also known as a poet. Sample pdf file available.
“Main description:  101 Ways to Make Poems Sell is an insider’s guide to the poetry business, focusing on the issues that matter: building profile, finding readers and selling books. Hamilton-Emery offers practical and hard-earned advice about the ins and outs of marketing poetry and driving sales. Whether you are a novice or an established poet, this book provides you with over a hundred tools and techniques to help sell your books, keep your publisher and build a readership around the world.”


Monday, July 25, 2011

Rattiness abounds

I am delaying the post with links promised yesterday until tomorrow because I must say that the ever-generous Dave Bonta with his sneaky little recorder has made me the Woodrat Podcast of today. You may scurry rat-like to Via Negativa and hear me and novelist Clare Dudman and Dave and rooks.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Peddler's Comedy

Photograph credit for this little still life
The Throne of Psyche
goes to Robin Rudd and her blog, 
Robin Has An Idea

Tomorrow:  Poetry marketing: helpful and/or amusing links

Lately I have come to realize exactly how hard it is to sell books of poetry in the U. S. of A. With my first book of poems, I was not able to go on the road for various personal reasons having to do with my husband’s professional training and three young children and so on. Little did I know what a great boon that was to my peace of mind!  But now I am getting a peddler’s lesson.  I did not realize exactly what a Pirlipat’s Krakatuk the poetry market was until I did a successful, crowded event where people broke repeatedly into jolly applause and I sold . . . precisely three copies. Three!  After another good event, the store sold . . . five.  

Now I realize that we live in a culture that is rabid about selling, and I’m not keen on either rabid commercialism or the measuring of the value of art by sales numbers.  I know that makes no sense, and that much dross earns gold and much that is gold receives small reward.  That’s the world, and I for one am not going to change the facts of the world or make myself dreary or anguished by contemplating those facts for too long. Nor do I intend to complain or whine—I don’t like the sound of either.  Poetry is far too connected with joy for me to bother with whinging. (What a great word whinging is; I hereby authorize the pilfering of said word from the U.K.)

Ideally, I confess that I would like to write poems and stories and be above such things. I’d like to sit up in a tower with Yeats (and without him, when I wanted to write) and never look down to see the peddlers who might or might not be hawking my books.

Nevertheless, 21st century writers who do not go it alone have an obligation to help the publisher sell books—a writer who doesn’t sell may not have a publisher next go-round.  The need particularly applies to writers like me who do not have an academic affiliation (oh, to have somebodies to scratch my grateful back and I to vigorously scratch theirs in return, trala), who live in a dratted teeny-tiny village where they did not grow up (rather than a small town, a small city, a big city, a downright metropolis, or even some outrageous writer-haven like New York City), and who have a tendency to be caught up in the dream of writing rather than collaring people and demanding that they look at their wonderful new books (with delicious covers by Clive Hicks-Jenkins and 100+ creamy pages of poems, etc.)

So I am doing a little research in hopes that I can fathom what and how people manage to help support their books and publishers in this matter of poetry.  I want to know what works and what is not a waste of precious hours.  Because I have several more books of poems forthcoming, and I had better educate myself. And since other hapless-at-peddling-and-not-very-pushy people are no doubt whirling in circles in the very same leaky coracle, I’m going to post what ideas and links I have found in hopes that they will be useful to somebody else.  Some elements have been touched on in my House of Words series, but I’m sure there is material out there on the web, available to us all.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Insomniac roundup

the cassandra pages

You may see another picture of me with Beth Adams and one of me signing the hardcover version of my new book, The Throne of Psyche, for her at the cassandra pages. And you can hear Beth muse about our visit and her home region and see images of the place as well. (If you are a Clive Hicks-Jenkins fan and look closely, you will see the two new books about him as well as his Equus book, spread out for Beth to see.)


Look at that! When you get up at 3:30 with raging insomnia and proceed to fold laundry, adjust fans and windows, tackle the mess, and finally noodle on the internet, you find surprises. Wandering socks, for one thing. Snoozy breathing everywhere. Cats flopped on cool floors.

A bookseller, children’s author, reviewer, teacher, playwright, director, and scholar, Vikki VanSickle has posted a late but very welcome review of The Curse of the Raven Mocker at Pipedreaming. She says such lovely things that I'll have to remember to stick a quote or two on my Raven Mocker page on my web site.

And did I remember to link to this one?

Zoe in Wonderland

Zoe talks about our big, beautiful Clive Hicks-Jenkins book, and she has also-lovely things to say about my part in it.  Here.

and Robin Has An Idea

Interesting that she picked this little snip from the "Why poetry" interview to post elsewhere: "To be like a magic room that grows bigger on the inside, where it matters." If you missed it and are up, insomniac (or slumbering happily now but awake later), be sure and go by and visit Robin.  Her blog is noodle-worthy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Meeting Beth Adams and Jonathan Sa'adah

Exclamatory caption:
Here are two women in black t-shirts and similar glasses!
They must be artists! Or twins! Or friends...
The shrimp is me. The non-shrimp is Beth Adams.
I am having a very busy week with deadlines--and today is the birthday of my firstborn child, trala, who is now the astounding age of 22--so I've skipped a day or two of posting. Today I am busy with picnic at Three-Mile Point and birthday celebrations of all sorts (and a deadline), so I'm going to share one of the pictures taken of me earlier in the week with Beth Adams (Phoenica Publishing of Montreal and qarrtsiluni and much else besides!) I'd share more, but they really belong to Beth and Jonathan, and I just imagine Beth will use them elsewhere.

In the background is the herringbone-patterned wall of the Pomeroy House, given by Judge William Cooper to his daughter and new son-in-law. Their initials and the date 1804 are set in stone under a side gable. It is, naturellement, haunted, and in fact has three ghosts--a kicking Indian in the wall, a man in tophat in a mirror, and an old lady in black who has on at least one occasion given directions.

It was lovely to have a long chat with Beth (and lots of raspberries and cream) while her husband, Jonathan Sa'adah, took photographs around the village. We talked about many things, including our upcoming book and family and people we have in common like Dave Bonta and Clive Hicks-Jenkins, and I got out my three beauteous Clive-books for her to see. She gave me a book; I gave her a book. Of course mine was my new book, The Throne of Psyche.

Jonathan showed up for more chat and more raspberries. (Yes, they are both interesting and loveable!) Then the three of us rambled up to Christ Church (renovated as a Gothic church by novelist James Fenimore Cooper after his return from Europe), where Jonathan took pictures of the Tiffany windows.

Once again, I had that odd sensation of already knowing and liking the person met for the first time because we already e-knew each other. And that, I think, is my favorite gift of the net:  meeting and joying in people.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Inaugural honors...

Here is a picture of Robin Egg nesting
 in her natural environment.
I have the decided but slightly comical honor of being the subject of Robin Rudd’s first One Question Interview. (A mere two words:  that’s the comical part. I wonder what the next question will be.) Robin (a.k.a. Robin Egg) was one of my students when I was writer-in-residence at the Hollins M.F.A. program in children’s literature last summer. We used to walk the loop road around campus early in the morning, and she has kept up with me since—and she is altogether an endearing person to know or e-know via her blog, Robin Has An Idea.

You may fly to the interview at Robin Has An Idea here. And if you have something to say about the interview, please leave a comment there. Robin just turned her comments on at last! She needs to talk…

Here is a picture of Robin staring at a lost world.
And here is a picture of Robin Wood
(or Robin Hoodie)
in the Southern forests.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A somewhat silly post containing a rather silly caption

Nice picture, isn't it?
The photograph above shows the lively and lovely Susanna,
who was the subject of "I Interview My Visitors, no. 1."
She posted this picture on her blog yesterday.
She bought a copy of a book of poetry! Mine, as you can see.
The Throne of Psyche.
As we know, most human beings do not buy books of poetry.
In fact, this is such a rare (yet noble and generous) activity
that I really ought to post a picture of everybody
who buys a copy of my latest book...
I might even do just that,
if only I had a picture of each person who bought a book--
a picture as charming as this one.
Or a silly or funny picture would do.
I like silly or funny, and so does Susanna.
This has been a very long caption,
nearly in violation of the new federal government
regulations against long captions
(or if in violation, just a teeny-tiny bit in violation),
but it is now o-v-e-r.
I am still burnishing away on A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, in between having an anniversary (today), giving a talk-with-readings (day before yesterday, and it went very well and sparked excitement of various sorts and even an invitation to speak elsewhere, so that's pleasant), going to see my youngest be tapped for the Order of the Arrow (last night at Crumhorn Mountain, with fires and dances and all sorts of shenanigans--and the sense of how beautiful it is to see little children grow up and become more and more themselves), answering many facebook well-wishers (because I have noted my anniversary and my little Arrowian), hunter-gathering at the farmer's market (this morning), and other vital activities having to do with being married and the mother of three children. Very soon, for example, I must schlep out of town (out of village--once upon a time we had an adorable movie theatre, but then it went away, alas) and take them to see the last in that long row of Potter movies.  And I will not be reading my manuscript by flashlight in the theatre because that makes the Other Patrons upset. Besides, no doubt there will be a lot of distraction such as whirlings-about-with-wands and blowings-up of crenellations and riding on a creepy blind dragon. I sense those things to come because I am a rather nice sort of mommy and read all of Harry Potter to child no. 3, who at barely fourteen is now quite a tall fellow, at least half a foot taller than me...

Somehow I am not progressing very fast on my final scrub of the book.  But when you haven't read a manuscript for a year, the little bumpy places are easy to find and polish. So that part is good. It's the time that's hard to find.

Oh, dear. My husband brought me a big fat mojito, just when I was going back to my manuscript...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Paddling with The Shit Creek Review


Thanks to everybody who turned out for "The Breastplate of Moses" talk and reading. I was pleasantly surprised by both attendance and interest. Good questions, too.

* * *


I have never submitted to The Shit Creek Review before... Did the name put me off? But I recently learned that it was founded by that marvelous founder of poetry 'zines, Paul Stevens. Naturally, I had to submit, if only out of my great love for The Flea.

Here's what wiki says about the name:  The ezine was originally started by Stevens as a joke based on its name Shit Creek Review, which is a not-so-subtle ironic allusion to the many literary magazines which use the formulaic title "X Creek (or River) Review", as well as incorporating a play on the Australian colloquialism "Up Shit Creek in a barbed wire canoe without a paddle" (meaning to be in serious difficulties), made famous by Australian comedian Barry Humphries...

You may find the current God(s) issue, edited by Rose Kelleher and Angela France with help from guest editors Ann Drysdale and R. Nemo Hill, here.  You may find my poem, "The Fool as Gilgamesh" (yes, it's another The Book of the Red King poem), right here.  Here is a bite from the poem to entice you, even though a taster on Shit Creek does not seem alluring:

When I ran off to the forest, I was
Looking for a favorable message,
I was looking for signs and omens,
I was searching for some news of dreamtime.

They are, it seems, looking for a new editor. Perhaps you are a poet and would-be editor looking for an outrageously-monikered 'zine. That would be a match made in a no doubt curious place. 

"May the creek be with you!"

* * *


I have a lot of new poetry books on my bedside table. Some are Phoenicia books since I will have a book with Beth Adams' press soon. And I bought copies of books by everybody on the Mezzo Cammin panel at West Chester, and that cleaned me out of book money for a while. Then I have bought several older books that I wanted--the Thomas and a complete or near-complete Causley. It's not as pretty as the Godine collected, but it has more poems. I picked up the Hacker at a local bookshop. And one of these was a gift from the poet, so that was lovely. I want to get some other West Chesterian books when I stumble over a pot of money. Think I might find the end of the rainbow if I keep wandering around day-dreaming. After all, I've already fallen down the stairs...

Luisa Igloria, Juan Luna's Revolver
University of Notre Dame, 2009

Dana Gioia, The Gods of Winter
Graywolf Press, 1991

Julie Kane, Jazz Funeral
Story Line Press and West Chester University
(The Donald Justice Prize of West Chester University), 2009

Kim Bridgford, Instead of Maps
David Robert Books, 2005

Kim Bridgford, Undone
David Robert Books, 2003

Kim Bridgford, In the Extreme
Contemporary Poetry Review Press
West Chester University, 2007

Rhina P. Espaillat, Where Horizons Go
New Odyssey Press, Kirksville, Missouri, 1998
T. S. Eliot Prize

Annabelle Moseley, A Field Guide to the Muses
Finishing Line Press
Georgetown, Kentucky  2009

Leslie Monsour, The Alarming Beauty of the Sky
Red Hen Press, Los Angeles, 2005

R. S. Thomas, Collected Poems 1945-1990
Phoenix Poetry, UK, 1993

Charles Causley, Collected Poetry 1951-2000
Picador, UK, 2000

Marilyn Hacker, Selected Poems 1965-1990
W. W. Norton 1994
National Book Award

Ren Powell, Mercy Island: New and Selected Poems
Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2011

Clayton T. Michaels, Watermark
Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2010

Rachel Barenblat, 70 Faces: Torah Poems
Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2010

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Oldest writing in the Appalachians

As I have a talk today plus must keep burnishing on A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, I'm posting a picture of the oldest known writing in the Appalachians in lieu of having to think about anything more than talk, scouring, and progeny--the items on today's list. When I was in high school in Cullowhee, my friends and I jaunted out to Caney Fork a few times and puzzled over the Archaic-period petroglyphs of Judaculla (or Jutaculla) rock. They have suffered from carousers and mountain cows and whimsies of weather, but when I saw them a year or so ago, they were as mysterious and fascinating as before. Evidently there may be more such petroglyphs buried close by, as there are recorded mentions of two other such rocks, now nowhere to be seen. Perhaps those are better off hidden in the earth where they can't be handled by teens or used as a scratching post by itchy Carolina cows.

The Cherokee had their own ways of explaining these strange signs that pre-dated their own time and thrust mystery into the landscape. The obsessed ethnographer and collector of Southern native lore, James Mooney, whose records I made use of in my two children's novels, The Curse of the Raven Mocker and Ingledove, wrote that the slant-eyed Judaculla or Tsul 'kalu was a giant living on the Tuckaseegee (I lived there for many years and never saw him.) A famous hunter and weather-worker, Tsul-ka-lu made the many-toed footprint on the rock when he jumped from his mountaintop and landed near the river. His stories are sometimes connected to Bigfoot legends, although what always strikes me is that his courtship tales are parallel to Psyche and Eros and various fairy tales in which a more-than-human lover appears only at night and vanishes after he is finally disclosed and fully seen, usually because his sweetheart's family members insist on the revelation.  Alas, he proves to be a kind of monster, as the girl's mother must have feared.

And here's a poem I loved in those long-ago Judaculla-rock days... It says something about men, monsters, and the desire to make the beautiful. Oh, to be a "suitor of excellence!"

 --Richard Wilbur
Beasts in their major freedom
Slumber in peace tonight. The gull on his ledge
Dreams in the guts of himself the moon-plucked waves below,
And the sunfish leans on a stone, slept
By the lyric water,
In which the spotless feet
Of deer make dulcet splashes, and to which
The ripped mouse, safe in the owl’s talon, cries
Concordance. Here there is no such harm
And no such darkness
As the selfsame moon observes
Where, warped in window-glass, it sponsors now
The werewolf’s painful change. Turning his head away
On the sweaty bolster, he tries to remember
The mood of manhood,
But lies at last, as always,
Letting it happen, the fierce fur soft to his face,
Hearing with sharper ears the wind’s exciting minors,
The leaves’ panic, and the degradation
Of the heavy streams.
Meantime, at high windows
Far from thicket and pad-fall, suitors of excellence
Sigh and turn from their work to construe again the painful
Beauty of heaven, the lucid moon
And the risen hunter,

Making such dreams for men
As told will break their hearts as always, bringing
Monsters into the city, crows on the public statues,
Navies fed to the fish in the dark
Unbridled waters.

Note from Steve ZeltThe first line of Wilbur's poem, Beasts, reads "Beasts in their major freedom / Slumber in peace tonight." In an out of print book called TALKS WITH AUTHORS from the early sixties, Wilbur says "I mean various things by that word 'major' but the expression, 'major freedom,' comes from one of the church fathers -- I forget which one. He distinguishes between major freedom and minor freedom and says that the saints enjoy major freedom because their wills are at one with God's will. They don't have to choose anymore. In this poem of mine I attribute that kind of freedom to the animal creation."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Art & the world that ought to be
From Makoto Fujimura's 2011 graduation address at Belhaven University, "The Aroma of the New"--

In my field of contemporary art, the tsunamis of ideologies have washed away beauty, goodness, and truth in the past century. Art has chased after novelty and fame, becoming synonymous with greed. Meanwhile, the business of art danced with Wall Street and suffered from the financial collapse, with nearly half of the galleries closing after the Lehman shock. But the marketplace of art had long been dehumanized. If you speak of "creativity" in the MFA crits today, let alone truth, goodness, or beauty, you will be told to mend your ways. We have lost the essence of what it means to be an artist.

True Art does not chase after novelty--it is a sensory quest for the new order of what God is creating, toward fully realized humanity. Using our senses, Art poses deeper questions rather than giving easy answers. To be truly human in a liquid reality, we must resist the culture of fear and cynicism. The World That Ought to Be is not a utopia, an unrealizable fantasy; it is instead created out of sacrificial love. To love is to quest for the World That Ought to Be. Love is enduring, and love uses all of our senses. Love is generative, and will create the stage for the New to appear. The role of the artist in a liquid reality is to awaken all of our senses through creativity and love. Our quest will be to live  more fully in the liminal zone between heaven and earth, the old and the new.

* * *

Updatery, Marly: I am still working on my final burnish of A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage. A mere 160 pages to go! But I have finished my talk for Thursday, "The Breastplate of Moses," and planned what I will read of my own work. And on Friday I get to meet Beth Adams of Phoenicia Publishing and qarrtsiluni as well as her husband, photographer Jonathan Sa'adah. And there is much more...

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Burnishing "A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage"

Image of a Southern shack courtesy of
and Robert Walker of Mississippi. He has a
great collection of images at Grits Photography--
Southern faces and Southern places.

It is heading toward 2:00 a.m., and I am holed up to finish a last slow burnish of the 340 pages of A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (Ferrol Sams award and forthcoming from Mercer University Press, 2012.)  See you when I emerge--on Monday, I hope! In the meantime, here's a paragraph from a little ways into the first chapter. (And I do have one of those funeral parlor fans with the greenish sheep, souvenir of childhood summers with my extended family in Georgia.)

It was high, hot summer in Emanuel County, Georgia, and not one soul was saved from the day’s blaze or from the night’s smother of warmth; up and down the county, the only sleep was a restless sleep, and near Lexsy, one or two old people woke in a fright because the air was just about too dense to breathe--their trembling hands reaching for funeral-parlor fans printed with a portrait of Christ and some luminous, faintly green sheep--and on some gully-shattered sharecropped place, an infant who had been fighting for air yielded up the ghost on his mother’s naked breast.  Mr. Sam, next door to the cotton gin, returned to bed and dreamed his nightly dream of being weighed in the scales and found wanting.  At The White Camellia Orphanage, the bone-tired children slept without dreaming, all but one, who dreamed about a lost penny.   

Friday, July 08, 2011

Spring snow

When you live far from the region where you were raised, you miss certain things. Sometimes it's food: okra, lady peas, black eyes, crowders, the kind of fragrant peaches and other fruits that don't transport well. Sometimes it's the sounds of accents, sweeter voices or even strange mountain voices that have a lot of hush puppie in them. Sometimes it's a certain kind of courtesy, a flower leftover from another age, faded but still able to make life more beautiful. Sometimes it's plain old (but not plain) flowers: stands of man-high cardinal flowers, crepe myrtles, orchids and ladies hatpins in ditches, redbud, and dogwood.

When I came back from Wales, the dogwoods were in bloom and having their best spring in years. Here's some glimpses of mountain-top Cullowhee in bloom...

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Here We Go Round

Cooperstown region: I shall be doing a talk/reading at the Christ Church parish hall on 7/14 at 12:15. Sponsored by Christ Church and Cooperstown IAM.

As you can tell from this image, "Here We Go Round" comes
from The Throne of Psyche (Mercer University Press, May 2011.)
Hardcover or paperback. Cover image by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

Rumor has it that on some days you feel rather dull and lethargic, as if all of life were ordinary time (and never "jam today," you Carollians.) Here is a rather odd little poem, the sort that crops up on a hot day, guaranteed to make you feel that life must be stranger and more treacherous than it sometimes seems.

So, in case on this lovely summer day you need to remember and know that you have escaped some strangeness, some demonic hair-pulling, some terrible down-falling--



Going around the mulberry bush
At six o’clock in morning hush,

Our feet were crushing the fallen fruit,
Our minds were dreaming of the root

That goes tap-tapping underground
With an uncanny, dreamy sound.


Tiny mulberry demons clung
To undersides of leaf and stung

Our tender hands and yanked our hair
Until we circled in despair

And world seemed all confusion, all
One vertigo of endless fall.


The mulberries tasted of rot—
No wonder. It was damp and hot,

We tumbled down into the ditch
Dug in fairy time by the Witch.

A little dirt makes ditch a mound:
So here ends the mulberry round.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Night journey

"Boulder Beach" in South Africa.
Photograph courtesy of and Nick Holdstock of the UK.

Imagine (or be) yourself at ninety. Imagine you are a poet, still crafting poems. How lovely that your gift hasn't ebbed and drained away!

Sometimes you beat out the ones many decades younger...  As here, where you take up simplicity in a poem of longing for your wife, your helpmeet and your love for 65 years. Evidently love calls us to the things of dream and to a radical foolishnessness.


Sometimes, on waking, she would close her eyes
For a last look at that white house she knew
In sleep alone, and held no title to,
And had not entered yet, for all her sighs.

What did she tell me of that house of hers?
White gatepost; terrace; fanlight of the door;
A widow's walk above the bouldered shore;
Salt winds that ruffle the surrounding firs.

Is she now there, wherever there may be?
Only a foolish man would hope to find
That haven fashioned by her dreaming mind.
Night after night, my love, I put to sea.

--Richard Wilbur

from Anterooms (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Ghosts by Gaslight materializing--

A Publishers Weekly Top Ten
SF, Fantasy, and Horror Pick for the Fall.
Pub date: September 6


The ghost story has a great tradition that twines together the literary and the speculative, those often-battling or sneering-at-each-other genres.  No matter what sort of writer one is, the job of taking a hoary old device like the ghost and making it work the current day is a challenge. And whether you have a love for Henry James or M. R. James or some other ghost-conjurer, there are grand tales to be read.

Thanks to Jack Dann and Nick Gevers for soliciting a story from me for their soon-to-be-launched anthology. And I suspect that if you like Hawthorne, you'll like my story, "The Grave Reflection."


1."The Iron Shroud" by James Morrow
2."Music, When Soft Voices Die" by Peter S. Beagle
3."The Shaddowwes Box" by Terry Dowling
4."The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder As Experienced by Sir Magnus Holmes and Almost-Doctor Susan Shrike" by Garth Nix
5."Why I Was Hanged" by Gene Wolfe
6."The Proving of Smollett Standforth" by Margo Lanagan
7."The Jade Woman of the Luminous Star" by Sean Williams
8."Smithers and the Ghosts of the Thar" by Robert Silverberg
9."The Unbearable Proximity of Mr. Dunn's Balloons" by John Langan
10."Face to Face" by John Harwood
11."Bad Thoughts and the Mechanism" by Richard Harland
12."The Grave Reflection" by Marly Youmans
13."Christopher Raven" by Theodora Goss
14."Rose Street Attractors" by Lucius Shepard
15."Blackwood's Baby" by Laird Barron
16."Mysteries of the Old Quarter" by Paul Park
17."The Summer Palace" by Jeffrey Ford


Edited by Jack Dann, World Fantasy Award-winning co-editor of Dreaming Down Under) and Nick Gevers (acclaimed editor and book reviewer), Ghosts by Gaslight is a showcase collection of all-new stories of steampunk and supernatural suspense by modern masters of horror, fantasy, sf, and the paranormal. An absolutely mind-boggling gathering of some of today’s very best dark storytellers—including Peter Beagle, James Morrow, Sean Williams, Gene Wolfe, Garth Nix, Marly Youmans, Jeffery Ford, and Robert Silverberg—Ghosts by Gaslight offers chilling gothic and spectral tales in a delightfully twisted Victorian and Edwardian vein. Think Henry James’s Turn of the Screw and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a decidedly steampunk edge, and you’re ready to confront Ghosts by Gaslight.