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Monday, October 31, 2011

"The Book of the Red King" poems at Pirene's Fountain

Three new poems from The Book of the Red King are up today at Pirene's Fountain:  "Blue Sky, Blue Tree," "The Yoke," and "Fool's Talismans." My penpal Corey Mesler also has poems in this issue.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Travellers and Magicians"

Movie recommendations: a grand movie to watch on a slow Sunday afternoon. I loved the nesting of the stories--one inside another inside another--and the infinitely slow unfolding that is a slap in the face and a reproof to Hollywood. The second film by the Bhutanese director, lama, and abbot Khyentse Norbu is Travellers and Magicians, the first movie made entirely in Bhutan (1993.) Khyentse Norbu ignored professional actors and gave us a cast that includes "the chief regulator of the country's banking and financial institutions, a colonel in the King's Bodyguard, a monk trained in pure mathematics, a senior researcher with the government strategic planning think tank, employees of the local TV broadcasting corporation, a school principal, school children and farmers." Like Bhutan, the outer story's main character has a foot in two very different worlds . . . as does the main character of the inmost story.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Leaves in our hair--

I'm afraid that life has been a bit too busy lately. But I have been moving forward despite the dragons and rocks and pits in the path. One maiden has been rescued, a new chariot acquired post-Irene, and much late-night oil burned.  I turned in the page proofs of A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage. I read Thaliad entirely too many times and then finally tossed in the final version, my fingers crossed that I did not introduce any errors accidentally into the text (start thinking that way and then the number of reads becomes infinite!) Next I wrote a review of Bei Dao's selected poems, even though I know no Chinese--a great handicap, I am afraid--and sent that off yesterday.

And now I doing a  last polish on The Foliate Head so that I can give the final version to Clive Hicks-Jenkins and Andrew Wakelin. Andrew designed Clive's two smashingly beautiful books for his 60th birthday retrospective at The National Library of Wales, Clive Hicks-Jenkins and The Book of Ystwyth: Six poets on the art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins, and now he is going to work with us out of the considerable goodness of his heart, using the Stanza Press template. So we are doing our own thing instead of relying on the press entirely. And that will be quite interesting and fruitful, I think. We do need to make it "look" like a Stanza Press book, but we can do our own version. I'm very glad that Pete Crowther asked me for a poetry manuscript, and that he and designer Mike Smith are letting us fool around with the book. Frolics ahead!

The division pages of foliate heads are already done (if you attended Clive's retrospective at The National Library of Wales, you may remember them.) Clive will also do a cover image. It will be a hardcover book with the image printed directly on smooth boards. Although Stanza is not an "artists' books" press, I think it will be a highly collectible item as well as beautiful.

The poems have all appeared somewhere or other, a great many of them by request--I like being asked, as I am lazy in the area of submission. Energetic elsewhere, but lazy there. I find it rather like laundry. You wash, you dry, you fold... Enough! It's done. Who feels like putting the stacks away?

The book is divided into three parts: Powers, The Book of Ystwyth, and The Green World. And it is made up of formal poems: narratives, lyrics, monologues, blank verse, sonnet, couplets, Burmese climbing rhyme, the form of Puck's Song, nonce forms, even a poem in Renaissance poulter's measure. Like contemplating the leafy energy of the world, strange powers, beauty (the poems I wrote for Clive's retrospective are here), and transformation? Then you may want one of these special little books-to-be!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Psyche Sampler

For a poetry book, The Throne of Psyche is fairly long--at 106 pages, it's roughly double the average book of poems. Let's see; that's 60 poems, counting the seven sections of the title poem. If you would like to take a big bite of the book to see whether you want your very own copy, you may write me. Then you can see whether you want to loll in the grass or on the sand and read my poems (or, around here, whether you must put up your umbrella against the rain or snow and then hurry in to read by the fire.)

I'm pleased to say that this book not only has splendiferous art by Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins on the cover of the paperback and on the hardcover jacket, but it also is beautifully designed and bound. It has lovely papers (particularly the hardcover, but both editions are quite fine) and interior decoration.

 Just send me a little note at smaragdineknot [at], and I will send you a sampler of poems.

* * *

I have caved in and joined Google+...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Nice chicken, honey."

I’m always a bit behind the times in the realm of political ephemera, so I just realized that the son of my high school biology teacher in Cullowhee, North Carolina starred in a Herman Cain ad back in August. If you haven’t seen “He Carried Yellow Flowers,” well, it has the advantages of Nick Searcy, a sense of humor, genre playfulness, and (not least) chickens.

My motto: Chickens loom large.

If you have stalked me in print with maniacal fervor, you may know that one of my short stories (all uncollected, as I have never bothered to try and publish them in more than magazines and anthologies) deals with a biology teacher who I call “Circe.” Circe is a created literary lady and, as such, has nothing to do with Nick Searcy’s flesh-and-blood mama—my Circe lives in a magic world of illusion.

As to the real life woman who faithfully toted her son to campus so that he could be a child actor in university plays: I’m afraid that I gave Mrs. Searcy a great many reasons to dislike me, being full of ginger and silly at 15 and liking to do ridiculous things like investigate how high a frog’s eyeball can bounce. At any rate, there is little doubt that she did not love me, and it was entirely my own fault.

At the end of my story, I give the paper-and-ink biology teacher an enormous present. In real life, I gave my biology teacher a rather small but no-doubt welcome present by deciding not to go on to advanced biology, even though I had an outsize passion for botany. (That year I had collected and catalogued 120+ flower specimens from four states, including wild orchids and carnivorous plants, for a biology assignment. And that was a bit compulsive and mad, wasn’t it?)

So I made both my real life biology teacher and the paper one happy in the end.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My writing room

I've had requests for a peek at my writing room, but I've always said no, generally because it is often quite messy. But since I cleaned it up so that my daughter could film me in that setting... here goes. Now don't expect an 1808 house to be level (well, this room is in a Victorian-era addition.) The wallpaper was chosen by a little girl who seems to have been quite fond of nails, as I had to pull about a hundred of the things out of the wall. So don't blame me for the girly wallpaper! Well, you may blame me for being lazy and not pulling it down...

What you can find, if you look closer:

1.  A Welsh tea towel with the Welsh dragon that Clare Dudman gave me the day we went to Castle Powis with Dave Bonta.

2.  A carved black bird that my husband gave me after The Curse of the Raven Mocker came out.

3.  Wade fairy tale figures from Red Rose Tea in a cabinet. And  more Red Rose tea figures--once you have a fairy tale set, people give you more...

4.  Art by my children when they were little, including: a big framed naked lady centaur with baby centaurs by my daughter; a mercury glass bottle made by my eldest son; an Egyptian box made by my younger son. Etcetera.

5. Funeral parlor fans from Georgia.

6.  A pair of wooden doves that my husband gave me when Ingledove appeared.

7.  Aberystwyth beach stones and netsuke.

8.  I have some originals of book covers elsewhere, but you can find images by various people who have either contributed artwork to my books or else published me in magazines: Steve Cieslawski, Clive Hicks-Jenkins, James A. Owen (that's the signed black-and-white print), and Renato Alarcao. And there's a broadsheet by poet Jeffery Beam.

9.  An 1875 sampler--I have some others elsewhere, but I thought that I needed at least one alphabet on the wall...

10. Litera Scripta Manet.  And much more, if you have a Where's Waldo? sensibility.

"And are built again"

I wonder if there is really a reason to grieve the passing of this Platonic thing we have called Literature, with its periods, its crafts, its canons of major and minor “figures,” and, most precious, its faith that it is possible, as the critic W. K. Wimsatt once put it, for a work to “endure as a poetic monument.” There are at present few things more Ozymandian than the idea of a poetic monument. The “great works,” the classics, are themselves now “colossal wrecks,” and their only context is a culture “boundless and bare.” The respectful privilege we once reserved for a work like Shelley’s “Ozymandias” now seems like something from a past full of childish illusions. You can no longer refer to a work as a “classic,” as T. S. Eliot liked to put it, without provoking a kind of amused condescension, as if to say, “You don’t still believe in those, do you? It’s so 1950.” The narrative of the “Great Works” has lost its legitimacy, and we have lost our credulity.  --Curtis White, in Lapham's Quarterly

All things fall and are built again
--Yeats, "Lapis Lazuli"

I choose to be like a child in the face of Curtis White's essay. No kingdom worth being  part of can be entered in any other way... I put on the mantle of childlike innocence and the little wooden sword and shield.  Because I want to keep on pushing to the edge of what I have done in words and then beyond, again and again and again, enlarging a world made out of words.  If a few megalithic corporations of the world eat all publishers and all stores and even readers and writers, I will still keep right on dreaming a world and writing it down in words.  And in joy.

That I promise.

More to come...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Book of the Red King: Fool's Sacrifice

Photograph: courtesy of and Ulrik de Wachter of Landskouter, Belgium: a rooftop fool next door to St. Nicholas Church in Ghent. After poking about a bit, I believe that the building is the Masons Guild Hall.

* * *

Another poem from The Book of the Red King is up in e-print and audio at that unique organ, The Flea, brainy brainchild of poet and editor Paul Stevens.  Here's a taster:

He’d expected something clever and strange—
Business suit made of the thread from golden
Orb spiders, clownish robot-dress with gears,
Caddis-fly concoctions of spit and shells,
Maybe a seductress with breasts so tart
And green they almost rode her collarbones.
But there he was, lantern-jawed, in rusty

And you'll have to visit that strange being, the Flea, for the remainder of "Fool's Sacrifice."  You may also fly over to the  Broadsheet 20 Contents and find what the Flea hath suck't for its blood meal

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Still and Green Moon

Oneonta artist Yolanda Sharpe recently had a major watercolor in "Watercolor Revisited: A New Perspective," curated by Linda Mendelson. The show just closed at the James Pearson Duffy Gallery at Wayne State University.  In case you were not in Detroit, here is a look through the eyes of photographer Gilda Snowden.  Lush, playful in its dance between realism and abstraction, drenched in color, it is "Still and Green Moon" (2011.)

Yolanda is quite well known in Cooperstown because she attends Christ Church (yes, the one that James Fenimore Cooper tinkered with and turned into a little Gothic treasure box) and often is soprano soloist there; she also has sung locally in the Glimmerglass Opera chorus, and has performed in recital in the U. S. and abroad.. She recently came back from a Fulbright fellowship to Siberia, and she has just finished up more than a decade as chairman of the SUNY-Oneonta art department, where she was a great leader, establishing a foundry and much more for her department. (Did I say she also writes poetry? Can we all take our toys and go home now?)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mad Hatter's date book

On Thursday I mailed off page proofs for my next novel, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage.  Forthcoming: March 2012, Mercer University Press.  Now I am very close to sending off the tweaked-again version of Thaliad, my blank verse epic poem. (Being quite the mad hatter, I seem to have insisted on reading it yet another "one last time," but I hope to be done today or maybe tomorrow--have a sickie home today, alas.) Pub date:  January 2012, from Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal.

Then I am moving on to do a final polish on The Foliate Head,  forthcoming from Stanza Press in the U.K.  The Throne of Psyche is an unusually beautiful book: The Foliate Head will likewise be beautiful. It, too, will have a cover by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, and it will also have three foliate heads as the division pages. Scrumptious. I will be working on it with Clive and book designer Andrew Wakelin, who did the two sumptuous books in honor of Clive's 60th birthday retrospective.

I also need to get rereading for a review of Bei Dao's selected poems from New Directions.  Any fans out there?

Thanks to all who put up with my over-busyness of late, and especially to those who have helped me get out the word about The Throne of Psyche. I am grateful. (Materials available on request for any other bloggers who want to help...)

More The Book of the Red King up soon.

Image credit: courtesy of

Monday, October 17, 2011

What is a book? The book is a vase

Photo courtesy of photographer Ostillac Castillo of Bourq, France and

Whether it is on paper or digital, a book  is a particular kind of dreaming solitude that may, as Whitman said of himself, “contain multitudes.” 

Dreaming solitude must have a place to dream.

Dreaming solitude must begin and end.

It must be a place “away.”

If it is a collection of poetry or novel of a high order that is not part of the contemporary avant garde—let’s ignore them for nowit must have certain attributes. The book is a vessel.  

It is a vase, made to hold the water of life and be flowering.

It is not one with the internet, even if it is digital and downloadable.  If it becomes one with the internet, it no longer is a vessel and is not workable as a book.

It must exclude. 

It must exhibit shapeliness within itself.


More clarity in the comments, perhaps, as I respond to Gary about what I mean by a vessel--a great deal more than he assumes! That Gary. Maybe I wasn't clear enough... Well, it's a tricky subject. Nothing like being forced to clarify...


An analogy

Long before there was an internet, Yeats said that he made poems out of "a mouthful of air."

A poem is a vessel containing words.

It has a beginning, a middle, and end. It has a shape. It is its own shape.

It makes its own place.

It holds life (or else is a failure that attempts to hold life.)

It excludes everything that is not part of it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Godin on book promotion

A snippet from Seth Godin's blog:*  **

There is no such thing as effective book promotion by a book publisher.
This isn't true, of course. Harry Potter gets promoted. So did Freakonomics. But out of the 75,000 titles published last year in the US alone, I figure 100 were effectively promoted by the publishers. This leaves a pretty big gap.

This gap is either unfilled, in which case the book fails, or it is filled by the author.

*You can tell that this is from an older post (2006) because the number of books published is far, far greater now. But the rest is just the same.

**In answer to a facebook request from Kristen: the original post is here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Divine Comics

Cover image:  I believe this is the first version; the
new image can be seen nowhere but Amazon at the
moment--unfortunately it refuses to upload to Blogger
for some reason. If you are an online shopper, the book is
already available for discounted pre-order on online sites.
 I am curious to see a copy of The Divine Comics, which goes on sale in November. My friend Philip Lee Williams has been working on this book off and on since 1983.  He has also published many other books and been lauded in various ways--winner of the Townsend Award, the Michael Shaara Award, Georgia Author of the Year, and more. 

He has accomplished a great deal and is very well known in his home state and region, but he has yet to have any sustained look at his career. If there are any passers-by interested in a topic for research and publication, I think Phil would be a good one.  With fifteen books (or is it sixteen?) on the shelf, he is certainly at that stage in his career where backward glances start to be important.

Phil has recently retired from many years at the University of Georgia and is no longer doing speaking engagements. Instead, he is holed up on his little fief, writing. If you want an e-visit with him, go to his website, where you can find out more and can also leave him a note on his blog.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Still hunkered down...

I have finished the final burnish on Thaliad, an epic poem forthcoming from Phoenicia Publishing (Montreal) in January. And I have cranked through 100 pages of proofs so far on A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (Mercer University Press, The Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction,) forthcoming in March. Despite some ferrying days, I am hoping to finish all before the end of the week.

Glad to see that the post-tracker shows that visitors are still wandering by and checking out older posts.  Although I try to  pay e-visits to those who drop by and leave comments, I will put off all such visit visits until I finish my deadlines.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Review and blog posts by Randy Hoyt

I have not seen the review as yet, but Randy Hoyt has reviewed The Throne of Psyche for Mythprint, the journal of The Mythopoeic Society, edited by Jason Fisher. Evidently he talked about the title poem at length in the review, but he has also posted several poems and comments on his blog. You may find "The Exile's Track" here and "Near the End of the World" here. It's always interesting to see what poems people are especially drawn to note.

I'd also like to say thanks to those of you who have passed on the word about the book. I posted the first of these links a day or so on facebook and soon afterward noticed that there were more than forty re-postings. Word of mouth and word-on-web are so very important for books of poetry, their publishers, and their authors:  thank you!

Meanwhile, I am still in my burrow, madly dueling with dual book deadlines. I am about to move on to the second one, so I am making progress.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Hunkering down.  One epic poem final manuscript and one set of corrected page proofs for a novel due before mid-month. Status: panicky but cheerful.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Thank you for a stardust-sprinkled review...

Greg Langley, longtime books editor at The Baton Rouge Review and much admired in that increasingly rare role by my various publishers, has written the most marvelous review of The Throne of Psyche I would be a sad creature indeed if such judgment did not make me happy and give me wings to fly over the moon a time or two.

He has stayed with my books for many years, writing them about them in reviews with care and insight.  His reviews have affirmed a faith in my abilities throughout this time, and that has been a gift that has meant much to me--that has encouraged me when I felt that my books were invisible.  I am more grateful to him than can be said in a mere blog.

Thank you to the wonderful Mr. Langley!


Clips from the review:

The first portion of this collection, the part about Psyche, is just one of several that comprise 60 poems. All deal with perceptions that move into and out of reality. Youmans is a traditionalist in her use of forms, and her work will delight those who enjoy classical poetry with direction and structure, yet her strong and inventive metaphors and similes evoke an otherness that only Coleridge attained.

* * *

There is more, much more. Some are wry and a bit sweet, but there is a fierce tone that is apparent throughout these poems, and her “Rue for A.E. Housman,” referring to the English poet who wrote of his unrequited homosexual love of another man who died young, is at once sad and cautionary and slightly bitter.

To have one love for all your life
And as dear as breath;
To lose the shape of what you loved
In distance, then in death;

Yes, what a funny world it is,
Where this is not the worst
That can happen — and daily does.
The mouth that did not thirst

For yours is dust, and you are not.
Yet heedless of all doom
The children shout immortal joys;
Again the roses bloom.

Sad, cautionary and slightly bitter, but wholly beautiful and brilliant. Youmans is a writer of rare ability whose works will one day be studied by serious students of poetry.


Ah, I enjoyed that lovely golden sensation!  And now I must go back to fussing with the final version of Thaliad because it plus page proofs of A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (they arrived a day ago) are both due in two weeks...

Georgia cussing

Photograph credit:  Justyna Furmanczy (UK) and
My father was born in 1926 and grew up on a little sharecropper's farm west of Savannah. I was trying to remember the Lexsy cussing of my childhood--it was nothing like swearing today. Even after he ran away and became a teenage tailgunner and then eventually a professor of analytical chemistry--a sample of the American-dream rise that I still think a remarkable one--he still would come out with one of these curious, Depression-era words.


*I do not remember this one, but my cousin Mike Davis says it was in regular use, particularly by my Uncle Aubrey--so I slap it in the list.

Seems to me there were lots of mule and jackass comparisons... days behind the plow.