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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thaliad and thanks

Early morning facebook post: Smolder of light in the dense clouds... Tiny rift of blue above Glimmerglass, gone gunmetal gray. Momentary canyons break into day-after-hurricane clouds; the awe of world-weather is with us again. But this time we have no giant Kentucky coffee tree on the cars and, to my surprise and delight, never lost power.

And I have worked on marketing, one of those things that I do not particularly love but which must be done in a year when a writer publishes a novel, a collection of poems, and an epic poem in blank verse--A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, The Foliate Head, and now Thaliad.

The new Thaliad page for this website is now up (see tab above.) It offers a little taste of the words and images that will appear in the book. Please take a glance, and let me know if there's anything you see amiss or that you would like to see there. A link to the pre-order page at Phoenicia Publishing is tucked in as well. 

What a year for books! I thought A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage an unusually handsome novel, immaculately designed for Mercer by the Burt and Burt team. Then I fell in love with Andrew Wakelin's design and Clive Hicks-Jenkins's art (green men!) for The Foliate Head from Stanza Press in the UK. But now I am struck by the great beauty of Thaliad. It is profusely illustrated by Clive Hicks-Jenkins and designed by Elizabeth Adams of Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal. Just looking at the print-out--as I must do today, checking for tiny spacing problems and so on--brings home to me what a marvelous collaboration it has been.

I am lucky and blessed to have such friends to me and my books (those mentioned and many more) in the worlds of art and publishing, and again I want to thank Mercer, Burt and Burt, Andrew, Clive (and Peter too!), and Beth for their great gifts of time and love and care for beauty. Thank you for believing that my writing was worth those gifts.

And to all who trust in the work enough to be my readers, many thanks. We live in a peculiar time when the media and the powers of the world like to cast fairy glamour on dead leaves and rot--to encourage people to value and run after things that are empty of life and worth. For this reason, I am especially grateful for those readers who find joy (though sometimes glimpsed through darkness) in my words and continue to support my passion for making story and song. Thank you.

The writer operates at a peculiar crosswords where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location. --Flannery O' Connor

Monday, October 29, 2012


A vignette for Thaliad.
By Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins.
Another mad day as I try to cram Tuesday's events and appointments into Monday. Something is coming this way.... The trees are tossing, and the sky is thick, gray lint. The winds are still whirling and haven't decided on a dominant direction but have started to whistle and moan from time to time. As the still-recent hurricane-and-tropical-storm (Irene, followed by the tree-slaughtering Lee) dropped trees on both our cars, we have learned a lesson and popped the little one into the garage, but the new truck will have to stand firm in front of the house, and I hope the trees across the street will do likewise. School is set for dismissal at 1:00, but I won't be surprised if the buses fire up a little earlier.

As soon as I navigate what I can of the Monday-plus-Tuesday schedule, I need to read, read, read. Let's hope the power and light holds this time around, as the cord of wood we wanted has not arrived, and I have much to do. We were one of the last four houses to have power in the village after Lee. I need to start proofing Thaliad a final time before it goes into print, just to make sure no errors of spacing or line breakage have been introduced.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

This is no post!

The young and frolicsome Bards are here from Bard College, feasting and exploring the village and feasting some more. And tomorrow is booked with events from early in the morning to late at night, so see you Monday...

New Thaliad page up here on the 1st. (New public facebook page is already up.) A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage and The Foliate Head pages are updated--see tabs above.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Novelist Lee Smith on Thaliad

Pre-orders for the limited edition hardcover of Thaliad will begin on November 1st at the Phoenicia Publishing website, and by the close of the month the book will be springing out into the world, turning handstands and flashing its lovely Clive Hicks-Jenkins artwork and Elizabeth Adams design at passers-by. Here is a foretaste.

In THALIAD, Marly Youmans has written a powerful and beautiful saga of seven children who escape a fiery apocalypse----though "written" is hardly the word to use, as this extraordinary account seems rather "channeled" or dreamed or imparted in a vision, told in heroic poetry of the highest calibre. Amazing, mesmerizing, filled with pithy wisdom, THALIAD is a work of genius which also seems particularly relevant to our own time.
          --Lee Smith
Lee Smith is the award-wining author of 16 books of fiction. She is a recipient of the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the North Carolina Award for Literature, and a Southern Book Critics Circle Award.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Deep diving

David Austen for Ch. 30, "The Pipe"
How did I miss this?

I somehow overlooked the Big Read of a Big Book, a novel I have long loved. Moby Dick is a book that goes resolutely its own bright, ecstatic way and tramples on the middlebrow novel like an archangel crashing down on a minor demon. 

Luckily for me (with my head evidently swathed in the clouds), Midori Snyder writes about the project on her blog, In the Labyrinth. Finding an account of this audio extravaganza there is just right; Melville knew all about labyrinths, whether they were a more traditional image of a labyrinth or something even stranger--seas or deserts or the maze of the human heart.

Many different actors, authors, and others read Moby Dick, and many varied artists illustrate it. Tilda Swinton, Simon Callow, Nathaniel Philbrick, Stephen Fry, and lots more... Go see.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reading Morgan Meis at "The Smart Set"

from "Egg Head," subtitled "For Martin Kippenberger, variety was the way to unify the world around him" In which he looks at bewildering mutability as one artist's way of compassing the world.

As nearly everyone has noticed, art in these times presents some unique challenges. One of the most unique is what I like to call the why-do-this-and-not-that problem. In times of yore, this wasn't such a big deal. There simply weren't that many options. You might paint, you might sculpt. Either way, you knew what was expected and you dealt with the problems, technical and content-wise, of the previous generation. Much of the time, you simply took up where your father had left off (see Hans Holbein the Elder and Hans Holbein the Younger). I'm not saying that art was easy business in those times, but simply that it did not present much of a dilemma in the why-do-this-and-not-that arena.

from "No Exhibit for Old Men," or "Celebrating the new worlds of 50 artists under 33" I don't find floating in the abyss, disconnected from history, to be appealing, and a good portion of this work bores me, but it's still interesting to hear how it is described and justified. And I must say that many of my younger friends who are serious painters would not fit into this group at all.

If nothing else, “Younger Than Jesus” shows how utterly absurd are the hopes of critics like Jed Perl or the charming boys at The New Criterion that art will "get back to the real stuff" after this period of postmodern silliness. Exactly the opposite is the case. The newer generation of artists is so "post" that they are largely indifferent to the questions of Modernism altogether. When they do pick up the tropes of 20th-century art, they do so with the same kind of benign curiosity that they use in grabbing material from popular culture or ancient history.

from "Time for a Change," being "The Medieval aesthetic in the 19th century" I found this one especially interesting, having had a youthful passion for the pre-Raphaelites long ago. It managed to revive a departed interest by looking at them in a fresh manner.

We are thus left with something of a dilemma. We have an artistic movement with a professed desire to escape from modern times and return to a medieval aesthetic on the one hand, and a commitment to extreme realism and immediacy on the other. The house of Pre-Raphaelitism, divided against itself, cannot stand. Unless, of course, those two impulses can go together.

And the two seemingly contradictory impulses of Pre-Raphaelitism do go together if you see the realism as a devotional realism. I mean that in the strict religious sense. I mean it in the way that doing your rosary is "devotional." Devotion is an act, the repetition of lines of prayer or of psalms that direct one's mind to the object of worship. And it is in the doing, in the repeating, in the trance-like state that can sometimes be achieved that devotion works its specific "magic."

from "The Art of the Art Heist" Clever way of looking at the Rotterdam heist. 

Poor Meyer de Haan, the Symbolist hunchback who was to die in obscurity soon after he painted the work that has just been stolen in Rotterdam. But it was partly thanks to de Haan and his relationship to Gauguin that Symbolist painting got started in the first place and it is thanks to de Haan that we can talk about it now, after this curious act of robbery. Indeed, the theft in Rotterdam ranks not only as a bold crime — it is a bold act of art criticism. And if I were the police, I'd stop looking for your typical gangster. I do believe that there is a rogue Symbolist collector on the loose.

"Taking Flight: Saint Francis knew it and so does Jonathan Franzen — to get the most out of life, you've got to live like a bird." I liked Franzen-the-man better after this piece, perhaps because I have found his (witting? unwitting?) revelations of self-importance off-putting.

The ultimate lesson that Saint Francis tried to teach is clear to Franzen. It is "that oneness with nature is not only desirable but possible." But to become one with nature it is necessary to become fundamentally humble. It is necessary to learn to appreciate the birds on their terms. And in appreciating the birds, one can come to love the birds. That is what happened to Saint Francis and it is what happened to Jonathan Franzen. In coming to love the birds, Franzen realized that this love "became a portal to an important, less self-centered part of [himself]."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Getting a few things off the writer's chest--

On Martel and on being a judge

Why are journalists and others complaining that Martel should not have gotten the Booker because a. she has one already and b. somebody else could have used the promotion? If she should not have gotten it--a thing I do not know, not having read the books that are finalists--that judgment should have been made on other grounds entirely.

As somebody who (with four others) carefully read 316 books this year in order to choose finalists, I just want to say that a judge's job ought to be solely and simply to choose the best books. It must have nothing to do with the personal histories of the authors. It must have nothing to do with book promotion and sales. It must have nothing to do with the trendiness of the subject. Its purposes should be clear and hard and a little cold.

On writing about writing

What silly things are said about writing! There's no reason to believe anything a writer says about his own work. (Yes, including this...) And journalists who whip up exciting little features can be miles off the mark.

The so-called sadness of writers who vanish

Yesterday I read one of those (rather frequent) articles invoking for our knowing amusement the names of now-forgotten writers, as though it is terribly sad that the poor deluded creatures wasted so much life on art. I just want to say that I think this is utterly ridiculous. Such a journalist believes that only the writer who takes home the gold ring has a life worth bothering with--never mind that the world doesn't even know who takes home the ring, according to our descendants, and that all most of us really know for certain in our age is who gets the most book promotion from publishers.

But that sort of opinion, appearing with surprising frequency, asserts a thing that is strange: that art comes before life. Patently wrong! There is no art without life. Think about it. Maybe art isn't the biggest thing in life. Maybe it is not first--maybe it should not be first.

I am engaged in a kind of life struggle to create a soul that is, despite all, beautiful and worthy. I do this only in part by building edifices of words. Somehow this increases me, readies me, steadies me. My intense joy in playing with words and telling stories is one of the things that makes me bigger on the inside.

So these forgotten writers: do we pity them? I do not. They dog-paddled or swam in the great ocean of words and art. Without them, the ocean would have been a smaller place, perhaps too small to hold great whales. Without the reaching after story and art, their lives would have been dwindled things.

Grumpy and possibly unfair, an insomniac's questions at 2:00 a.m.--

Have we as a country of at least potential readers given up on precision of word choice, a little variety of sentence structure, the ability to sound echoes from past works, etc.? Don't people read Conrad and Hawthorne or at least Poe in high school any more? Remember back to the Victorians and before when the development of taste was considered part of an educated personal's equipment for life?

On gratefulness

I had a lovely week of letters and comments from people in the arts and readers about A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage. As I still feel that the book is nigh-invisible, this cheerfulness was unexpected. I'm very grateful to those of you who complete my book (that one or others) by reading it. The tale is nothing at all without you.

Tiny explanation of my word-madness, somewhat like a manifesto--

I was given a gift. I did nothing to deserve it. All deserving comes simply from the degree to which I can increase the gift through fresh creation without falling under the sway of the fashionable lures and Babel-babble of my time.

This is, quite simply, a moral demand.

A call on my life is to not bury my talent in the ground but wield it, sometimes like a sword, sometimes like a song--like a thousand changing things. All this and more I strive to do in, as an editor friend wrote me this evening, my "hard-earned freedom."

Sunday, October 21, 2012


2:00 a.m...

My favorite part of the haunted house and hayride-with-no-hay in Elmira was when my youngest, now 15, had me by the coat (ouch! pulled out my hair) and said in a slightly high-pitched voice and various intonations: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

Spooky-wise my favorite things were the shadowy man who leaped down from the ceiling and kept appearing in my peripheral vision and the two little girls dressed as dolls who never spoke but drifted around their weird nursery. Lots of female victims out of slasher films, the dental victim particularly apt and summing up how I feel about going to my dentist. She's going to have laryngitis very soon. Favorite effects: the quicksand floor (shades of Wilkie Collins and the quivering sands) and the sucking claustrophobic tunnel. Bad night vision: evidently I missed all the rats in the luminous swamp. The guys at the hayless hayride seemed to be having a great deal of fun racing about in the night, setting fires, and harassing girls they knew from high school. There was a strong thread of danger from men running through the night, and lots of movie references.

Nevertheless, glad to see that my daughter at 21 is not too old to love Halloween antics . . . I slept without dreams all the way home and arrived looking like an ancient child--that is, a grown woman with her hair wildly askew, slantdicular, on end.


Saturday, October 20, 2012


Gerard Manley Hopkins visited me this morning. We admired the yellow leaves hung with raindrops. I wrote him a poem.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Midori Snyder on Thaliad

Novelist Midori Snyder has written a lovely piece about the upcoming Thaliad on her blog, In the Labyrinth. She has read the book twice, a thing I love--rereading is the best reading--and has some interesting things to say about it in her post, "The Sublime Collaboration of Author Marly Youmans and Artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins: Thaliad." 

She also sent a blurb that draws on the review but is somewhat different from it. I appreciate her time and consideration, reading the book twice and then writing a blog post about it.

Perhaps I should say that I did not think of the poem as one that would be marketed to young people even though they hold the starring roles in most of the dramatic action. But Midori has taught young men, 15-18, and she thinks the poem would do well with that age group.  

Me, I hope it will do well with the 15-115 age group! 

Nevertheless, I think there's only gain in widening the audience to include teens, and I will be interested to see if a long blank verse poem appeals to that age group. Here is a blurb Midori wrote (similar to the review) for the book:
Marly Youmans’ The Thaliad offers a healing balm to the swath of nihilistic post-apocalyptic fiction for young adults. Told in free verse reminiscent of heroic epics (Homer meets Gerald Manley Hopkins),  and packed with fairy tale and mythic references, The Thaliad recounts the aftermath of a fiery apocalypse, and the perilous journey of a band of children led by a girl whose prophetic visions guide them to a sanctuary on the edge of a lake. Here, they confront the challenges of re-creating the world – a world illuminated by hope and love.
Youmans has given young adults a wondrous text filled with richly layered and evocative poetry. Like a bardic tale, it demands to be read aloud. The images of nature are sensual, fertile, a source of healing. Violence is hammered into fierce staccato rhythms and Thalia’s ecstatic visions soar with heat and light as the human spirit is consoled by the divine. We are not spared the hardships of the journey, but through the storyteller’s voice we have confidence in our destination—it is this commitment to the angels of our better nature in Youmans' sublime poetry that gives Thaliad its power to inspire hope out of fear and love out of hate.
Interesting thought about the five blurbs-to-be-revealed for this book: They're rather long and will have to be snipped for the rear of the jacket/cover, but three out of five talk about loving to hear it outloud. I like that because I care intensely how my poems sing and sound.

Coming tomorrow: hobbits and habits, dwarves and rather short people (like me), the arts, books, the peddler's pack, a royal report...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Insomniac party with Christian Wiman

I have been reading and enjoying Christian Wiman's Ambition and Survival, picked up at the West Chester Poetry Conference in June and signed by himself . . . What did I say to him? Nothing much. What was I to him but another blurred face passing?

But when I woke at 4:00 a.m., I wandered here and there and settled on this Wiman essay. It has many figures and moments I recognize and respond to; it captures something of Traherne's visionary infant sight; it has facets, worth lifting into lamplight, here in the hours of dark. And so in the end, I commune with him, and though insomniac and weary, I am tossed by his joyful, painful instants of life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Catherine Wiecher Brunell's first book

It's always interesting when somebody you know publishes her first book. In this case, it was Catherine Wiecher Brunell, one of the people I met through Miroslav Volf's Faith as a Way of Life national working group at Yale Divinity School. I wish her book well and hope that it finds that splendid little boat, readership. It is told in the scrupulously honest voice of a woman in search of how to live and love.

She sent me a copy of the book, and I tossed it on to a friend who is an editor and someone I know Catherine would like to see the book. But first I copied a little passage from the middle of Becoming Catholic Again (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2012):
I really have no idea about everything the divine entails and what exactly religion should be. I also don't know what will happen as I come to the end of my life or what the church will look like in a hundred years. But I do know how to respond to the grace that moves in my life today. I try to keep my faith this simple, because ultimately this is what puts me in relationship with an incarnate God. When I say yes to what is before me in life, I know that I am saying yes to the sacred that is there, too. God is in the concrete, and concrete life is in God p. 85.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kathryn Stripling Byer in the NCLHF

Kathryn Stripling Byer has been inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame--many congratulations to her! Kay was the first writer I encountered on a regular basis, back when I was in high school, already thinking of myself as a poet. I'd bump into her at the university library where both she and my mother worked at the time, and often we'd chat there or outside.

We had a similar background in some ways--I spent part of every summer in Georgia, where she grew up, and we both had lighted on Cullowhee because of other people's jobs. I still read Kay's books and am in Cullowhee often, so I have many reasons to think of her.

She has been an active poet laureate for North Carolina, generous to other writers and young people. I am glad to see her now collecting another tribute to her long faithfulness to the art.

You may find her at Here, Where I Am:
Being inducted into the state Hall of Fame, serving as poet laureate, winning the Lamont Award from the Academy of American Poets and the Hanes Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers – Byer’s body of work has been duly celebrated and honored. -Quintin Ellison, The Sylva Herald

Monday, October 15, 2012

Starting out--

A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage
(Mercer, 2012 - The Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction)

Pip Tattnal woke in the dense warmth of an Emanuel County summer at 4:17 a.m., a fact that he would learn much later when he became acquainted with clocks. For the rest of his life he would jerk from sleep at that very instant, his body refusing to sleep through the stroke of darkness. He did not open his eyes. He did not need to open his eyes. He knew where he was—the same place he had been for almost a year. He was on the farm sharecropped by the Hooks family, although the land was always called by another man’s name as if to remind Mr. Jimmie and Miss Versie that they owned not much more than debt and the clothes on their backs plus a spare change for Sunday, a clutter of ironware and dishes, and a few clanking enamel chamber pots. For the last several years it also had been known as The White Camellia Orphanage or The Cottage because of the doings of Mr. Sam Truetlen, owner of a nearby cotton gin and the far-off Gen’l Notions Store, who had traveled all the way to New Orleans and on to Dallas once upon a time, and there, on the outer edge of the known world, had toured a cottage-style orphanage intended for destitute white children and run by the Klan. Being a man prone to fits of “projecting,” he later backed his own orphanage, though most of the children still claimed at least one parent on some played-out, ramshackle farm. Wherever his kind had sunk so desperate and low as to scoop up the red clay to eat, Mr. Sam would arrive on muleback and plod away with one or more children riding pillion, some to stay at The Cottage for a month, some longer. It got so that people for miles around could recognize Daisy Belle, the white mule, and Goshen, the soot-gray one. As for the name of the orphanage, that was the influence of the Klan, with its Knights and Dragon, its Cyclops and Nighthawk and Kamellia—and Mr. Sam’s tip of the hat to the city of Dallas. So that was where Pip had been lodged for almost a year, in The White Camellia.

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.

When he woke, Pip knew something was off kilter. He did not know more, neither whether the hour felt wrong or right. There was a faint slippage of coolness on his back where his half-brother Otto normally slept. The kinship bond between them was tangible, such that the children seemed inseparable, a blood brotherhood of commingled beings. Loss and grief had only made their physical need and ache for each other more clearly manifest. The musky smell that belonged to the little boy was ebbing away, and Pip could detect only the presence of the two others in the bed and the four across the room. The brothers always slept together, with a careful space between themselves and their bedmates, an act that demanded they cling to their perches even in sleep to avoid tumbling down into the deep valley of the bed. Now Pip lay breathing in the scent of near- naked boys and the stink of the chamber pots. These were smells he did not find disagreeable, just as he did not dislike the fumes of kerosene from the lamp or the odor of Miss Versie, unwashed and marked with a faint whiff of blood.

Where was Otto?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Report from the Gulf of Spam

I jettisoned word verification to make comment-posting easier on the blog, and warned that balrogs would devour spam from here on. Being rather busy, I had not clambered down into the Gulf of Spam to see how things are going until now. Word from below is that the balrogs are now quite fat. They wear UGG boots at all times, take way too much ambien and other drugs, and have no problems with erectile dysfunction. Alas, they have fallen sadly under sway of a reductive materialism.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ashley Norwood Cooper & Alicia Stallings

In the middle of an unusually busy Saturday, I took a break to see poet and recent MacArthur Award winner Alicia Stallings, who stopped to see Ashley Norwood Cooper on her way to Ithaca College. Alicia is a fine poet, and Ashley is a fine painter. It was a lovely visit, which I memorialize here:

Ashley Norwood Cooper (L) and Alicia Stallings
You can learn more about Ashley and her paintings here, and you may learn more about Alicia and her poems here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The echo chamber

On Camille Paglia, "How Capitalism Can Save Art"

While I don't agree that there are no interesting new works in visual arts, and I also don't agree that there are no influential painters or other artists, I did find much of this article relevant to both visual arts and writing.

As for artists, try looking for those who are not "of" the trendy, commercial art world. Look in unexpected places. (The same goes for writers. Think that too many writers who win awards and are lauded are the "expected" names and sometimes undeserving? Cast your net wider.)

As for influence makers, look to painters like Makoto Fujimura, who founded International Arts Movement and has been a great leader in realms of painting, the arts, and religion. Take a look at his biography here if you don't believe artists can be leaders on the national and world-wide level--presidential appointee to the National Council of Arts, founder of IAM and the Fujimura Institute, an artist with solo shows around the world, a speaker and culture maker.

I would like to see an energetic critic tackle the art world (and the writing world) we barely see and explore those who deliberately work outside the fashionable, the mainstream, and the academic. Past years of postmodernism and political correctness transformed and even now dictate what is acceptable in the eyes of art journalists.

A few clips that might make you want to read the whole thing:

Unfortunately, too many artists have lost touch with the general audience and have retreated to an airless echo chamber. The art world, like humanities faculties, suffers from a monolithic political orthodoxy—an upper-middle-class liberalism far from the fiery antiestablishment leftism of the 1960s.

Today's blasé liberal secularism also departs from the respectful exploration of world religions that characterized the 1960s. Artists can now win attention by imitating once-risky shock gestures of sexual exhibitionism or sacrilege.

This trend began over two decades ago with Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ," a photograph of a plastic crucifix in a jar of the artist's urine . . . However, museums and galleries would never tolerate equally satirical treatment of Judaism or Islam.

For the arts to revive in the U.S., young artists must be rescued from their sanitized middle-class backgrounds. We need a revalorization of the trades . . .

Creativity is in fact flourishing untrammeled in the applied arts, above all industrial design. . . . But there is no spiritual dimension to an iPhone, as there is to great works of art.

. . . a strange and contradictory culture, where the most talented college students are ideologically indoctrinated with contempt for the economic system that made their freedom, comforts and privileges possible.

In the realm of arts and letters, religion is dismissed as reactionary and unhip. The spiritual language even of major abstract artists like Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko is ignored or suppressed.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

O festive day!
For recent book news, check the A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage and The Foliate Head tabs above. A new page for Thaliad will be up as soon as pre-orders begin.

Ignore me otherwise--today is my daughter's 21st birthday, and so there is much wrapping and decking and lunching and caking and welcoming of visitors and so on to do!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Congratulations to the finalists--

Guest room decor, 2012

Much of my year was taken up with reading (and sometimes rereading) 316 books for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature, along with panelists Judith Ortiz Cofer, Susan Cooper, Daniel Ehrenhaft, and our fearless leader, Gary Schmidt. I am honored to have been asked to judge, and I enjoyed being part of a harmonious group. I am looking forward to meeting the others at lunch on November 14th and then attending the awards banquet, when the winner will be announced.

The five finalists were announced earlier this morning. I am glad and happy for them. And I wish for all of those nominated by their publishers much pleasure in words in the years to come.

The five finalists

Stacks. And stacks!

In alphabetical order by author:

William Alexander, Goblin Secrets
Carrie Arcos, Out of Reach
Patricia McCormick, Never Fall Down
Steve Scheinkin, Bomb
Eliot Schrefer, Endangered

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Chartwell Day, 1

I'm belated in fulfilling a promise (hello, facebook!) to tell about my lovely day that began with my husband handing me a feather from a Mozambiquan lilac-breasted roller. In the afternoon, we abandoned the three children and wandered out of town, ate lunch at a café where we had been once before (curried chicken on homemade raisin bread and a double chocolate cake for me--any day is better with chocolate!), and then rambled on to a garlic festival and craft fair, a modest and country-quirky affair. We picked up honey and bread, garlic and herbs, a tigered maple serving spoon and fork.

On the way home, when I thought the day over except for the pleasure of seeing autumn leaves, we paused beside the road; my husband wanted to peep into a pair of windows always decked out with scenes and toys and figures. Already burning an autumnal golden and falling from its height in the the sky, the sun shot brightness onto the glass that made it hard to see.

In one window stood a goat cart, heaped with harvest. In another, Charlie Chaplin presided over a small dining table with mostly animal diners. While I stared, a cat poked its head through the gap between the backdrop curtain and the wall.

A pleasant White Rabbit sensation crept over me. We had gone to look, and now something looked back at us. While I was communing with the white cat, Michael drifted over. He said that a hand had parted the curtain at the goat-cart window and gestured for us to go around the house and come in . . .

The dining table, Mr. Chaplin at left.

A cat peers out at me.

The goat cart with harvest and animals.

And did we go through the portal and find out what lay inside? Of course.

Saturday, October 06, 2012


Rain on the autumn leaves . . . Inside, my husband hands me a feather from a lilac-breasted roller, plucked from the ground in Mozambique. Given the bird, it might be almost any color, but this one is black, cobalt blue, and sky.

For new poems, see the prior post. For 2012 books (novel and two poetry volumes), see the A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage and The Foliate Head pages. A Thaliad page will be up soon.

Friday, October 05, 2012

the acutest Angle

Angle, that slanted-toward-the-formal poetry magazine edited by those industrious poets, Janet Alexa Kenny (NZ) and Philip Quinlan (UK) has leaped on metrical feet into the world with a great TADA! If you are a person who cares about poetry, you just might like to visit. The issue is dedicated to poet and founder of interesting 'zines, Paul Stevens. You may download and browse the contents here.

   My presence in the issue (pp. 75-77, p. 101),
along with the first two lines of each poem:

The Fool Glimpses the City 
    --from The Book of the Red King--

Waterfalls of stars from outcroppings,
Torn vigorous lace making dervishes,

Because I Pass, I Pass, While Dreams Remain 
   --a little homage to poet Kathleen Raine--

   Who was it whispered in my dream?
The dream hour's angel whispered in my ear

Lumen Hour 
   --one of those uncanny dreams that want to remain--

Ankle-deep, I stand in sunlit waves,
An enormous disk of sun-lit water

To Make Much of Time 
   --finally a poem about internet frittering!--

Why must you fritter, twitter, play
And want fresh hours to the day?

"Angle welcomes poetry that is acute, possibly oblique, but never obtuse."

Favorite facebook posts of the week: 
so pleasant that I'm sharing them.

I read your book yesterday. A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage. Wow. I couldn't put it down. I fell in love with all the characters, and I didn't want the book to end. You are a maestra, Marly!

This is a very short blog post, and you don't have to know the context or know Marly or know anything to read it and be amazed at what the English language can accomplish. Go on! Read it! Stop reading this, and go read that! It'll just take a second, and I can almost promise you'll be made to feel more aware and alive.

What lovely comments, one from a brand new e-friend. I liked them so much that I'm saving them here... In a world where chance plays a large role and the number of writers who support themselves by writing is miniscule, such words are sweet.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Autumnal: my busy-bee day--

I scrubbed the front of the house (disgusting, dirty, buggly-uggly) under the porch and the porch ceiling and raked leaves and cut down my garden and weeded and planted cardinal flowers for next year and gave my daughter a driving lesson and just wrote a little story. Trala! Why can't every day be like this? Think I'll revise a few poems before midnight, maybe toss in a little meditation and exercise and zoom around the moon a couple of times!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Waving, waving--

Here I am, gazing out the windows of the Latte Lounge in Oneonta, watching the Oneontans wander and a man dressed like Neil Gaiman wrestle a large black dog on the sidewalk... Ah, he has plunged upstairs with the dog in his arms. Quite strange. I'm waiting for my older children to get out of a loooonng driving class. So I shall go hang out at the Huntington Library and fiddle with The Book of the Red King, once I run off to get my youngest green hair dye. Evidently it is vital to have green hair on Friday. Let me know how the debate goes, pres-watchers.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A failure of imagination--

I may have more of a mixed crowd among my Twitter and facebook friends than most writers do; I'm not sure. But for a long time I have been bothered about the vehemence and hatred I see expressed by many of my e-friends about an amorphous "they." Usually this means liberal friends expressing anger or scorn toward conservatives or their beliefs, though occasionally I see the reverse. That tilt is natural because I have a lot of friends who are writers and artists, and we tend to fall somewhere on the liberal spectrum. My academic friends are likewise.

Here's what's interesting to me from a writer's point of view about all this.

Novelists dream about that large category, people. Yet there is a whole mass of people about whom novelists won't write except from a stance of scorn. Can anybody tell me the names of some first-rate novels from the past decade or so by writers who tell a story about conservatives with a stance of love and understanding, rather than scorn? That attempt to grasp the worldview, that clamber inside a paper brain with more in mind that mockery and destruction?

The strange thing about this tendency is that writers, of all people, should be able to enter into the ideas and views of those unlike themselves with charity for all. But in this one case, they do not. Will not. And yet for novelists, that is our calling . . . Entering-in is our vocation, or a major part of it.