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Friday, February 08, 2013

Snow. Birds. Thaliad.


It has snowed in the night. It will snow more. The sky sags, weighty and entirely serious with snow. Assorted corvids have appeared, making punctuation marks in all the whiteness. The positively multitudinous sparrows and one chickadee are in the rugosa ravel again, darting back and forth from rose canes to feeder. They know the kestrel is coming, and the snow as well.

Still, they go on hop-running along the prickly rose canes, and they light on the broken lilac and then flash away. Everything for them today is pleasantly horizontal, except for the snow and the kestrel, violently vertical.


Thanks to journalist Michele Miller of Cooperstown for a nice fat article about Thaliad in the Cooperstown Crier
According to a media release from the publishing company, the book is about how the children remake their world after cataclysm, led by the youngest yet most determined among them, Thalia. The release states that children settle in a deserted northern village very much like Cooperstown, and in fact one may pick out versions of Otsego Lake, Lakefront Park, Lakelands, Kingfisher Tower, Christ Church, The Village Library and more as major parts of the world of the narrative poem.
...“Thaliad” has won praise from novelists, poets and other readers for its vigor, characterization and dramatic story.
“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 caliber. Amazing, mesmerizing, filled with pithy wisdom, ‘Thaliad’ is a work of genius, which also seems particularly relevant to our own time,” novelist Lee Smith said in the release.
According to the [book] release, the book has been reviewed as an “exciting and heartbreaking myth of origin.” It states: “The book partakes of mythic and fairy tale elements while using the ideas of the heroic epic to tell a marvelous story about vivid characters. The result is a poem that is a highly readable adventure and story of rebirth with more in common with the excitement and drama of Homer’s epics and Beowulf than with difficult works of the recent past.”
“The epic form is not an easy one, and in lesser hands this audacious project would have failed,” poet Rachel Barenblat said in the release. “This is a beautiful and powerful book worth owning, worth reading and rereading. I am so glad that it exists in the world and that I can turn to it, time and again, glorying in the language and the hope.”
The poem marries story and adventure with compression and joy in language, Ellen Kushner, writer and longtime host of WGBH’s “Sound and Spirit,” said in the release. She called the book a “remarkable and daring work … combines the best of epic poetry with modern fiction” and is “by turns funny, insightful, and deeply moving.”
Youmans, a poet and novelist, had a busy year in 2012. She served as a judge for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature – reading 316 books between June and early September. Before that, she did a book tour in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Youmans’ [2012] novel “A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage” was selected as the winner of The Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction for 2010. The award is given by Mercer University Press “for the best book that speaks to the human condition in a Southern context.”
Youmans has won various awards for her short fiction and has received a wide variety of recognition for her work.
Read the entire article here.  


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  1. This Southerner is very jealous of your snow. Someday I will live in a place where winter is free to come into its glory. Also, I just ordered Thaliad. Happily, I'll finish the book I'm currently reading at just about the time it arrives.

  2. You know that Lamott book, Bird by Bird? Hawking epic adventures in verse is Reader by Reader... Thanks for ordering!

    I do have the Southerner's fascination with snow. But the February doldrums are here. Alas.

  3. "Everything for them today is pleasantly horizontal, except for the snow and the kestrel, violently vertical."

    Love that! Good wishes to you and your avian friends, weathering the storm! xo

  4. Glad you liked.

    I don't think we shall be so bad as some other places, though the snowfall predictions are pretty variable so it's hard to say. 16"? 8"? More? Who knows... We have the lake effect snow here, too.

    But I don't think it will be anything we haven't seen before. Since the year when we got two-and-a-half feet of snow on May 25th, I'm expecting most anything.

    However, I am glad my daughter cancelled a trip to Bard for tomorrow. Little concerned about a wrestling tournament that my youngest wants to attend. Shall see.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.