Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Friday, April 19, 2013

"the centre cannot hold"

 Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
 Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
 The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
 The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
 The best lack all conviction, while the worst
 Are full of passionate intensity.

Have been watching the news on the computer, listening to the early morning havoc in Boston. Amazing how much wreck and mayhem two young, wild minds can cause. (For that matter, it's amazing how much damage anhydrous ammonia can do in Texas. Or bombs on the other side of the world.) Outside, the birds have not heard and are chirping of better news, and the flowers have not heard of images and go on standing, cold and inviolate. What a beautiful, terribly fallen world.

Addendum: After some chat about the link and implications of what Yeats says on facebook, I should certainly add that in this instance certainly "the best" have been wonderfully forthcoming with help in Boston. I am glad Yeats is a poet, not a certified prophet!

So sad this week for many of the family of man, including that grieving family on the other side of the world whose sons will not come home again... Little brother on the loose, did you admire your elder brother too much?

Faced with assaults on precious pieces of our world and the post-marathon risk of increasing post-terror militarism in this country, we go on, doing what we must do as part of families and businesses and temples and schools and so on. And so do I, along with a thing I feel meant to do: making stories and poems and attempting to support what is fine and worthy in our culture.


  1. And, yet, if the best do not sometimes lack all conviction, how do we not get Congress to pass a bill about background checks for weapons purchases? The lack of action in Congress on a number of issues is evidence that Yeats is right in many ways. I am teaching this poem this week. We will see what high school students think on this topic. Sounds like a good writing prompt.

  2. Would be fun to hear what comes of that prompt...

    I'm all for more Yeats everywhere! Such a class assignment would bring up a lot of questions, including the terms of the prompt as you have stated them... Who are "the best"? Are they actually in Congress? How do we deal with good people on both sides of an issue who have different beliefs--can someone be part of "the best" if they don't believe the same thing you do on issues?

    And how do the terms of the question and those lines related to what happened this week in Boston or in the response to the explosion in West, Texas or in violence and responses to disaster elsewhere in the world (attacks in Iraq, response to earthquake disaster in China, etc.)

    I expect one thing that would be interesting with high school students is to generate all possible questions, including ones that do not agree with their own (or parents') opinions.


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.