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Friday, May 31, 2013

Longing for Isaac Bashevis Singer

"Cloister gate" (detail), courtesy
of and Alfred Borchar of Lindlar, Germany
At times one (this one, anyway) aches to bring back a certain departed writer and see what he would do with some absolutely delicious material. In this case, I wish that Isaac Bashevis Singer could be here in plaid suit and mismatched tie to give us a wondrous story inspired by Ari Mandel, the ex-Chassidic man and activist who earned an education and served in the U. S. Army, who posted an intangible for sale on eBay--his place in olam habaah.

What might Singer do with the complexities and absurdities of our day, and how might he introduce temptation and impulse and a sharp-tailed little demon into the whim of a moment, planting a strange seed into the head of Ari Mandel? What musings on the sense of humor of God and Satan might Singer have been led to--what might he have said about a contemporary's atheism? How might the character Mandel live after selling his soul's home, and how might he die, his rightful room in heaven sold away? Where might the soul go? Would an imp pop from his bedroom mirror and whirl it off to warmer climes?

This small moment in the history of the internet shouts Singer! Mandel was, after all, offering a signed contract for his place in heaven, as well as another promising his permanent alienation from religious life and his vow never to attempt stealing his place back again. Isaac Bashevis Singer, this was made for you...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Morning after storm--

Wendy Chidester is one of the artists discussed in the Spring
2013 issue of American Arts Quarterly. Her paintings of out-
of-date machinery are like "relics ... the wonder-working
bones of saints" (p. 42.) Liquid Fuel Iron, oil on canvas,
24 x 26. I like this labor-saving relic of the past, and can't
help personifying the lady iron and her little caboose-
and-papoose child. Looks a bit dangerous to use, doesn't it?
Had breakfast with my husband, who read the news--the silly, the shocking, the unjust, the wars against free speech--and then I wrote a poem about it. A start with a poem was pleasing, as I must drudgedrudgedrudge all day long. In the past ten days the cooktop blew up, the mower's blade bent, and now the dryer is suddenly making outrageous, unbearable outcries. Much to be solved, a world to be tidied...

The mail arrived, and I have a poem (along with Amit Majmudar, Kevin Durkin, and Robert Levy) from The Book of the Red King manuscript in American Arts Quarterly (Spring 2013.) It's a poem about the Fool, and about creation, called "Wild to Make." What a handsome little magazine... The poem will eventually appear on the accompanying website.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Other people's thoughts--

Yesterday was taken up with a trip to Greenwich to drop off a child for a summer job, with stops for supplies--no luck!--and finding the new boss and the place to stay. Afterward we went out to dinner at the Dish Bistro on Main Street, where I met one of the owners, the Susan Garth--a bright, engaging chef who knows how to cook. I had a Moroccan chicken stew, and my daughter a salad with pear and goat cheese, and both were lovely and tasty. I'm adding that restaurant to my "will return" list. And so now I feel like lolling--not allowed--and so have let myself net-noodle over breakfast. Here are my finds:

As Catie Disabato pointed out in a wonderful little piece at Full Stop last week, genres are not the niche markets that publishers have cultivated in order to sell books to readers who want to know in advance just what they’re getting: a genre is a “literary tradition that has thrived longer than the modern construct of ‘literary’ fiction.” The tradition of the novel includes mysteries, fantasies, science fiction, romances, horror, even Westerns. The question is not to what subgenre a book belongs. The question is whether it is any good. And if it is good only according to the conventions of a subgenre, and not in the larger tradition of the novel, then it is not any good at all.
-D. G. Myers, Commentary

Genre isn’t just a marketing tool – it’s a literary tradition that has thrived longer than the modern construct of “literary” fiction – and when genre is treated as a marketing tool, that tradition is wrongly disregarded.
-Catie Disabato at Full Stop

The LARB’s very sensitivity to first-time writers’ careers gives weight to what I have been saying for some time—namely, literature (or, rather, creative writing) has become a bureaucracy, which shields its employees from markets and thus tends over time to put its own interests above the public’s. Why should I care whether a young writer settles comfortably into a literary career?—especially a writer whose mediocrity eats at the public reputation of literature. -D. G. Myers at A Commonplace Blog

A. E. Housman says, "Poetry is not the thing said but a way of saying it." Charles Williams implies something similar when he writes of poetry, "We must enter into its own world." Herbert Read expresses the thought thus: "Poetry always, in every kind, resides in the word and its associations." Even T. S. Eliot takes issue with Arnold and declares, "If poetry is a form of 'communication,' yet that which is to be communicated is the poem itself, and only incidentally the experience and the thought which have gone into it."
-James Southall Wilson, Virginia Quarterly Review, 1934

It seems a poetry unconcerned with the notion of the poem as a perfect artefact: we are not meant to admire, but engage [with a poem by Ted Hughes]. At the back of it is the celebration of the full rich life, richly apprehended. Hughes once commented that one of the points of writing verse was to help its author come into fuller possession of his or her own experience. A good deal of his work stands as an implicit rejection of that world of narrowed possibilities accepted, however grudgingly, by the narrator in, say, many a Larkin poem. His verse makes one freshly aware — if one had forgotten it — how sterile and artificial much of contemporary life seems. In part, the poems’ animals and individualists are like the repressed parts of the psyche; they are exemplars of possibility. Hughes’ response to Donald Davie’s exhortation that, in the aftermath of 20th century history, we could be nothing but “numb” was a fever of energy. Even the character of Crow, nihilistic as it appears, is rooted in the conviction that life is an ultimate value, underpinned as the sequence is, Hughes pointed out, by American trickster literature.
Peter Redgrove, a poet in some ways similar to Hughes in his energies and fecundity, in a fascinating interview with the American poet-editor Philip Fried, re-published recently in the Manhattan Review (Volume 11, No. 2), observed engagingly that the purpose of creativity was to stimulate creativity in others.
-Gerry Cambridge, The Dark Horse Magazine

When I went up to Cambridge all prepared to be a scientist, the cracks in that started, the cracks in the egg, if that's what it was. I started haunting poetry anthologies, I mean, I took down the Auden and Pearson anthology, which had just appeared then, in 1954, a long time ago—I've still got that volume downstairs—and read some Langland. Well, I didn't know much about Middle English, except from school, but my hair stood on end. It was marvelous, I devoured, I had to have these volumes like loaves of bread...
-Peter Redgrove, The Manhattan Review

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Today I am the Ferrywoman, abandoning my family, toting a child to a faraway summer job. I will not be posting today. (No, this is not a post! This is an almost-two a.m. wave...) Have a splendid day, passers-by.

My words, elsewhere:
    Thaliad's adventure in verse, with art by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins (Montreal: Phoenicia, 2012) here and here 
      The Foliate Head's collection of poems with art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Stanza Press (UK) here
        A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (novel) from Mercer University Press (ForeWord 2013 finalist in the general fiction category; The Ferrol Sams Award, 2012) here
          The Throne of Psyche, collection of formal poetry from Mercer, 2011, here
            Samples from my 2011-12 books at Scribd.
              See tabs above for information on individual books, including review clips.

              Monday, May 27, 2013

              Miss Lila and Miss Kate's boys on Memorial Day

              The Incendiary Blonde.  91st Bomb Group. 322nd Squadron, flying out
              of RAF Bassingbourn. My father is the young man all the way to the right. I
              believe he had reached the mature age of 19 when this photo was taken. It was
              late in the war, and his friend Blaine Corbin, the mid waist gunner, had just been
              killed. Life is full of ironies, and he died from shrapnel wounds on the last day
              mid waist gunners were used. The crew was headed by 2nd Lt. William K.
              Snipes, shown at center front. The navigator, 1st Lt. Otto Bremer, is on his
              left, and the co-pilot, 1st Lt. Glen Crumbliss, to his right. Standing: 2nd Lt.
              Ivar Hendrickson, Bombardier; Staff Sgt. Bufford Brown, Engineer; Staff Sgt.
               Paige Paris, Radio Operator; Staff Sgt. Edward Fitzpatrick, Ball Turret Gunner.
              And then there's my father, hand on hip, the teenage tailgunner...
              It's Memorial Day, and my youngest is on the march, drumming in several parades honoring veterans and the day. "Drummer Rigby," hacked on the streets of Woolwich, passes through my mind and moves on into his death.

              I remember my maternal grandmother, Lila Eugenia Arnold Morris of Collins, Georgia. She was said to have worn holes in her bedside rug, so often was she kneeling, praying her five sons home from World War II. They all came back to her--Louis, Marvin, Hugh, Leonard, and James, although they have now been returned to her in another way, the last Morris brother having died a few years ago. Only my mother, the baby among Miss Lila's children, and her sister Julia remain among the living.

              My father, Hubert Lafay Youmans, and his brother Dafford (a version of the Welsh Dafydd, it seems, as I also had an aunt named Dilly, close to Welsh Dilwys) also returned to Georgia and my paternal grandmother, Kate Deriso Youmans. My father joined the Army Air Corp when he was seventeen, and served as a tailgunner in World War II. They are all gone now, passed into the peace of death.

              Patriotism is long out of fashion with writers and artists, it appears. And yet I thank the boys and young men they were for risking their sweet lives to bring on what they hoped would be a better world.

              Friday, May 24, 2013

              Recommendation + news

              One of many green man heads made by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
              for my poetry collection, The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press,
              2012.) This leafy one wasn't used, though it's a sweet face.
              Useful (very!) new daily roundup of things literary: Prufrock. Subscribe here.
              "Prufrock is a daily newsletter on books, art and ideas, edited by Micah Mattix. It contains links to the best reviews and most worthy literary news items, a daily essay with relevant responses, and a little bit of literary smack."

              Today's roundup included links to first-person accounts used by Patrick O'Brian and the first draft of Finnegan's Wake, as well as essays and posts on dreams in fiction, why literary criticism is important, and much more. I just imagine that Prufrock will save time for the literary-minded. Blog readers who are writers may be especially interested in one of today's links, Jane Friedman's "Infographic: 5 Key Publishing Paths." 

              Publishing paths are changing, even for those of us who have always published with publishers. I have a mix of Big 6, university press, foreign houses (UK and CA first editions, plus translations), and one small press in my publication list. One thing I notice is that my recent and forthcoming contracts are far more varied than the ones I had years ago. I have some contracts where I keep all rights except the right to publish print editions. I have some where I give away print rights for one year only and keep most other rights. I have some where I don't worry about it much--surprise, that would be the poetry! Even in the world of traditional publishing, a lot more negotiation is possible than it used to be, and it's worthwhile to consider what variations are possible with each publisher. (And what must be my greatest change: I've had two agents--serial monogamy--and now have none.)

              If you haven't seen it, please slide down to the next post and read some fat clips from a review of A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage at Commonweal (June 2013.) (The online review is hidden by a subscription wall.)

              I am feeling jolly about an almost-immediate acceptance of a 40-page long story or novella--"ruddy bloody brilliant" is quite acceptable! And now I am going to go look at p. 80 of Thaliad to see what writer Scott G. F. Bailey found frightening and "beautifully and graphically observed." (Thanks to Scott... I love it when people say a book of mine is "excellent.")

              My determination to be sparing with the internet and catch up on writing deadlines, house repairs, and lots more is not working out all that well, thanks to the demands and ferryings of motherhood. However, without life there is not art, so I will be content with being behind-hand a while longer.

              Thursday, May 23, 2013

              White Camellia review at Commonweal

              Edward T. Wheeler, "There and Back Again." A review of A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage

              in Commonweal,
              June 2013

              A few clips from a long, thoughtful review:

              There is much to delight a reader in this novel, an abundance of riches: a four-page bravura description of an arrival of a train as seen through Pip’s eyes; his creation of a new mythology based on the anagrams that can be formed from the word “Earth”; and an extraordinary scene in which a grieving child gropes to find an opening in the air in hopes of accompanying the soul of her dead brother. We have the requisite Gothic characters, those pure, crazed products of America—like Till, Pip’s adoptive grandfather, and his tenant “Princess Casimiria,” self-proclaimed descendant of the Revolutionary War hero Count Pulaski, whose presence with Pip at a parent-teacher conference provokes a hilarious clash of misunderstandings. The novel’s scenes of hobo travel, replete with the casual brutality of rail-yard “bulls” and the violence in the boxcars, are set against the generosity and simple goodness of so many caught westering in the Great Depression. Youmans’s prose is highly metaphoric, rich in evocations that reverberate profoundly, like Pip’s evening wonder in a eucalyptus forest, where “He touched a tree like mottled silver marble. The wind fell away, and the mosaic of leaves above him grew still: blue, light green, gray-green, and jade.”
              That rich prose fashions a journey of substantial self-discovery. In one camp-fire scene, a fellow farm laborer jumps suddenly for Pip’s seat near the fire and lashes out with his knife, lacerating Pip’s hands. What results, for Pip, is something approaching a revolutionary understanding of violence and what it means in the pitiless life of the underdog. “Maybe it made him feel free,” he reflects later. “Maybe he had to tear his way out.... Maybe he was breaking his fetters.”

              As a form, the picaresque novel is dependent on great storytelling, and Youmans spins a captivating yarn. Her voice is expressive and cajoling, her tendency to rhapsody chastened by the gritty detail with which she furnishes her young hero’s adventures. Even as it displays its traditional stylistic elements, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage offers something distinct and modern, transcending the Southern Gothic form. The traveler completes his journey; he has not only come home but found out what home is. As is so often the case in a tale driven by myth, the end rests squarely on the beginning, death and birth inevitably conjoined, conveying to us a sense of experience that is both rampire and release.

              Saturday, May 18, 2013

              Spring hiatus

              As many demands (deadlines, hoards, promises, etcetera) are trilling my name in high, insistent voices, I am taking a little break from life on the internet. Comments here will reach my personal (that is, non-work) email address, should you have the surprising, perhaps dire (unlikely, but odd things happen in this world of wonders) need for a poet and novelist.

              Marly, elsewhere:
              • Thaliad's adventure in verse, with art by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins (Montreal: Phoenicia, 2012) here and here 
              • The Foliate Head's collection of poems with art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Stanza Press (UK) here
              • A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (novel) from Mercer University Press (ForeWord 2013 finalist in the general fiction category; The Ferrol Sams Award, 2012) here
              • The Throne of Psyche, collection of formal poetry from Mercer, 2011, here
              • Samples from my 2011-12 books at Scribd.
              • See tabs above for information on individual books, including review clips.
              One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries. —A.A. Milne

              Friday, May 17, 2013

              Spring & all

              The face of a man who has joy. Photo: Jessica Hill.
              What a delicious morning! Drove my youngest to school on torn-up roads under heavy boughs of flowers, saw a happy dog chasing birds, sang all the way home, and fell in love with an old barbering man named Anthony Cymerys who paid right attention in church. Then I wrote a poem about it all.

              I flashed around the sky and landed safely, and never once remembered Benghazi or IRS targeting or any number of things that tugged at me this week... On a glad morning, I feel sure that right things win through in the end, and that being in the world but not quite of the world will save us from the realm of Babel, jargon, and lies.

              Thursday, May 16, 2013

              Index to my online poems in Mezzo Cammin

              and 2007.1.

              Mezzo Cammin is one of my favorite places to publish. I admire the energy and work of poet, Mezzo Cammin editor, West Chester director, and founder of the woman poets' timeline project Kim Bridgford. Here's a little map to my various publications there. More will be coming out in the next few issues. I think this compact list can serve as a little introduction to my poetry, as it contains a lot of variety, including a snip from Thaliad, poems from The Foliate Head and The Throne of Psyche, and some adventures with the Fool and the King from The Book of the Red King (forthcoming, some day!)
              And don't miss "Don't make fun of renowned Dan Brown."

              Susan Morgan Leveille + Oaks Gallery

              Click to see details.
              Shawl by Susan Morgan Leveille.
              Again I'm recommending weaver Susan Morgan Leveille (commission a coverlet, shawl, table covering, more!) and her Oaks Gallery at Riverwood (Dillsboro, North Carolina) for weaving and mountain crafts. Susan's great-aunt, Lucy Morgan, founded The Penland School of Crafts and taught a multitude of western North Carolina mountain women the crafts that had once been the birthright of many Scots-Irish settlers. Many surviving overshot coverlets and other weavings are evidence of her important work, as is the flourishing of Penland. "Founded in 1929 by Lucy Morgan, Penland School was originally an outgrowth of a craft-based economic development project she had started several years earlier."

              Almost a century later, her great-niece Susan teaches weaving, is a superb weaver (starting when she was barely school age at Penland), and owns The Oaks Gallery with her husband. The Oaks Gallery sells jewelry, handmade clothing, pottery, carvings, metalwork, and more, all from first-rate craftspeople in North Carolina and beyond, and is a part of the Riverwood studios founded by Susan's parents, Ralph and Ruth Morgan.

              Susan's work is beautiful; it also has the same sort of collectible cachet that accrues to, say, the Ben Owens family line of potters in Seagrove. The history of North Carolina mountain crafts is tied to the Morgan family in important, remembered ways.
              Leveille specializes in overshot coverlet weaving, a form common in the mountains for generations. She says that she enjoys "sharing how these coverlets were made, and sharing their structure." She teaches every chance she can get, she says, both privately and in many workshops and craft schools throughout the region. Among the other traditional weaving styles she teaches are lace weave of huck toweling, and the Summer and Winter weave that was popular in colonial times. She loves teaching children and adults, and can gear workshops to any age or skill level. In her frequent school visits, she particularly loves "helping teachers relate weaving and fiber to whatever they might be teaching," from arithmetic and geometry to history and music. These concepts all come together in surprising but natural intersections in the art of weaving.

              Leveille has taught at Penland, the John C. Campbell Folk School, and numerous other important craft centers. She is also one of the co-founders of the Stecoah Valley Weavers, a guild that operates from Robbinsville's Stecoah Valley Center on a principle of economic and individual development much like her great aunt's vision for the Penland School.
              The Western Carolina mountains are a frequent destination for East Coast travelers. Take a vacation at Campbell or Penland and take a class with Susan--or meet her in Dillsboro, where she also teaches. She is superb weaver, and one of those people who are a thread in the fabric of a better, more beautiful world.

              Susan Morgan Leveille, detail showing Norwegian krokbragd weave

              Wednesday, May 15, 2013

              The Bandersnatch

              Drifted into a wee small nap, and woke dreaming that I was at a literary conference, staying in a marvelous hotel with sunny big rooms and wide halls that felt like home (only tidier, lacking progeny.) The place was called The Bandersnatch, and the outside was made of wood, wonderfully carved in a folk-art sort of way with the Bandersnatch itself closely surrounded by flowers and leaves and insects, all stained deep, brilliant colors with inks rather than being painted. The predominant color was a deep greeney color with a dash of turquoise blue in the mix. The sight was so wonderful that I felt disoriented on waking to realize that there is no such carved, inked hotel called The Bandersnatch in this world.

              I tell you not to bore you with somebody else's dream but in order to increase the knowledge of The Bandersnatch, in hopes that some quirky, generous billionaire should be inspired to add it to the collection of marvels in our world. I believe my friend Clive could design the carved, inked Bandersnatch in his prospect of flowers and leaves. I always wanted to see a Bandersnatch, and now I have. However, all its sharp detail is disintegrating, as is the way in dreams. Like vampires, they suffer from the light.

              P. S. As this is a second post of the day, I would hate for you to miss the beau présent challenge in the first. Scroll down! Be not shy but increase the strangeness and color of the world! Love, Marly


              Wandering around the labyrinth of Arts and Letters Daily over morning tea, I found a Sara Lodge review of Daniel Levin Becker's Many Subtle Channels--it's more like a feature piece, and is a sort of introduction to the fascinating word-twisters of OuLiPo, the Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle. Since I spent my afternoon and evening at a long track meet, I felt a bit frivolous and immediately started playing with the beau présent, which Lodge defines this way: "A beau présent, meanwhile, is a poem that contains only the letters in the recipient’s name. Writing one for Malcolm X would thus pose a challenge."

              I used my writer's name, Marly Youmans, rather than my full name, just to limit the exercise further. Try one! (And if you do, leave it or a link to it in the comments.)

              A May Lay
              Marly Youmans beau présent

              You, a man, say, marl--
              You, ram-Rama-Ramayama--
              You, Mara, Mary, Lou--
              You, lars or Lars--

              Nary a you--
              You, many.

              And what about Malcolm X being a challenge? Why not take a stab at it?

              LOL Mall
              Malcolm X beau présent

              Loco, all-mal mall?
              Loco lox loom?
              All-loco ox?

              O, calm,
              O, cool--

              Loco XOXO, ma'am.
              Loco LOL.

              Monday, May 13, 2013

              "Pretty well"

              "In short, I am an ignoramus, but pretty well for a yeoman." -R. D. Blackmore, Lorna Doone

              The "romance of Exmoor" was at first self-published (1869), or, as would have been said, "privately printed." The book did not sell very well. But the next year it caught fire with readers and has never been out of print since. Lorna Doone was admired by Mrs. Oliphant, Robert Louis Stevenson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Hardy. Now there's a self-publishing story!

              Sunday, May 12, 2013

              "Poets share La. connection, mastery of language"

              Greg Langley on four books of poetry by poets with Louisiana connections here. As a child I lived in lovely Gramercy and Baton Rouge . . . Mr. Langley reviews Thaliad in The Baton Rouge Advocate.

              Saturday, May 11, 2013

              Happy Mother's Day--

              My mother's hands, at some finishing work on a piece fresh off the loom.
              She is also a great gardener, particularly with native plants.
              She used to be head of Serials at Western Carolina University's Hunter Library.
              She lives on top of a mountain next to the sky...

              Thursday, May 09, 2013

              The house in Thaliad--

              Lakelands, the model for the home 
              that the wandering children choose as home in Thaliad.
              It is especially lovely on a summer's day when the front door
              is open and one can glimpse the lake and sky through
              the rear door of the center hall.

              Lakelands, set on Otsego Lake, originally the home
              of Congressman John Myer Bowers and Margaretta Wilson Bowers
              and their eight children, built circa 1804.
              Here's a little snip from Thaliad (Phoenicia Publishing, 2012)--a passage from the labors of Emma the Bard, who was charged with the high work of telling the epic adventure of a group of children trying to rebuild their world--here they choose a home. It's a lull in a tumultuous tale, full of action and event. 
              The most striking Classical reference is, of course, in the book’s name. Using the titular suffix ‘-iad’ would have been an act of pure hubris in the hands of less able writers, and initially I was sceptical, expecting Thaliad to be open to accusations of self-aggrandising pomposity and stylistic misappropriation; after all, calling your book ‘Thaliad’ and hence inviting comparison with Homer could be mistaken as a very cocky move indeed.  Happily, there’s a fantastic inter-textual rationale behind this book’s title and its neo-classical form.  The narrator (and supposed writer) of Thaliad, Emma, is speaking 60 years after the events she describes, and learnt her trade as a poet-historian by salvaging what books she could (presumably the Classics) from the ruined world’s libraries.  SoThaliad, then, fictionalises the story of its own creation; the book itself is supposedly a piece of history, written as a record of the first years following ‘The Fire’. --
              But what persuaded Thalia was not
              A porch or craggy trees or flowered lawn:
              The wide-flung door through which she saw the lake, 

              As if the house were sited in two worlds,
              The one more commonplace, though tainted now, 

              The other stirring with odd glisterings,
              A sea-gray, restless, moody atmosphere—
              The door of glimmering suggested peace
              And joys that wake beyond apocalypse
              To hopeful Thalia, a happy end
              As sometimes in a half-forgotten play
              Unearthed and acted on a village green,
              Where actors in a troop join hands to sing
              And scenes of tragedy rehearse their close
              In measures that turn tragi-comedy.

              The breezes from the lake came murmuring 
              Through open windows in that night of calm, 
              And children slept, their bodies drifting free 
              Of journey’s toil, anxiety, and fear
              As if they floated in the water’s depths,
              Made weightless in a buoyant, chasmal jade.
              At dawn they awoke with a dreamy sense
              Of something set loose from the bounds of land, 

              The house a spacious boat that sat between
              The earth and sky, the water and the town,
              A wanderer that yet might sail away
              To other worlds and navigate by stars
              Unseen by human eyes until an hour

              When six remaining children glimpse a sky
              Where unfamiliar constellations rule
              A dazzling zodiac—the Nine-tailed Cat,
              The Throne of Fire, the Fount of Anguishing, 
              Un-mercy’s Seat. I might go cruelly on,
              But I have brooded for too long on fall
              And desolation, hidden history
              Of world’s end, thing unwritten in the books, 
              Its causes and its powers scribed on air
              And seen out of a corner of the eye
              Or not at all. Better to dream and say
              That sparkling zodiac shows sympathy
              For trial and weariness, presenting Hope
              In Silver Feathers, Gabriel in Light,
              The Mother’s Arms, the Father’s Sailing Boat, 
              The Seven Triumphant Against the Waste. 

              Site long known as The Indian Mound, in park
              lands across the street from Lakelands.
              Although I did not think of it while writing, I suppose
              the mound may have suggested Tumulus Ran-Samuel
              built by the house in Thaliad.
              Lakelands visible behind Indian mound
              Lakelands from behind the left side of the Iroquois mound 
              Park across from the house on Main St.

              Park across the street from the house

              Wednesday, May 08, 2013

              Glass-paper work--

              The first recorded instance of sandpaper was in 13th century China when crushed shells, seeds, and sand were bonded to parchment using natural gum. Shark skin was also used as a sandpaper. The rough scales of the living fossil Coelacanth are used by the natives of Comoros as sandpaper. Boiled and dried, the rough horsetail is used in Japan as a traditional polishing material, finer than sandpaper. Sandpaper was originally known as glass paper, as it used particles of glass. Glass frit has sharp-edged particles and cuts well; sand grains are smoothed down and did not work well like sandpaper made from glass. --"Sandpaper," Wikipedia
              Though called (by those small but terrible singing voices that emerge from the laundry room and car keys and weedy garden beds) to child-ferrying and doing laundry and gardening this morning, I have also been polishing some poems in The Book of the Red King. I have an interested publisher but am not ready to show the whole thing, partly because the poems poured out so quickly and in such numbers that I almost feel that some of them are strangers to me. But the main issue is that I've been so busy for the past year that I have for the most part ignored revising and weeding out poems in favor of writing new pieces.

              And after polishing is done--sometimes to smooth, sometimes to roughen--I must figure out the shape that the sequence will make. Right now I plan to use some sort of alchemical structure as an ordering device, but I am afraid that early parts of the sequence will be too dark if I am very strict about that. Is that off-putting? I'm afraid it would be. Perhaps a series of alchemical transformations is better as a framework--a pattern rather than an over-arching plan. Or perhaps something else entirely will emerge, as the poems are governed by character and narrative to a degree unusual in our day.

              Marly, recent and elsewhere:
              • Thaliad's adventure in verse, with art by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins (Montreal: Phoenicia, 2012) here and here 
              • The Foliate Head's collection of poems with art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Stanza Press (UK) here
              • A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (novel) from Mercer University Press (ForeWord 2013 finalist in the general fiction category; The Ferrol Sams Award, 2012) here
              • The Throne of Psyche, collection of formal poetry from Mercer, 2011, here
              • Samples from my 2011-12 books at Scribd.
              • See tabs above for information on individual books, including review clips.

              Tuesday, May 07, 2013

              On "the value of art"

              Tranquil scene with fish, colored pencil, from the sketchbooks
              of Laura Murphy Frankstone at Laurelines
              Yesterday I read Michael W. Clune's article, "Bernhard's Way," and have been thinking about his summation of art (in part borrowed from Pierre Bourdieu and his ideas on language as a mechanism of power, reflective of one's position in a social space) as viewed by "the tradition," "the postmodern case," and "the new aesthetic criticism." As presented, the three compose a sort of Gordian knot that needs the simplicity of a sword to solve--at least from a writer's point of view.

              Poetry and stories may exhibit what is called "formal relations within the work," and may at times appear to emerge from antagonistic "social relations," but for me these do not determine what critics call the "value" of a work of written art. Surely this "value of art" is deeper and more essential than either antagonistic relations without or formal relations within.

              So how do we find the "value of art?"

              Whether a piece of writing is stillborn, dies away with the progress of time, or flourishes is a measure of the amount of life captured in a net of words. Creation is alive; sub-creation must also contain life. It's that simple.

              But catching such a bright, silvery fish is nigh-impossible. The effort of capturing life in words demands the dedication of the writer's own years, and even then there's no assurance. It's that precarious. It's that strange a goal.

              Sunday, May 05, 2013

              Master Jug and Lady Candlestick

              The Blue Jug (2006) by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
              from Marly Youmans, The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press, 2012),
              and also anthologized in The Book of Ystwyth: six poets on the art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins (Wales/US: Grey Mare Press and Carolina Wren Press, 2010)
              Master Jug and Lady Candle Stick 

              With hands on hips and foliate attire,
              The candlestick is all umbrageousness,
              A shady lady who has stripped the trees
              At upper right to flock her dress with leaves,
              A woman apt to give or take offense,
              Set resolute beside the one-armed jug.
              The wide blue boat of hat upholds a stub
              With candlewick to warn his waters off—
              She’ll have no wild outpourings of his love,
              No boarding of the levees of her skirts.
              She doesn’t know that he, entrenched in peace,
              Is only musing on the color blue
              And how he can by rounding clasp the sea
              Until his wheel-turned soul grows chasmal-deep.
              Impaled upon a thorn, the little fish
              At lower right perceives what she cannot
              And dreams cloud-cuckoo lands below the waves—
              Will get there just as soon as Master Jug
              Can gather all the seas inside himself,
              Enspelling blue chimeric revery. 
                                          The Blue Jug, 2006

              * * *
              Marly, recent and elsewhere:

              • Thaliad's wild epic adventure in verse, profusely decorated by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins of Wales (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2012) here and here 
              • The Foliate Head's collection of poems with art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Stanza Press (UK) here
              • A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (novel) from Mercer University Press (ForeWord 2013 finalist in the general fiction category; The Ferrol Sams Award, 2012) here
              • The Throne of Psyche, collection of formal poetry from Mercer, 2011, here
              • Samples from my 2011-12 books at Scribd.
              • See tabs above for information on individual books, including review clips.

              Saturday, May 04, 2013

              Dear diary,

              One of many collage decorations for Thaliad by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
              Being a post for inquisitive souls eager to know the secrets of a writer's Saturday...

              Rose up entirely too early in order to let out Susquehanna the dog, who was the mighty source of a river of barks. So I stayed up and made dozens of cookies for the track meet sale.

              On the agenda for this bright Saturday: choir practice; singing at a funeral for a sweet lady (lots of hymns, plus John Rutter's Clare College piece, "A Clare Benediction," for an anthem); invitational track meet, and a formidable To Do list. Am hoping for a smidge of writing time somewhere, as I have been writing a good many shortish poems (alas, my life is too crowded at this juncture to start the novel I have in mind, or to write a long poem--and life takes precedence over art, there being no art at all without life), plus maybe a wee but magically-invigorating catnap. Neither Hanna nor my three children appear to have any faith in the power of sleep, at least at the usual hours. Only the cats are on my side in the matter of sleep.

              Birds are tweedling, the new leaves are transparent and sparkling with dew in the sunshine, and the sky is a cloudless blue. It's hard to believe in the reign of death and funerals this morning, though easy to believe in song.

              Addendum: A funeral mass for someone who has lived a life in service to others is a beautiful thing--then there is no need for false praise but for simple truth. How sweet that is.

              Friday, May 03, 2013

              The Seven Deadly Sins » (trailer) by Antoine Roegiers, 2011

              Marvelous share from youtube. Click bottom right for large screen view.
              Antoine Roegiers animates Breughel drawings (1559) of the seven deadly sins.
              Storyboard and details here

              for @DeathZen of the Twitterlands--

              Message sent to Inogolo:
              Name: Youmans
              Pronunciation: as Yeomans: Yo-munz (rhymes with "no puns")

              A certain party of four brothers who came to this counry before the Revolution were all "Yeomans." As spelling reform did not yet exist, their descendants tended to spell their names in various ways at various times--Yeomans, Yeamans, Youmans. However, the pronunciation often remained the same for family members who could pronounce consistently even if they couldn't spell consistently. (Others do pronounce in the way you have noted.)

              Marly Youmans

              The uncanny ordinary--

              Life, what a strange substance, and all woven on the loom of time, which many say does not exist . . .

              Take tomorrow, as that should be pleasant enough, being a Saturday. In the morning, be awakened entirely too early by small, demanding animals. That's a constant. Feel cotton-headed and dense. Drink tea and stare at the birds. Bake for the track meet sale later in the day. Tumble three children from bed. Dig around and weed in the jumble of flowers, trying to turn a cottage garden into Eden. Play with words and write a poem about something (last night it was the definition of a foreign word seen on facebook, so clearly it could be most anything.) Go sing John Rutter's "A Clare Benediction" for the funeral of a much-loved old lady. Then dash off to the youngest child's track meet. Cook because the man who likes to cook is out of town at a conference. Talk to him and my mother by the miracle of technology. Commit the daily laundrification. Probably fall asleep over a book. And perhaps all of that interrupted by surprise, for good or for ill.

              If every day is a little life where one is born and dies away in a short space, how many days are worth the living? Or how many deserve a good job! at the end . . . Fewer of mine than I should like. Lately I've had the wish for each day to be more shapely, more meaningful--that no day feel, at the close, a gift that was wasted.

              Thursday, May 02, 2013

              Wikipedia's woman-wrangle

              Credit to Rutgers art history major Nicole of Bendomolina.
              John Singer Sargent, "Apollo and the Muses," Boston MFA
              The ongoing Wikipedia flap over the removal of women from "American novelists" and their placement in "American women novelists" continues. Here's a pretty good summation from The New York Review of Books. Out of curiosity I have peeked from time to time; yes, I was plunked into the women's sub-category.

              Now I am back in "American novelists." Today there are twenty-one of us nestled under "Y." Nineteen are men; two are women. Ninety percent of Wikipedia contributors are men. Like VIDA statistics, these numbers are suggestive and need no comment.

              The focus of all the articles I have seen on the general outcry (starting with an op-ed article by Amanda Filipaachi at The New York Times online site) is sexism, and there's no doubt that putting women in a sort of ghetto category is a slam against them. But I wonder if there is even more to it than unthinking sexism. Could this be a cracked, unintended consequence and legacy of university-based gender / multi-cultural politics--the sorting of literature and the humanities in general into gender, national, and ethnic categories that now govern many college programs? I wonder this in part because the man who started it all is currently a student in history at Wayne State.

              Wikipedia mandates sorting and categories, but new categories ought to be judged by whether they are helpful or unhelpful. Of course it is not helpful for women to be shoved out of the category of "American novelists"; it simply suggests to readers that only men can be "real novelists," and that women writers do not matter. I expect Wikipedia will have to be content with the alphabet as a way to establish divisions among novelists and other kinds of writers. Any further sub-categories should depend on and refer back to what is called the parent category. (That's a bit of Wiki-geek-speak for you.)

              Outside of Wikipedia, categories can be helpful when they attempt to redress invisibility--a lack of knowledge and lack of attention. I pause and feel thankful for the good work of poet, editor, and conference director Kim Bridgford and The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Projectan exhaustive database of women poets. Perhaps somebody needs to do the same thing for the novel. Couldn't one find a few equally well-known "Y" women to accompany the "Y" men on my Wikipedia page? And what about the remainder of the alphabet?

              (Here's a little side tunnel off the main burrow. I just took a peek, and I am not in "American poets," where six men and one woman find themselves under the sign of "Y." Curious. I started publishing as a poet and have four books out with more to come, and am sorted as a novelist only. How do they decide? Is it a Potter sorting-hat moment, with madcap dithering between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor? Can't one be in two houses at once?)

              What's the upshot of all this? If you are a woman with some spare time and an interest in the issues, you might think about joining the site. They feel the lack of women members, it appears. The current contributing members need to realize that in the case of Wikipedia, mere inclusion or exclusion amounts to a judgment. When Wikipedia is the first and often the last resort for many, especially college students accustomed to leaning on the site for information, it is essential that women be part of major (parent) categories such as "American novelists."

              * * *
              Marly, recent and elsewhere:

              • Thaliad's wild epic adventure in verse, profusely decorated by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins of Wales (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2012) here and here 
              • The Foliate Head's collection of poems with art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Stanza Press (UK) here
              • A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (novel) from Mercer University Press (ForeWord 2013 finalist in the general fiction category; The Ferrol Sams Award, 2012) here
              • The Throne of Psyche, collection of formal poetry from Mercer, 2011, here
              • Samples from my 2011-12 books at Scribd.
              • See tabs above for information on individual books, including review clips.