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.


  1. Oho--what a lovely meditation on a candlestick and jug. If Lady Candlestick protests too much, may Mister Jug indeed have a fling with the emerald-green begonia!

  2. If anyone chases a begonia, I suspect Herself. She has a penchant for leaves.

  3. I love the whole poem, Marly, but especially the bit about how she stripped the trees to flock her dress, the skirts of which she is resolutely protecting! Perfect.

  4. Thank you, Beth! (One likes "perfect.")

  5. I love how you have taken Clive's painting and made the objects into characters with your own special poetry... as ekphrasis. I remmeber in early days of blogging, doing this kind of online collaboration with a few writers, all in fun.

  6. Yes, it is jolly and also very tempting to do with Clive because his still life paintings are so clearly biographical and refer to various people. So the imp of Personification is always close by.

    All part of a little celebration of his 60th birthday retrospective... which I wrote when I knew it would happen but before the little book of poets was ever considered.

    You should dig up that collaboration!

  7. Maybe I should. Qarrtsiluni had an 'ekphrasis' issue, and Dave Bonta had a 'Postal Poetry' blog.....

    Besides Clive's work, have you used other artist's images to inspire your poetry and stories?

  8. Good question. Probably I can't possibly answer it fully unless I go rooting through my notebooks of poems.

    The first time I remembering doing so is a series of poems that I wrote about paintings in a huge Edvard Munch show I saw in the UK when I was a junior (19/20) in college. And a grad student and I won co-won the college's Academy of American Poets prize the spring afterward, and I used those poems. Two of them survived to go into my first collection, and there was definitely a poem about a rural mountain photograph as well.

    In the second poetry book, "The Throne of Psyche," "Botticelli" (online) was done for the Ekphrasis issue of "qarrtsiluni"; I used a drawing by my friend Laura Frankstone as the starting point. "Nihongan Altar" and "Godspell, or December Triptych" I wrote for another friend, Makoto Fujimura, after visiting his studio and Dillon Gallery. A couple of poems relate to Christ Church in Cooperstown (for literary history buffs, the church where James Fenimore Cooper was warden--and actually they've had a remarkable number of other writers as well.) One is "The Library Pictures," about some pictures by a regional painter (and of course I can't remember name this instant), and the other is "The Angel with the Broken Face," about a damaged Tiffany-esque stained glass window. (I also have a story of the same title.) Some other poems in that collection relate to visual arts very strongly but don't link to any particular painting or work.

    A little poem called "The Sheaf of Wheat" in "The Foliate Head" also deals with a stained glass image from the same church. The six poems written for Clive's retrospective ("The Book of Ystwyth") are the central section in "The Foliate Head." "Green Wednesday" in the last section was inspired by a mask of Clive's father's face.

    Then the long poem "Thaliad" also has recourse to stained glass windows, both the "broken angel" window and a splendid Tiffany window. In the poem, the window is already broken and not repaired, so that fragments of color are on the ground when the group of children go into the church.

    That's all I can recall from the books. I have a lot of unpublished work that I need to put final polish to and send out, and I am sure there are some in that. I can remember one about a drawing that my youngest did of himself as a bleeding knight, back in middle school.

    I do tend to hang out with or correspond with painters a lot, for whatever reason, and often find my best encouragement and inspiration with them. I'm not sure exactly what it means, but I've had a good many painter friends who were inspired by me and I by them. Some of them are printmakers as well, and I know some photographers. And of course I have e-friends like you, Marja-Leena, and I value them highly!


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.