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

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 artiļ¬cial 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


  1. Interesting quotes. The last one made me smile with the 'cracks in the egg', 'the loaves of bread', the devouring...

    And this is a new thought: 'the purpose of creativity was to stimulate creativity in others'.

  2. Yes, Redgrove sounds quite appealing in his description!

    My thought is that if we regard the immersion of self in a work of art--a poem, a painting, a story, a ballet, etc.--as an experience, then the reader or watcher or looker is surely doing creative work right there, completing the work of art that was unfinished without that seeing, reading, watching. So even if one doesn't respond by making another piece of art, a work of art is still completed and so made.


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.