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 15, 2013


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.


  1. I tried it:

  2. Here's the comment I left at Alisa's site: Confetti! You are the first brave soul (though others have said they would, they have not!) I expect you have a new feeling for the magic of your name. What grand words are hidden in it–grail and glean, reign and rain…

    So go take a look and be inspired!

    Alisa's poem

  3. I wish I had a really long, double-barreled name.
    Alisa's and yours are both (almost) wonderful.

    Here is mine.

    I pay,
    I yap by day and
    Yip up gay…

    Paul Digby by day
    Pug pig by (night).

    OK, so I cheated : D

  4. Fun! Glad you jumped in, Gaulian Paul! Surprised you didn't have a "yay" in there! Short names are definitely more challenging. Also odd letters...

    (Do you think David would do one? Lot of letters there!)

  5. David could write an Epic Poem, Marly. Have you ever known anyone with as many vowels and consonants in their name as he has (and that's excluding his middle name 'Azeroquyrt')
    I do not think we need to go for his fancy stuff HERE.

  6. Azeroquyrt... What sort of a name is that, Paul?

    He is blessed with vowels, indeed. Though without Zerosquirt, he is missing "u."

    Still, I think it might be interesting to see what he could do with Azure-quirt and all the rest of his letters...


  7. A slug, a sill, a lull—
    Our soul lags.

    Glorias air—

    soul aria:
    a gull, a sail—

  8. How heavy and low, and then how light and high! Thank you, Ms. Luisa Igloria!


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.