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, November 29, 2013

Leaving the realm called Melancholia

One of many images made
by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
for The Foliate Head
Perhaps it was that big birthday number, glimmering in the near distance, but not long ago I went through a melancholy patch where I wondered whether, in fact, I had done everything wrong. (Oh, I know that I've done plenty that was wrong in ignorance or insensibility. And hope I know better now.) But I meant the whole shape of my life, the fact that I pursued words from an early age, that I felt early on that I had been given the most wonderful, joyous gift and that my calling in life was to use it and give back.

Image by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
for Thaliad
Was that mere delusion, I wondered, some mirage that retreated over the landscape? Were my dreams mere dead leaves? Had I entirely misunderstood everything, here in the world that Keats called "the vale of Soul-making?"

All moods pass on like the leaves, drifting on a stream.

And so once again I am content that my time was spent in that lonely joy, making stories and poems and tossing my bottled words onto the great sea in hopes that my letters to the world would be found. In that careful, careless manner I gave my hours and dreams away.


  1. Oh Marly, I'm glad you recovered from that bout of melancholia! Perhaps that was partly from over-stimulation and exhaustion.

    How I know that 'realm' well! I used to think that the Nordic artists, writers and musicians tended to suffer it most but why not everyone?

    I like that peek into your bookshelf and see many of your own babies there .. of course. I have yours on one desk below bookshelves.

  2. Perhaps! A little too much zooming about the world... I expect a Southerner in the gloom of the North has to overcome some of that light-deprivation. And all people who try to make things suffer from it some time. Just had a note from a poet who is is the Land of the Melancholy at the moment.

    So glad to have books on your desk, Marja-Leena! Makes me happy, as it should--it's an honor for them to be possessed by bright, creative minds!

  3. I hope all is well. It seems to me--based on my own experiences--that leaving melancholia is a always good sign (i.e., there is joy in even the awareness of the departure).

    BTW, I discovered your site this afternoon, although I was already familiar with your work (especially through D. G. Myers' Commonplace Blog), and I hope to return every now and then. In the meantime, as I am about to retire from teaching literature, I am designing my own new venture at another blog site. Perhaps you will visit when it is up and running (i.e., "confessions of an unrepentand new critic"). All the best to you!

  4. Dear R. T.,

    Thanks! And yes, there's that lovely lifting feeling when bad clouds decide to go away. I've noticed on facebook that this post appeals to writers; perhaps they are more prone to the occasional gloom-spell.

    I am grateful to D. G. Myers for writing about my latest novel... And please do come back again. I shall take a look, indeed.

    Good cheer,

  5. I've been there & will go there again. All part of the process. Welcome back!

  6. I agree that forays into the realm of melancholia are part and parcel of, well sure life in general, but especially so for creative people. These dark forests can be darker, deeper, and more difficult to find a path out of than for other people.

    I believe that there are things that happen when we're in that realm, which we're possibly not even aware of, which stir our creativity in unseen ways.

    Not that that makes it any easier to deal with when we're there.

    Glad to hear you've reemerged. Your wonderful 'bottled words' have reached many appreciative readers!

    And very happy (belated) birthday wishes!

  7. Dick,

    Thanks! I am not sure we talk about it much--have gotten a lot of notes about this and was surprised at that.


    Thank you. It is interesting to think that we go into the underworld (of sorts) and bring treasure back--makes it seem worth the foray. Maybe.

    And thanks for the compliment--one never gets too far along for "an encouraging word."

    Cheers, all--

  8. Marly, It's perfectly understandable that your b-day spurred a spell of the sputters. It's a time to reflect, certainly, and one wonders, feels that she has made fatal errors, but have no fear. You've done everything you needed to be doing.
    We're all grateful for it.

  9. Hey, Robinka--thanks!

    Am having a crazy weekend with child no. 2 home and the dog trying to die and child no. 3 at wrestling meet (which I usually go to but sent Mike so I could stay with dog and child.)


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.