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

Monday, December 02, 2013

Aphoristic morning

Makoto Fujimura's Dark Shalom, 2012

This morning I feel like bundling all my thoughts into tiny packages--perhaps I shall place them under a metaphysical tree, and hope they are not simply waste of breath! Aphorism too often becomes Polonial, and adds nothing to the accumulated thoughts of the world. Perhaps it is now impossible to add an aphorism that has not been conveyed already in other words.
I don't try in words to be better than some other writer; I try to be better than I am, to increase what is me
Surely it is just as sad to achieve only the expected and conventional--that thing we too often like because it is comfortable--as to do nothing with a gift in the realms of art. 
Poems without joy in sound are dead leaves that will never dance in the wind. 
The problem with much criticism of the novel and poetry in the past century is that it attempted to replace art, not realizing that art is an experience that cannot be replaced. 
Each of us is a secret that cannot be revealed; the portrayal of character in its ideal gives a sense of person and mystery. 
An artist of any sort needs the understanding of what he or she can do, joined with a yearning desire to topple over that boundary--and the next, and the next. 
After hearing many words in various orders read by many poets, I found myself longing for mystery.  
The element most often missing in our arts is the sense of abundant life. 
Even a ruined shack is a chamber of mystery if people have lived and died there.
Well, that was an interesting exercise. Evidently I find mystery to be more important than any other element this morning...

19 comments:

  1. A great list, Marly, and I agree with mystery being an important element in creative work.

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  2. Yes, mystery! Too often I'm reading (or watching or listening) to some work and I find myself thinking, "That's it? That's all you're doing with this? I can see the surface for myself; why don't you show me something I don't see already?" I don't come to art to have my prejudices confirmed.

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  3. Hi Marja-Leena,

    Just spent the last couple of hours talking with a painter friend, so now I'm ready to write some more!

    Hello, Scott--

    Yes, I want to peer through "a glass darkly" and glimpse a new world...

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  4. Oh, I very much like those--especially the first one! Writing is certainly very much an extension and expansion of the self. As I have claimed elsewhere, I often do not know what I think until I have written it down somewhere. That is not narcissistic navel-gazing (as some would insist) but instead is personal development. Well done! After all, there is always room for more aphorisms--especially when they make so much good sense by being a bit provocative.

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  5. Postscript:
    BTW, I have moved all of my blogging activities to one new site: http://acommonplacefromeastrod.blogspot.com/

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  6. R. T., you should write some of your own in honor of your new blogging activities and in honor of proper criticism!

    And I shall hop over and see what is happening...

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  7. Beyond current content, on Wednesday, I begin a serialization of an essay about Wise Blood. Do drop in from time to time. You can bring your critical writer's eye to my humble reading of one of America's most important novels.

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  8. I suppose that I ought to reread it, then. I was absolutely over the moon about O'Connor in high school and college, and it has been a long time since I read the novels.

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  9. "Guard the mysteries; constantly reveal them." - Lew Welch

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  10. Hi there, Tuckabold--I don't think I remember seeing you here before...

    Reveal in concealing... conceal in revealing. Revelation of mystery without being a pedant and tearing it to pieces is certainly both revealing and concealing.

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  11. Ah, now I know! Talk about conceal and reveal!

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  12. I should spend more time listening to you.

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  13. Hi Alisa--

    That's a lovely thing to say! And I'm having a dreadful day (our doggie--vet coming), so I needed it.

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  14. I hope the vet visit went well (poor doggie). As you know, this writing thing can resemble being lost in the woods. I grope for guidance and end up listening to the wrong voices.

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  15. It was kind and even sweet, but it was the final visit. I keep hearing her toenails clicking on the floor.

    Yes, listen to your own inner voice; it may be wrong at times, but at least it is your own wrong, and you'll learn from its mistakes. And your inner voice will tell you when it's good to listen to somebody else, and who, I think.

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  16. I think I understand your sadness. I also recently lost a good friend when my dachshund left me. Your poignant comment about "toenails clicking on the floor" brings me to the verge of tears.

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  17. She was a slender but mighty chocolate lab, famous for swimming across the lake to retrieve ducks. And sweet.

    I am having a melancholy fall in all sorts of ways, but shall consider it in the light of Democritus Junior as grist for the word mill!

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  18. So sorry about the dog. I do rather like the idea of ghostly toenails, gently haunting.

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  19. Yes, me too! I do keep thinking she is here, somewhere...

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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.