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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wordsmith, rest in peace--

James Foley, truth-teller, wordsmith
* * *
Beautiful, sensitive face photographed by Steven Senne/AP
Remembering Daniel Pearl
and all those held by ISIS and others.
"We ask for your prayers for Jim and his family." GlobalPost
Addendum: in his own words
* * *
The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates 
that there are about 20 journalists missing in Syria, 
many of them held by ISIS. -CNN

* * *
I died for beauty, but was scarce 
Adjusted in the tomb, 
When one who died for truth was lain 
In an adjoining room. 

He questioned softly why I failed? 
"For beauty," I replied. 
"And I for truth - the two are one; 
We brethren are," he said. 

And so, as kinsmen met a-night, 
We talked between the rooms, 
Until the moss had reached our lips, 
And covered up our names.

--Emily Dickinson

* * *

The third section of "In Memory of W. B. Yeats" 
recurs to me so often now--sometimes daily.

* * *

Journalist James Foley disappeared in northwest Syria on Thanksgiving Day, November 22 2012. Jim is the oldest of five children. He has reported independently and objectively from the Middle East for the past five years. Prior to his work as a journalist, Jim helped empower disadvantaged individuals as a teacher and mentor assisting them in improving their lives.

A beautiful, good, and true life is a light to us all. 


  1. How very sad. Condolences to you if he was a friend or family.

    Love the Dickinson....

    1. Oh, no--just a friend of the world.

    2. And the Dickinson swam into my head when I saw his face.

  2. Oh, Marly, what a lovely, fitting tribute. For of course that is what he was trying to do, report the truth.I heard the report on the news tonight. Poor man. It is so frightening, is it not?

    Barbarism is alive and well and, as ever, despises the truth and will do anything to ensure it goes undiscovered.

    1. Yes, it is frightening. The state of things of late is so desperate. Beheadings of children, crucifixions... Terrible.

      Give me truth and beauty and goodness, the great trinity of art. I believe they are so strangely and deeply connected that to tell of one is to say something about another--even though that may seem counter-intuitive at times.

      Surely to tell the truth is an act, in the end, of love and justice.

  3. Yeats was correct . . . "The Second Coming" is upon us . . . These are sad and frightening times . . .

    1. That's another one that recurs to mind, certainly. Yeats had many strange thoughts, but his cycles of history seem quite apt at the moment.

      Or, to look in the land of pulp fiction, there are Robert E. Howard's theories about the inevitable vacillation between civilization and barbarism!

  4. After reporting Jim Foley's murder last night at the beginning of the PBS News Hour, the newscaster went on to the next story, as she was supposed to. But I turned off the TV for a few minutes to say a prayer. My prayers are informal--just thoughts, really, and wishes. Last night's was a pissed-off prayer. But it was the best counterweight I could offer at the moment. I wish I could actually bless courageous, thoughtful people like Mr. Foley. I hope and must think his life and work and even his suffering these last 2 years blesses itself. But the needlessness of his suffering and death makes me angry. Such a damn shame--and a waste. We see human cruelty every night on the news and then, if we continue watching, fictionalized as "entertainment," until we are nearly numb.
    Let us pinch ourselves and be grateful for real people who put themselves in harm's way for the sake of others.

    1. From part III, Auden's "In Memory of W. B. Yeats"--truth and beauty being one, according to Dickinson...

      In the nightmare of the dark
      All the dogs of Europe bark,
      And the living nations wait,
      Each sequestered in its hate;

      Intellectual disgrace
      Stares from every human face,
      And the seas of pity lie
      Locked and frozen in each eye.

      Follow, poet, follow right
      To the bottom of the night,
      With your unconstraining voice
      Still persuade us to rejoice;

      With the farming of a verse
      Make a vineyard of the curse,
      Sing of human unsuccess
      In a rapture of distress;

      In the deserts of the heart
      Let the healing fountain start,
      In the prison of his days
      Teach the free man how to praise.

  5. I am struck mute by all the horrors happening in the world right now. One hardly knows where to start in making any changes.
    It would seem a far more basic change in the very essence of human beings is needed.
    If it's not the end of the world, it feels like it.

    1. It does feel like it. Dreadful times are here. Crucifixion, wholesale child murder, heads on poles, racial unrest, militarized police, horrendous civil wars, anti-Semitism rearing up, genocide of Iraqi Christians, trampling of normal wartime conventions, etc. It's too much to compass. It makes one sympathize with the Deluge.

  6. Thank you for this, Marly, and for quoting the Dickinson poem. Dreadful times indeed.

  7. Replies
    1. Marty, glad to see you here... Yes, it's so sad. What a touching picture, strangely beautiful, and the man full of the love of goodness and truth.

      I'm glad you came by. I shall catch up on your doings when I catch up on mine. Well, maybe I can't catch up. But when things are less frenetic.

  8. Marley, thank you for posting about James Foley and for the poetry that reminds us that words can survive the death of their makers. So too, I hope, his words. We owe so much to brave journalists like him.

    1. Janice, I love the idea of someone willing to go to "the bottom of the night," carrying his ideals and faith as a light. It is so beautiful, so simply good, so true to everything he was. (And yes, we poets love the idea of words transcending the dark.)


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.