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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Light / break

La Sainte-Chapelle by Trey Ratcliff, from his portfolio
at Creative Commons license.

I am taking a break in the lead-up to Easter, and hope to see you here afterward. 
For those who follow the steps of the Passion, many bright 
falls of metaphysical gold to you!
And for all, these lovely Ratcliffean images of the light--
a forest of glass upheld by stone columns,
a cathedral of leaf and light upheld by green boles.

Another sort of cathedral, also shot by Trey Ratcliff
and in his portfolio at Creative Commons.
"The sun came out and started melting all the morning rain into a foggy mist
that fell down around and behind me." --Trey Ratcliff in Kyoto, Japan.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

the Luck Child, again--

Yesterday I wanted a kiss from the Luck Child, and today I have got it--a gorgeous glory of a review in Strange Horizons from that wonderful reviewer who always sees what no other reviewer sees, Tom Atherton of Wales. It's strong and wide-ranging and full of insight, delineating aspects of the book I like to see revealed. (He's even got a few criticisms, and I can tell you that he's the sort of reviewer whose remarks I will remember, next time I am revising a novel.)

Earlier he wrote an equally insightful review of Thaliad (and he begins this review with Thaliad) that pleased me very much--even, I can say, enlightened me. I am infinitely grateful to him for the results of his story-mining and contemplation.

I have sometimes doubted that beauty and perception can find their reward in our culture of trend and frantic change and celebrity. The fact that Strange Horizons has picked up Tom Atherton as a reviewer is heartening.

In more Luck Child news, most or all of my marked galley pages turned out to be not lost forever but scattered about "in the mail bin."

Images in this post: Art for Glimmerglass (Mercer, 2014) by Clive Hicks-Jenkins of Wales, book design by Mary-Frances Glover Burt of Georgia. Art for Thaliad (Phoenicia, 2012) by Clive as well, with design by Andrew Wakelin, also of Wales. May I just confess that I love Wales?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Luck Child, where are you?

Clive Hicks-Jenkins
detail, division page for Maze of Blood

I have had the usual bad publishing luck (editors departing and leaving books orphan) and some unusual bad luck with my books (as, publishing a book just after 9-11), but never, never, never have I had the post office burst open my well-taped box of first-pass galleys--carefully marked by me, the register and work of many days--and lose almost all of the pages. Until now.

Monday, March 23, 2015


Clive Hicks-Jenkins,
latest (4th of six) division page head for Maze of Blood.

Marly and Clive

Clive Hicks-Jenkins snipped comments from our letters to make this Artlog post (surprised me!) about the fourth head for Maze of Blood, the only one so far that has seemed to give him pause. He ended up using the gun sight as an eye. All the heads have an unusual eye--a beetle set sideways, a flower, a curl of mazy paper. Lots of thoughts, ending with responses from many people in the arts--writing, visual arts, music--about the final result.

And with Mr. Beam

This Artlog post is about a collaboration between two longtime friends of mine, Clive and North Carolina poet Jeffery Beam, who I have known even longer than I have known Clive. It also has some interesting comments about collaboration and about Maze of Blood, including the claim that "Marly takes even the most unnerving material and stitches in through with the sublime." Like that description.

Upcoming with Clive

Suzanne Brazil recently did a 2-part interview with me that ran at Blogcritics and at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. We're now plotting on a 3-way interview about collaboration--Suzanne, me, Clive. It'll be done the slow way, where Suzanne asks a question, one of us responds, and then the comment is sent on to the next person for a response. And so on, all organized and directed by Suzanne...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Wor(l)d According to Mr. Rogers

Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Thaliad
Yesterday would have been the 87th birthday of Mr. Rogers. And you know, this morning, thinking of people I know--contemplating first someone who feels almost desperate and may be dying and then another, younger person who is awash in talents but who is scorched by self-criticism and cannot manage to feel worthy--I thought of his words. This little post is especially for those two, but you may find it of interest as well.

Isn't that strange, to want an answer and to think of a man who dealt in potato bugs and leaf-polishing and little children? He never wanted to bore those little children. He meant to always see them and all things clearly, giving them a slow, careful attention.

Fred Rogers was one of those people that Walden suggests are rare and few--those who are not asleep, who do not lie down as sleepers and let the trains of life run over them. They are people who are awake to the world and to others and to themselves.

“Life is deep and simple, and what our society gives us is shallow and complicated.”

“When I say it's you I like, I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” 

"You know, I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And, consequently, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they're loved and capable of loving." 

"I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what's best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something truly sacred." 

“When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the façade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way."

“In the external scheme of things, shining moments are as brief as the twinkling of an eye, yet such twinklings are what eternity is made of -- moments when we human beings can say "I love you," "I'm proud of you," "I forgive you," "I'm grateful for you." That's what eternity is made of: invisible imperishable good stuff.”

"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else.” 

Count me in, Mr. Rogers Fan Club.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Poetry, drama, fiction!

The marvelous collages
(painted papers and drawn elements)
of Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Thaliad
Thaliad at the Priory School 

I just opened a big, lightweight package from the Saint Louis Abbey. The inside is stuffed with letters from boys of Saint Louis Priory School, each containing a return envelope and a book plate to be signed for Thaliad. There's also a little note from their teacher, Fr. Augustine Wetta, who was one of my private students at the Antioch Writing Workshop last summer, along with a rosary made by him.

This year the priory boys in his care have been reading an impressive range, from Homer to me--"Homer, Virgil, Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Milton, Carroll, and Youmans." And I think that list sheds an interesting light on some of our public school syllabi, where teachers sometimes appear to have canon-allergy and now fear to teach the great books. It can be done. It is done. And these are middle school boys!

It's lovely to make a circle from teacher to student-and-teacher to students and back again. I'm proud of Father Dude and wish him much pleasure in his writing and many readers. He's not only writing but doing a teacher's part to make genuine readers who will be able to tackle any text.

And here's a review of Thaliad (from Goodreads) that I especially love because of the pitch, which says you should buy the book because it's from a small, artsy press but wonderful, and because it manages to be post-apocalyptic in an "aggressively non-commercial way." Hah! Thank you to David, somewhere on the planet.

Words at another school 

In other word-related news, child no. 3 has had an interesting couple of weeks, last week serving as an amusing co-host for the annual high school poetry slam (and also reading a poem written for the occasion) and this week making a surprising splash as Mortimer Weird on stage. He has a reputation as being a rather quiet student, so his flamboyant walk and talk has been astonishing to all. Treading the boards is thrilling!

Maze of Blood in the pipeline

First pass galleys of Maze of Blood have been returned to the publisher, after three straight reads. Clive Hicks-Jenkins is currently working on six large, beautiful images for the division pages, and there will be a series of six smaller images used in repetition for chapter headers. Will it be as beautiful as Glimmerglass, Thaliad, and The Foliate Head? Yes, they are all wonderfully decorated by that soulful limner, Clive! It's like trying to pick a favorite child or the best flower in a wonderful bouquet to pick which one is most loved.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Brazil and fire--

Suzanne makes posters (of me)

Today I'm finishing up (hope!) galleys for Maze of Blood (now with an updated page.) Meanwhile, here's a fun thing from Suzanne Brazil, who interviewed me recently (a 2-part interview that ran at Blogcritics and Seattle Post-Intelligencer). She is making e-posters with quotes drawn from the interview, and so far I've spotted and collected five on a Pinterest board. Huge thanks to Suzanne for spending so much time and thought on the interview and posters. Evidently there will be more:


And thanks to Endicott Studio for mentioning "The Salamander Bride" as a fire read in a bibliography accompanying that interesting article, "Fire and the Fire Bringer" by Heinz Insu Fenkl. I loved the old Endicott Studio and am glad it is back, all new and shiny.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

finalist, Foreword BOTYA awards

Back soon--working on galleys for Maze of Blood.

Glimmerglass here: 

General (Adult Fiction) 
Contributor(s) Marly Youmans 
Publisher Mercer University Press 
Publication Date Sep 2, 2014 
Pages 224 Price $24.00 
Tags #finalist #fiction
All general fiction finalists here
A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage
won the Foreword BOTYA Silver Award in fiction for 2012.


my page for Maze of Blood, updated

Some Clive Hicks-Jenkins pages:
You may find a good deal about the making of art for Glimmerglass, Thaliad, and The Foliate Head on his Artlog--all under the tag "Making Books." As he's productive, you would have to scroll a long ways to see them all.... But that would be delightful, as you would see many strange and lovely things along the way.

Clive's preliminary sketch for a division page at right.

So much universe, and so little time.  #TerryPratchett

Monday, March 09, 2015


Photograph of bluebells courtesy of and John Evans of Winchester, UK

Love the sound and flavor of words, love wandering in the wild? If so, then I'm suggesting an online read, lovely and long for an online piece (hat tip #PrufrockNews): "The word-hoard: Robert Macfarlane on rewilding our language of landscape." 

Macfarlane's praise for the fine discrimination in words about nature is wonderful, and reminds me of a book that has influenced me when I have written about the western North Carolina mountains, where I went to high school (Cullowhee) and where I return several times each year: Smoky Mountain Voices: A Lexicon of Southern Appalachian Speech Based on the Research of Horace Kephart. (Jacket copy: A stingy man "won't drink branch water till there's a flood," and it is "a mighty triflin' sort o' man'd let either his dog or his woman starve." Some places are "so crowded you couldn't cuss a cat without gettin' fur in your mouth." For almost thirty years Horace Kephart collected sayings like these from his neighbors and friends in the area around Bryson City, North Carolina.) The Kephart-based dictionary was created by two professors at Western Carolina University, Hal Farwell and Karl Nicholas. I've also been inspired at other times by regional dictionaries and grammars (as in Catherwood.)

Here's a taste of why you might want to read Macfarlane:
Eight years ago, in the coastal township of Shawbost on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis, I was given an extraordinary document. It was entitled “Some Lewis Moorland Terms: A Peat Glossary”, and it listed Gaelic words and phrases for aspects of the tawny moorland that fills Lewis’s interior. Reading the glossary, I was amazed by the compressive elegance of its lexis, and its capacity for fine discrimination: a caochan, for instance, is “a slender moor-stream obscured by vegetation such that it is virtually hidden from sight”, while a feadan is “a small stream running from a moorland loch”, and a fèith is “a fine vein-like watercourse running through peat, often dry in the summer”. Other terms were striking for their visual poetry: rionnach maoim means “the shadows cast on the moorland by clouds moving across the sky on a bright and windy day”; èit refers to “the practice of placing quartz stones in streams so that they sparkle in moonlight and thereby attract salmon to them in the late summer and autumn”, and teine biorach is “the flame or will-o’-the-wisp that runs on top of heather when the moor burns during the summer”.

In a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary there has been “a culling of words concerning nature. Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow. The words taking their places in the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail…
And now, back to galleys and my own playing with words--I'm on my second read of Maze of Blood. One more, and back it goes. It'll be out  exactly a year after Glimmerglass...

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Galleys, trala--

Time to hunker down. I will be reading galleys for Maze of Blood for the next few days, and being behind on everything else--including blogs and letters and shoveling snow, no doubt. I've gone through the galleys once, looking at many hyphens (oops) and little glitches, and now I'm going to sweep through the whole thing again. Maybe twice more. (Then: taxes. Ugh.) The book will be out in September, a year after Glimmerglass appeared.

So that's my life at the moment, not counting all the usual family labors and yesterday's splendid birthday lunch here for birthday girl Ashley Cooper and (recent birthday girl) Yolanda Sharpe, my painter buddies (to whom Glimmerglass is dedicated.) That was lovely and restorative, and birthday gifts were fun dragon tiles from Henry Chapman Mercer's Moravian Tile Works in charming Doylestown, PA, a place everyone should go--it's now a National Historic Landmark site, and you can tour the mad, imaginative Fonthill Castle and tile works and buy tiles made in the same old way at the shop and then give them to your buddies when they come to lunch.

Image: Glimmerglass jacket detail of the art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Artist is Present
I've been thinking about Marina Abramović (a person's swarming bee-mind buzzes off to many flowers and weeds and honey pots while reading book galleys), and in particular her The Artist is Present (March-May 2010) performance at MOMA. I've never been drawn to performance art, finding ugliness and tediousness in much of it. I'm rather quick to be bored, and my eye delights in color and texture and form and evidence of high aspiration. I don't tend to like this sort of spectacle, which so often seems to diminish rather than expand. If I were curator at MOMA, I doubt that I would have welcomed such an event. I thought it was pretty silly when they put Tilda Swinton in a box, and I can't really think of a performance piece that I long to have seen.

But The Artist Is Present is a curious thing, and in some ways possibly more peculiar than MOMA ever intended to sponsor. As Abramović sat in her strange, heavy robes for all those months, all day, looking into the eyes of people who stared into hers, occasionally smiling slightly or impelled to let a tear fall, she became something other. In fact, she became something that relates strongly to the holy. She became one with another, over and over again.
Mysticism is the art of union with Reality... All that [the practical, ordinary person] is asked to consider now is this: that the word "union" represents not so much a rare and unimaginable operation, as something which he is doing, in a vague, imperfect fashion, at every moment of his conscious life, and doing with intensity and thoroughness in all the more valid moments of that life. We know a thing only by uniting with it; by assimilating it; by an interpenetration of it and ourselves. --Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism
The appearance of union was opposed to her much earlier Rhythm 0, in which her own passivity and the presence of weapons allowed others to pierce and cut her. Rhythm 0 (1974) diminished the humanity of those present and separated them from her, even while they were touching her. In The Artist is Present, there was never any touching of bodies, though there was a greater touching through the mind and spirit.

Those who sat with Abramović were asked--without any words at all--to match and mirror back a contemplative consciousness. They achieved something rare in daily life, a kind of union, and in a quiet not so far removed from still prayer. Here was a linkage with "intensity and thoroughness" and the production of "valid moments" of lives. The participants woke up a little; they became more alive, according to their desire to experience and see, and according to their ability to be childlike and freed from the fetters and fritterings of thought. They experienced a rare turning of undivided attention to them--an examination from a place removed from ordinary life that offered no criticism and appeared to be an attention that involved the simplicity of receptiveness and love.

Such a turning of attention like sunlight onto a naked soul is clearly tied to the mysteries of life--God and love and the truth of one soul looking back at another in receptivity. There is, indeed, something beautiful and strange about it, something that draws its strength from religion and from the old, now-obscured aspirations of high art. In this aspect of the work, The Artist is Present is far closer to the traditional, orthodox aims of art with its spiritual, moral needs and timeless world than one might imagine.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The little news page--

* In the clouds

Enjoyed teaching a day-long reading-and-writing workshop at Mons Nubifer Sanctus (Holy Cloud-bearing Mountain, a center for contemplative prayer at St. James, Lake Delaware) on Saturday. I'll be helping out there again some time...


* Blurb 

Marly Youmans' new novelMaze of Blood is a haunting tale of dark obsessions and transcendent creative fire, rendered brilliantly in Youmans' richly poetic prose. --Midori Snyder


* What's up

Tonight I'll cut the tape on the box of galleys and start pushing through Maze of Blood.