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

Saturday, April 25, 2015

NPM5: I give you sphinx and snow cats--

April, national poetry month, no. 5

Here's one I may have posted before--certainly I have posted Paul Digby's video of the poem earlier. It's an iambic tetrameter poem in couplets, so it resolutely rejoices in rhythm and rhyme. I thought of this one because I read it at the Fenimore Art Museum on Monday, and somehow people always think it very funny that a poem should reprove a popular poet for removing Emily Dickinson's clothes. All those tiny buttons...

The poem appeared in TheThrone of Psyche (Mercer, 2011), available in hardcover and paperback. Both have a cover drawn from a detail of a Clive Hicks-Jenkins painting, and beautiful design by Mary-Frances Glover Burt. It was originally published in an issue of Raintown Review guest edited by Joseph Salemi.


A riposte to Billy Collins, “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes” 

Don’t think because her words are wild
That Dickinson’s a sylphine child

For your undressings—don’t rend the haze
Of veils that shields you from her blaze.

Her hands are capable and know
The ways of burning—how sparks blow

When flames are jostled by a bold
Adept, her fingers tipped with cold.

And though in after-hours she threads
The dew she plucks from spiderwebs,

Or answers Who? to midnight’s owls,
Or strokes the cats, returned from prowls—

Or takes to skipping to and fro
With moonlit maidens made of snow,

She’ll freeze, inviolate and meek,
If you so much as try to speak.

Shove off—avoid those brazen wings:
She’s not for your unbuttonings.

The polished stone above her head
Declares her state among the dead:

Here waits that sphinx whose secret power
In riddles found her finest flower.


Here is Paul Digby's video of the poem. You may find seven of his videos of my poems here.

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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.