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, April 27, 2015

NPM6: I give you the fool

"The King and the Fool" by Mary Bullington
April, national poetry month, no. 6

The poem below is from The Book of the Red King, and was originally published here in Mezzo Cammin, along with some others from the series. The king and fool poems are very many, and some day they will be a beautiful hardcover book and a paperback and maybe something else, all with art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins. We haven't quite worked out how publication will work, as most presses that publish poetry don't publish such very long books of poetry or books with a lot of art, but it will happen eventually. It is a project we have dreamed about for a long time.

It's curious, but there is already art (even a sequence of three related pictures by Kim Vanderheiden) made about these as yet uncollected poems. They seem to appeal to painters, and I look forward to seeing the various ways the figures of the Fool, the King, and their friends manifest in the world, even before they appear as parts of a book. Shown here is a piece by my old friend Mary Bullington. It now hangs on the wall in my house. Perhaps I'll get permission to show some of the others... If they keep producing pictures, I think it would be wonderful to have a king and fool show some day.

Why the king, why the fool? A poet in our world is always the fool, occasionally a king.

The Starry Fool

In a shivering of bells
The Fool comes shining, shimmering
Unseen along the moonshine way.

Little fir trees sprinkle his path
With needles, lift their limbs and point
To the bright whirligigs of stars.

And the crack in the Fool's heart is for once
Mended, as if without a seam:
He shakes his bell-branched staff at the stars.

So cold, no one plays the watchman,
But in the tower called The Spear 
The Red King rules the chiming hour.

There he will spy the moon-washed Fool
Skittling like a toy top through the city.
He will run outside to greet him,

Calling, My brother and my self, 
My mirror, the crack inside my heart!


  1. The Red King poems are up their with the best poetry I have ever read. They have a life of their own, somehow, and always have a magical effect on my well-being. I can't wait to have them in my hands!
    Clive Jenkins also has a unique and rather magical touch with imagery, so publications are going to be compelling - to say the least!

    1. Thank you, Paul. You have a gift for making people feel better that I needed this morning...

  2. I offer praise: Strange and lovely is "The Starry Fool" -- and these terms are not contradictory.
    I think that fools know they are fools, but kings do not know they are also fools; alas, too few of us know that we are fools. We fools would be wise to read _King Lear_ and (as a supplement) "The Starry Fool."

    Have a beautiful day!

    1. Hi Tim aka RT aka Robert--

      Thank you, sir, and no doubt you are right about fools and kings... Thanks for putting the poem in good company!


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.