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, July 27, 2015

Strange seas

Kari Cadel photograph, The Glimmerglass Festival
Last week I bought a book of selected poetry by a poet whose work I do not care for--have not cared for it at all for many years, aside from one poem that I think is very good. (Of course, to lodge one poem in the mind is an achievement.)

And once again I am thinking how strange the arts are, that even what one doesn't love can woo. Little glimmerings in the poems appealed to me. Here and there are sparks, intriguing sounds, strange collisions of thought.

This morning I wrote something that is very much indebted to Vivaldi's "Cato in Utica," which I saw last week at Glimmerglass Opera, but it also owes smaller debts to the poet whose work I do not care for. Here and there, I see him faintly, some trace of him derived from reading his words. The sea of art is a great body with both great, mysterious whales and little salty guppies, and somehow the guppies are just as essential as the whales in the making of that sea. So strange and wonderful a thing...


  1. When we discover and admire something written by a writer we otherwise did not admire for good reasons, then the question arises: has the writer changed or have we changed? I think the answer is more often the latter. Thank God, we change! But I wish it were always an improvement and growth. In any case, best wishes to a New Yorker from a Gulf coaster. Be well.

    1. Perhaps as we grow older, we are just as opinionated about what art must be but yet more merciful to others...

  2. or perhaps we see the potential in the less than wonderful work and use it as a springboard to do better -- to set right the crooked.

    1. Yes, well, that's probably a more truthful answer about the impulse!


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.