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

Friday, March 04, 2016

Down by the bayou

I have a brand new poem up on Autumn Sky Poetry Daily. If you love Yeats, you probably can't miss that it has a formal relationship to "Down by the Salley Gardens." But it's a tricksy poem with something up its sleeve. Here it is: "I Met My True Love Walking."

And if you like that one (or don't and are still bold!), here's another recent one at Autumn Sky: "Landscape with Icefall."


  1. An old-fashioned murder ballad (though about fifty stanzas too short)! Very nice!

  2. And how I have by some strange mortal magic thrust my grief
    Into the hills and lake, the grass and scattered ice

    Wow, that's good, on a bunch of levels, bundling a comment about craft into the act of claiming the poem's grief. Really good.

    1. So glad that you found that to be a good thing!

  3. I was just thinking, on reading the first one, 'that doesn't sound like Marly,' and then I read the last lines and thought, 'oh.' You often leave me scratching my head, but that is probably a good thing. The second one is more familiar. Actually the first one is familiar, too, but the O. Henry ending surprised, as it was meant to do. Irreverence of a particularly conservative kind and grief. Two recurring Marlyan themes, according to my reading. You have such a strong voice.

    1. I hope it is a good thing. And I know what you mean about head-scratching, as I often surprise myself, shooting off in unexpected directions.

      Still thinking about what you mean about the "irreverence of a particularly conservative kind." Interesting what other people see as one's concerns. As for grief, I hope I am equally concerned with joy!

      I need to catch up with what you have been doing when I finish the current Scouring of the Draft.

  4. If you can't beat them, or join them... then try something else.

    The London Mendicant
    Oh, I am wont to shamble,
    Torn jeans and eyes aglaze,
    My knees all wimble-wamble,
    Down Hoxton's noisome ways.
    Unheeded by the ladies
    Who trade their joy for tears,
    So mean with all their baisées
    To men whose tears are years.

    Once I had charmed by scansion,
    By feet and rhymes and stress,
    Famed for poetic tension,
    Essence of love's redress.
    I'd broken hearts in Mayfair,
    Caused breasts to palpitate
    In Soho and in Edgware,
    Left Highgate animate.

    Alas the rhythm's broken,
    The elegance bereft,
    The drive for verse unspoken,
    Beau Brummel now undressed.
    And I'm reduced to Hoxton
    And coarser prosody,
    Reflecting on the woesome
    Sad difference in me.

    1. Thank you for the poem! I do love "wimble-wamble" and suchlike words. And I like the lightsomeness and frolic...

      I'm thinking your song of experience needs a mirroring song of triumphant return. You need a corresponding "Mendicant's Ascent," where poetry returns to brocaded vests (styled, of course, for 2016 and beyond), electric top hats, and the very next fashion in checkerboard tailcoats, and tap-dances and cartwheels and skateboards back to Mayfair. I do believe it will happen.

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you, Mudpuddle... I'm glad it made you cackle!

  6. That first one is rather wicked. Reminds me of the poem about the tortured girl you wrote a few months back.

    Sad as it is, the second one is very pleasing to read aloud! Those are some bold, hypnotic fourteeners.

    1. Ballad-wicked, I imagine. Tortured girl, tortured girl.... Hmm. Still thinking. Has to be an online poem, I guess, if a few months ago.

      Oh, I think that I know. "Books and Culture," "A Child in the Likeness of God." Maybe.

      I am glad you liked the icefall poem. For some reason, I am now and then very attracted to poulter's measure. And yet it's not a promising form in many ways--I doubt that a major poem has been written in it, even though it goes back to Wyatt and Surrey. Well, I think Chapman's Homer was poulter's measure, and it pleased Keats well enough to generate a major poem! But in general it does not seem to have pleased.

    2. Yes, that's the one. Your wicked ballad reminded me of that poem because neither one offered the solace that many of us hope to find in poetry, only sad, blunt reality. Truly sad poems that one can't easily shake are hard to get right; you definitely succeeded both times.

      "Poulter's measure" is, I am ashamed to say, a new one to me. I may have to explore it further...

    3. Thanks, Jeff. I'm always glad with a poem "can't easily shake" out of a head.

      And poulter's measure is pretty rare, I think. I have a number of poems in it, but I still am not sure exactly why I like it, rhymed or unrhymed. Since the lines tend to have a caesura, you could call it a variant on quatrains--you could fool around with feet and split each pair of 7-6 lines into 4-3-3-3.

      There's something a bit lumpen and lumbering about the form, and maybe it helps with subjects that are bit fantastical? Keeps their feet (metrical and otherwise) on the ground?

  7. Oh I agree. Brocaded vests forsooth, and the rest: you tempt me, you tempt me. Another facet of your conscientiousness - the wish to improve rather than dismiss. For this is doggerel as the ineffably feeble final four lines of verse two reveal. But is an hour's worth of crossword work worth any more polish?

    The provenance is more interesting than the end-product. For you Salley Gardens means: think Yeats. For me: Janet Baker, Felicity Lott (both Dames by the way) and even a tenor here and there. 'Twas my wife, VR, who told me the author was Yeats and caused me to re-examine the artful simplicity: "She bid me take life easy" and "Full of tears." But the allusion in your post sent me off in another direction: the pulse of the 7/6 couplets which may be one reason why it sets to music so well (though the simple words are even more important). I've tried re-writing the words of well-known songs, notably Silent Worship, and it turns out to be far harder than I ever imagined. The stress is all. Here Yeats' structure helps the writer and The London Mendicant, for all it first-gradism, actually sings.

    Should I sing it, record it, and post it? Not yet, I fear. My newest setback is to discover I have a derivative singing voice and tend to ape the greats. Finding my own voice is easier said than done.

    However - and here's a valuable discovery! - I've just sung "I met my true love walking" to the SG tune, to myself, very quietly (It's still not yet 07.30 am of a Sunday morning) and my dear Marly it sings. Just a tweak or two ("books" needs another syllable; a definite article before "Summer") perhaps forgivable in the transition to music, and you could sing it yourself and present the CD as a gift to hubby on Father's Day. But no doubt you knew this; you are after all a clever-clogs.

    Second thoughts: No tweaks necessary, just resort to semi-quavers.

    1. You should send me an mp3! I have a friend who is a composer and says he wants to write some music for the poem. He may or may not, I don't know! He's not well right now--maybe some day!

      "The Yellow Rose of Texas" is often offered as a tune to go with poems by Emily Dickinson. Seems to be a perennial English prof joke.

      I do love recordings of Yeats poems; that one and also "The Song of Wandering Aengus" have so many versions. I do love them. And I'm still wondering whether Mike Scott and the Waterboys (not as high-flown as your Dames) changed the words for the rhyme or whether there are two versions of "Aengus."

      Singing is good for us--I was in a choir for a few years, and some of the members always scolding me to come back. I did like it, and I laughed a great deal at choir practice. Choirs are full of quirky people, it seems. My voice got bigger. But somehow I haven't gone back. I have a friend who sings with Glimmerglass Opera, and she really helped me with good exercises.

      I have written a couple of songs, when asked. One was to fit a rather wonky existing tune. The other I did in hymn meter--lyrics for the 200th anniversary of Christ Church Cooperstown (a little country church that was transformed by James Fenimore Cooper into a bandbox Gothic.) The congregation sings it on the anniversary day every year, and they have sung it to several different tunes. I hear it has also been sung at a few churches in Florida, thanks to Cooperstown snowbirds.

  8. Love both poems, Marly! The first with a wicked twist of an ending.

    1. Oh, so glad you liked them, Marja-Leena--yes, well, love has edges!


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.