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

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Traveling the Red King's lands

Graham Ward, "Child in Tarifa"
This "starved-brush" painting is one that inspired
one of my poems in the Red King manuscript,
"The Stellar Child."
Generation works both ways!
I've also written some poems
for Graham to use in a future gallery show.
I have a few more interesting questions in the Bullington-Youmans interview party but need to take a small break from them in order to push forward on The Book of the Red King, which has been hanging fire for years now. It has been in the condition of "almost" for so long that I was tempted to let it go on being "almost." Luckily, a shadowy sense of guilt at last crept over me, and I am now crawling through the very long manuscript again for the third time in the past month. And I think that I shall be done creeping along when I get to the end this time. I shall, that is, stop. Nothing is ever done, particularly on such a  very long manuscript of poems.

One of the curious things about this manuscript is that thirteen prints and paintings have been made in response to its poems, even though it is not yet out as a book--not even submitted. One of them is by Mary Bullington, and I've posted it several times before. Some came from a poem that has never ben submitted anywhere, written for a friend, who sent it into the aether. Eventually it landed in an artist's inbox and became a seed. What a surprise!  I've always thought that a work should, in the ideal, be generative. So this makes me feel pleased.

Quite a number of poems about the Red King and the Fool (and Amara the alchemist and many others) are online, but if you would like to see a group of them at once, you may find some at Mezzo Cammin and at At Length. Of course, I have fiddled with them since....

18 comments:

  1. Nothing is ever perfect, Marly, and if we try for absolute perfection, we are doomed never to get things done, as you well know.(The best is the enemy of the good. It is also the enemy of the very, very good.)

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    1. Quite so. Although now I am dithering over punctuation, for which there are rules. And exceptions.

      Glad you liked his picture (in the comment below.) I like Graham and his pictures very much!

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  2. PS I love Graham Ward's picture--really nice work! (And the comment above was supposed to be published with my name and URL--somehow it wasn't.)

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    1. It's hotlinked to your Facebook page...

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  3. I think this will be my favorite of your books. I love and cherish some of these poems, and have for ages.
    I am so grateful you didn't just drop it. That would have been a tragedy.
    Though I understand that publishing ekphrastic books is very very difficult (it has so far proven impossible for me with mine), I am sure that you will find or make a home for this one.
    Looking forward to it.

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    1. It's not ekphrastic, actually... There's "The Stellar Child," though. And there's one that includes a description of a child's drawing... "The Miller's Son." So really only one or two out of 165 poems.

      Good luck with that book!

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    2. Agh! I forgot to say "thank you" for your lovely comments. Moi, airhead.

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  4. Now, here is an annoying, complicated, and perhaps unanswerable question: How does a writer know when the work is finished?

    (And, yes, I've moved again - http://thewritersalmanac.blogspot.com/
    so have a hearty laugh and have a beautiful day!)

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    1. Oh, that is a laugh! I knew it! Shall take a look.

      You know you're done when you stare at a poem, take out a punctuation mark (one of those "optional" ones), and then put it back in after an hour of dithering. Basically the same for a novel--when you keep reading it and begin to change tiny things back to what they were in the prior draft.

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    2. I admit it! You have confused me! Nothing was there... What gives?

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    3. And you (and Blogger) have me confused. Please try it again.

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    4. Well, now you are there. Very strange, Sir Blogger!

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  5. i looked up "ekphrastic" on google and i still don't get it. something to do with riots in greece, i gather... but writing poetry is in itself a cosmically astounding endeavour; much luck with that!

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    1. Probably that's as close to being funny as riots in Greece can get! The (ahem!) Poetry Foundation says: "An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning." So basically it's a poet noodling around with an image. I do occasionally write one for painter friends who ask, but they're just a sort of side frolic.

      I do wish that everybody who wrote poetry felt that it was "cosmically astounding." Probably it would cut down on the number of poems in the world.

      On the other hand, making things is good for us... And probably that's true even for the not-well-made things.

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    2. tx. i'm enlightened. i think all persons should be required to write poetry or suffer consequences; maybe that would distract them from trying all the time to make things better...(i think it was james thurber who said: "let your mind alone!").

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    3. I don't really mind if they want to make potholders or some such instead! Though I do think it would be good if everybody tried to write a sonnet. Might clarify a few things.

      Trying to make things better... Yes, there's a lot of trouble created by people who want to make things better. Also a lot of good. But it's hard for some to know which is which, I expect.

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  6. "crawling through the very long manuscript again for the third time in the past month."

    And yet, and yet... There it is: technically finished. Amendments are so much more delicious than originating stuff.

    I employ what people who are into mysticism call a mantra:

    There are errors ahead, experience tells me there always will be, it is part of being an author that I must mutilate that which I previously thought was beautiful. Then revel in the benefits. The Hidden Stoicism.

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    1. Hah, that's good. Time is our cruel, kind friend in such enterprises. (I'm down to pondering commas at the moment. Then every now and then I see something that I missed entirely and rewrite part or all of a poem.)

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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.