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, June 06, 2016

Poems at At Length


Poems inspired in mode and form by Yoruban praise poems. These are from a manuscript called RAVE. Read 'em here. Thank you to At Length editor Jonathan Farmer! And to photographer Paul Digby for the portrait on the home page slide show.

16 comments:

  1. dragonfly sky: yum. we used to call those little ones "darning needles" when i was a young'n... flashing imagery in that poem, there; maybe slightly too busy for my taste, but whatdoiknow... old brains with impaired synapses...

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    1. To not be entirely of Mudpuddle taste is a sad thing!

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  2. but what does an old Haiku poet know, anyway --

    Watching dark water -
    white stones, pushing ripples,
    slowly move upstream.

    A wet maple leaf,
    painted black,
    washed in moonlight...

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    1. A very different sort of form than the Yoruban one that inspired these poems! But I do like Japanese short forms. The second one might be in a mud puddle... Thanks--I always like it when people leave poems.

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  3. Yoruban praise poems! Now there's a genre (a form?) I know zero about, but you've sent me happily digging through the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Very cool!

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    1. In fact, there's not a whole lot of information online or anywhere else--one decent book that's hard to get--although there are recordings on youtube.

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  4. Shamefully, the PEPP doesn't have an entry on Yoruban poetry--it redirects the reader to "African Poetry." But tonight I found some Yoruban praise poems, oriki, online, after which I read yours. Beautiful work, Marly--not derivative of their inspiration, but lovely poems in their own right that (I sense) wouldn't be quite the same if inspired by any other form.

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    1. You have hit on exactly the right form, Oríkì, that first set me going. The ms. has some poems that are reasonably close, others that are far from the form. But they all have danced around the core ideas, and some of the ideas I never could have come to otherwise.

      Of course, that goes against a lot of people's thinking on "cultural appropriation."

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  5. i take it all back. i got the chance to actually concentrate on your poems and i was just blown away - instantly transported to another world full of rich and strange images(i switched adjectives, so it's fair...), tempestuous and arielistic... good for the soul and wonder gland(it's just behind the pituitary). many tx, mp...

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    1. well, they can be a bit overwhelming. a little bit at a time, i guess. i must say, studying zen and producing haiku really changed my nature in ways that i only become aware of when i think about certain things in certain ways... i like 'Marbles" best. p.s.: i won a global haiku contest once, thrown by a zen monastery in Japan...(they say it's not bragging if it's true. so there...)

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    2. Oh, that's very cool. Was it one of the poems you posted that won?

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    3. And they are very different from any others of mine that you have seen... A different sort of frolic, and more of a feeling of a sluice of words at times.

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    4. no, that was another... "sluice": v good!

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    5. sometime. actually i didn't like it all that much; i thought the ones i did share were better...

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    6. That's interesting--often happens, I find, that what "wins" is not a writer's favorite.

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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.