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, October 06, 2016

Good things

Ashley Norwood Cooper, "The Virgin Mary Paints St. Luke on her iPad"
is at left (look for Mary in a red gown.)
no. 1

Hurrah for another Pushcart Prize poetry nomination! Thanks to Trinacria for nominating "Portrait of the Magi as Three Horses."

no. 2

Franklin Einspruch says: "Perhaps for the first time in history, we are looking at the possibility of a conservative avant-garde." He was talking about visual arts, but it works for writing as well.  (I often think that the way forward is through the tradition.)

no. 3

I'll be speaking at The Frederick Buechner Workshops at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena next year! (And I'm going to Kyoto in 2017....) Feeling sorry for family members who will be doomed to stay home and feed the cats!

no. 4

Tonight my friend and neighbor Ashley Norwood Cooper is talking about "The Virgin Mary Paints St. Luke on her iPad" during the Artists' Walk at at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle near Columbus Circle, NYC!

no. 5

The up side of the Elena Ferrante revelation is that her story strikes a blow against cultural appropriation--a belief that could destroy the arts in our time, if allowed full sway.


  1. Congratulations!
    As for literary prizes, they are grand gifts, usually from strangers, and as Tennessee Williams said, paraphrasing here, relying upon the kindness of strangers keeps us going. Onward!

    1. Pushcart nominations are pleasant--it's always nice to think that the editors pick six out of so many that come out in a year--but being in the Pushcart Prize anthology doesn't happen much for poets who write in forms.

      All the same, I prefer to walk my chosen path!

  2. Congrats on the Pushcart nomination!

    With regard to Good Thing Number Two, I'm not sure "conservative" is exactly the right word to use to describe what's happening among supposedly open-minded artists and writers who are turning into prissy, finger-wagging Church Ladies, but what a marvelous accusation it would be in an argument, if one were inclined to argue meanly. Oh, the sputtering that would ensue...

    1. Thanks. It's pleasant to get another.

      I think what he had in mind as conservatives was those painters who have turned back to representation and narrative in painting. They conserve the tradition and make use of it. (But you could also say that those painters who insist on the diminishing returns of post-post-post Modernism are not avant-garde but people who don't want the stream of art refreshed and renewed by tradition. Not so long ago, it became possible to go through many art schools without obtaining traditional skills.)

      And of course you could compare that to poets who conserve by returning to form and figures, a tack set in opposition to the "new" conservatism of poets who feel that they are still working successfully in the after-Modernism vein.

    2. Aha! Okay, now I see what you meant. I was reading Einspruch's quip to mean that the self-proclaimed avant garde is still promoting new and "edgy" art that's actually a century old or more and rather tired, thus making them the "conservatives" they'd die before admitting they are.

      But you found the more positive and more inspiring interpretation, one I also agree with. My favorite example of that phenomenon is the difference between Isamu Noguchi, who was trained to be the next Rodin but chose to fuse Asian influences with Rodin-inspired abstraction, and the generation after him, which only aspired to be the next weaker neoplatonic emanation of Noguchi. I'm just still getting used to the notion that writing in a form is avant-garde!

    3. Well, if you take it as being the direction in the arts that ruffles the status quo the most, I think writing in form or painting in narrative realism is so!

  3. It seems to me that Frederic Jameson forty years ago complained of the conservative, at any rate anti-left, inclinations of the Anglo-American avant-garde, and was at pains to demonstrate that they were an accident, an epiphenomenon of something or t'other. I haven't opened The Prison House of Language in a good twenty years, more likely thirty, but as I recall he had in mind Pound, Eliot, Lewis, maybe Yeats. He consider that this all, as I say, was explicable as a historical accident; yet it seems to me that plenty of the more adventurous writers on the Continent were fairly conservative.

    1. It would be an interesting thing to consider further.

      I've never read Jameson.... (Reading "Entertaining Satan" at the moment--how about you?)

      Barely back from a trip up to the Canadian border. Gorgeosity of leaves!

    2. Newman's An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, among other books. (Is it the famous English understatement that made Locke and then Newman call very long books essays?).

      Here in Washington, DC, you need to look closely to seen any changing leaves. But the weather is what fall weather should be.

    3. Hah. Amusing. Am enjoying my book. I just passed through a portion of Demos in which he defined the five possible Puritan beliefs about a case regarded as possession. Then he proceeded to give possible psychiatric analyses. I thought it rather a flaw that (as an academic, I suppose--so many appear to have no mooring when it comes to good and evil, so out of academic fashion) he appeared unable to believe in or imagine evil and so had to rest in ungrounded speculations about the victim and a very complicated psychiatric analysis that had no more validity than some of the other answers. But that seemed to make it even more interesting in a way, showing how we are trammeled in our thinking--though that was not his intent.

      The leaves up along the border and then down through Saranac and Lake Placid and the Cascades area are wilder in color than they have been for some years. Fine day with a real North Country sky of clouds and shafts of light so that the mountains and ponds were beautifully lit and shadowed.

  4. Depressing, really. I look over this, written last week:

    The waiter, who appeared to be Scandinavian or more likely Baltic, sighed. “Sir, ordering tea here is as demanding as buying a suit in Savile Row. There are a thousand variations. Let me know the things you don’t like and I’ll choose for you.”

    Lindsay hated the way tomato viscera soaked into the bread; Murdo had always disliked Battenburg cake. Neither liked green tea. The waiter glided away.

    and realise it belongs to no movement, no genre, no school, no over-arching conviction, no belief in ultimate truth, no unshakable sense of rectitude. And it's my own fault. I don't get out enough these days and - worse - in staying indoors I don't read stuff that would improve me. Raising a much bigger question: why do I do it anyway?

    The best response is it saves me from the opinion of neighbours, that at my age and level of intellectual development gardening should be the answer. Perhaps this is a movement: the Neo-Contra-Horticultural Persuasion. And maybe in the spirit of waste-not, want-not I'll find room for this suggestion (much mangled, of course) on page 150 of Rictangular Glasses. Bear that title in mind.

    1. Making things is joyful! That's why. Or my why, anyway. Besides, I like to survey my tiny creations and know that they are good. Or as good as my creations can be.

      Leave a quote if you use it in some subterranean way? And is that glimpse from RG?

  5. Am without computer at the moment and hate typing on my phone, so I will talk to y'all tomorrow night.

  6. Joyful, yes. And rather more mundanely, after millions of words poured out on behalf of two dozen employers together with fictional flirtations, letters typed and blogs posted, an answer to the question: good or bad, what else am I fitted for?

    The quote is from RG (I'm pondering a modification: Rictangular Lenses, since this is the exact quote from a New Zealander earlier in the novel). 27,338 words written and Lindsay is on the verge of entering the secular martyrdom which she - despite my love for her - will suffer in order to add oomph to the story.

    1. O' Connor had the same opinion--that it was all she was fitted for. I was just thinking about her. “A gift of any kind is a considerable responsibility. It is a mystery in itself, something gratuitous and wholly undeserved, something whose real uses will probably always be hidden from us.” I like that because I've always thought that a good poem or story had to have some element of mystery that could not be exhausted. But she says that the desire, the gift to make story is also a mystery--that its "real uses" are hidden.

      I also am busy with a suffering character. But she is not a bit secular, as it is the 17th century. Perhaps I am mad to think that the 17th century has a great deal to say about ours, but I do think so.


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.