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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Writer-readers on The Book of the Red King

Illumination by Clive Hicks-Jenkins of Wales
Phoenicia Publishing, 2019

I continue to be grateful to novelist Scott G. F. Bailey for his ongoing and perceptive treatment of my work. As a reader, he always enters into a work with a free mind and writes engagingly of what he finds. Now he has written a long blog post about The Book of the Red King; you may read the whole thing HERE, at Six Words for a Hat. I include a few quotes below to entice you to visit.

* * *

"the coming night with its dying-deep 
but dazzling darkness"at Six Words for a Hat is an explication of the life and work of the artist (and possibly in this sense, Yeats' spirit also hovers over the book). Youmans is always powerful when she writes about art and artists, and The Book of the Red King strikes me as her most forceful (and possibly most personal) statement about art (and the artist's purpose) yet. Creativity, rebirth and transfiguration are the threads that stitch The Book of the Red King together...many of its pleasures are easily enjoyed just through the inventiveness of Youmans' characters and the angular, beautiful chemistry of her language.

. . .

He also creates beauty, points to beauty, loves and points to love, grieves and points to grief, is angry and points to anger, etc, all of this being the work of the artist. The Fool, I am telling you, is Marly Youmans (and Yeats and Shakespeare and Milton and let's say Matthew as well, why not). That's my theory; see the first paragraph of this increasingly-staggering little essay. You'll have to draw your own conclusions about the identity of the Red King. Youmans has said of him, "He is all the things he is at once, it seems."

. . .

Because Youmans always writes on a number of levels at once, this essay can only seem to diminish Youmans' artistry by so poorly describing it. I know that poetry has, even at the best of times, a limited audience, but The Book of the Red King deserves readers, and plucky Phoenicia Publishing deserves a reward for being brave enough to market collections that require thoughtful readers. A good deal of current American poetry is merely angry, woke, political, and shallow; or else it's merely pretty, saccharine, and shallow. And while Youmans' book could serve as a text for a contemporary course on the uses of beauty and empathy, she writes for the ages, which I think is in the long run a better idea. I don't know why Marly Youmans isn't much better known, for both her poetry and her novels. She always taps into the substrata of art and life.

* * *

"Marly - salutations" at Tone Deaf

Likewise, I need to thank writer Roderick Robinson for a post about the book at Tone Deaf, in which he offers some favorite quotes and says:

However in my sere, yellow and almost-dropping-off years I write verse. Marly’s good at that except hers is poetry. Red King may emerge as a narrative but in the interim I’m treating her poems as separate entities. Looking for what races my motor. Plenty does. It’s not exactly news but Marly loves words...

* * *

My gratitude, my delight

I'm especially grateful to both Roderick Robinson and Scott Bailey because they have said what they have to say. I've been happy to receive letters of praise for this book from older, better-known writers, but I am deeply grateful to people who talk about my books in public. Because I care deeply about the good of my book, the life of my book in the world. Word of mouth and reviews are precious to a book of poems--and to the Fool.


  1. Well I'm older but not better-known. Actually that's not true. Google Roderick Robinson and first you get an American quarterback whose career lasted two years. Then an arsonist, then a paedophile - both now in jail. I'm further down the list, quite a bit further. And quite glad about that gap.

    1. Ah, dear! My husband has an alliterative, rather common name--more common than yours! And he has had similar name-coincidences, including a local bad guy...


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.