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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Horse. Angel. Riddle.

Once again, I have been terribly lazy about sending out. But thanks to Callum James (I met him some years ago in Wales, during splendid celebrations for the retrospective of painter Clive Hicks-Jenkins) for requesting some poems for the Spiritus Mundi series at Cunning Folk in the U.K. He was, for a short time, their poetry editor. 

The lovely illustration above is by Helen Nicholson, who is an illustrator and musician in the U.K. You can find her here: She also has an Etsy shop for her prints.

Here are some three-line openers/teasers that will surely make you fly through the aether and land ever-so-daintily on the Cunning Folk cloud:

from "The Riddle"

   The mystery of making things
From words is how the needed element
   Seems like a metal jot that springs

and from "The Horse Angel"

Heaven and earth are like two hands that touch,
Clapping together when a thunderbolt
Rives the air and melts the sand to glass.

I also have a short story titled "The Horse Angel." It's in the 2009 Postscripts (U.K.) anthology. Suppose I need a horse-angel essay next.

In related news, I'm saving the tweet below because a.) Dan Sheehan always deletes his page and b.) it is my favorite tweet of the month, and I shall look at it when I feel blue about having yet another novel come out during a disaster. (However, surely the universe will find that three disaster launches is enough... Then again, maybe not. There may be some reason behind my terrible timing, some thing I simply don't get. Offended a minor demon. Insulted a child. Tripped over my own words.) The Sheehanian comment is evidently referring to the Cunning Folk poems in particular, but I feel cheered by the idea of having eerie powers, haha! At least in the realm of world-wielding... And transporting. And timelessness. Okay, I sort of love Dan Sheehan right now, though I suppose that is childish and silly. Compliments at the right moment are sweet.

As I'm getting over a nasty g.i. bug (not The Bug), I shall now wave good-by! and go hug a pillow. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Dear Wikipedia, I object--

Among the many bothersome or dreadful things presenting themselves to my mind in 2020--global, national, and personal things--is the fact that Wikipedia still determines that I am a New Formalist. I noticed this claim some years ago. Perhaps many years ago. In fact, dear Wikipedia, I wrote you about this wee but annoying issue back in February of 2016.

But having accidentally fallen once more into my Wikipedia page by clicking heedlessly on a link, New Formalist glared out me from the little box in the upper right, even though I backtracked as quickly as possible. At the time (whenever it was) that someone made that minor yet preposterous claim, I hadn't the vaguest idea what a New Formalist might be. I certainly was part of no supportive group of poets. How can a writer be a part of a group or movement she knows nothing about? 

These days, I know a good many more poets, yet I still don't know who might be regarded as part of this group that could have been supportive of my writing yet obviously was not. For I would have noticed--years ago--that I was well supported or even minimally supported by other writers. Might I have been a part of some jolly bunch of poets, sailing the seven seas in joy, and not have noticed? My dear Wikipedia, I very much doubt it.

You see, I've never been the least bit good at making "contacts" that might "help me." And I certainly was never embraced by a literary movement. A person notices when she is embraced, whether by a friend or a pushy stranger or even by a whole great big Literary Movement with capital L and M.

The only favor I can recall being done for my poetry was when the late Louis D. Rubin, Jr. asked to see my first poetry manuscript and then sneakily mailed it off to Louisiana State University Press. And they took it, the mad things! Once. I didn't sell enough copies of my first book to be loved by them eternally. If only I had been part of a Literary Movement, you are probably saying to yourself, my dear Wikipedia!  See, you almost admitted the truth there for a moment. But I don't think the book broke 400 copies, way back when. Unfortunately, Claire (I wish I had named it Snow House Stories and Other Poems, as I first intended) hopped around the press like the proverbial hot potato after its first editor took leave to take care of his ailing mother, abandoning my baby. Books need one consistent editor the way a baby needs one consistent mother. (I had two for my first six months of life, but that's another story.) I'm still grateful to Louis for surprising me with that submission. I'd give a great deal to have a chat with him, right now.

What is this New Formalist business? People who write in form who come later than others who write in form? Keats is later than Milton. Pope is later than Shakespeare. People who write in form are simply poets.

That's not what you mean, though... 

Don't tell me. I could just look it up on Wikipedia, but I won't.

No doubt it's the pesky people who tired of the light constraints of free verse and leaped back into terza rima and sonnets and metrical lines and even rhyme. Like me, yes. But evidently they mustered together and created a movement. An actual Movement. Please do not tell me about it. I do not even wish to know. I just wish you, Wikipedia, to delete that bit of illusion, that claim with its air of importance. (Oh, yes, I,  I, I, belong to a Literary Movement. Nope. Never happened.) Perhaps the assertion rises to the level of the currently popular genre, fake news... Except poets are rarely news. I expect Ezra Pound was the last to provide anything we could classify as news, and that wasn't good news.

I may know people who think of themselves with that label. I suppose it is possible. But I don't know who they are, and I don't intend to find out. For me, there are good and memorable poems, and then there are the other poems. The latter no doubt are just as important to their makers as the good and memorable ones are to theirs. Some poems are mayflies, some are mighty Methuselahs. Hoping to catch the next poem as it streams through my mind (mind? spirit?) is what matters to me. I hope it's what matters to most poets (whether they write in form or in some Ivar-the-Boneless manner), though I have encountered poets who had something else entirely in mind.

So dear, sometimes-helpful Wikipedia, note this: People who write in form are merely poets. That's how it has been for thousands of years. And this person--me--who became bored by free verse* long ago is merely a maker of poems and stories, and not part of any movement. And that is all.

I expect you won't do anything about this. After all, it has been more than four years since I wrote you, and I still have this peculiar mark on my forehead. I'll try again in 2024, if the world and I last so long.

See you then!

*I should say that I do have a manuscript that you might call free verse... It combines influences from several distant traditions. Cultural appropriation, you might say, if you were unwilling to accept that the history of literature is a Silk Road, rejoicing in foreign spice and barter and ingenious theft.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Anders, Charis, Red King

Another "tiny" at North American Anglican: 

And if you go here on the NAA site, you can take a look at more tinies and a few poems.  Thanks so much to Clinton Collister for requesting poetry and tinies! 

* * *

Clips from new reviews of Charis in the World of Wonders:

Photo by Paul Digby
Photo by Paul Digby

A charming literary work that envelops the reader in the chaotic frontier life of Puritan Massachusetts.
--Historical Novel Society Issue 93, August 2020

Youmans shrewdly presents the collective madness of witch trials as one of many destructive forces in the world — on a level with Indian massacres, concussions, and drowning. As such, the hysteria seems less alien, our modern complacencies less sure, leaving behind the uneasy suspicion that we may be as prone to collective madness as they are, and as blind to it, lulled by the tools we vainly depend upon, just as they depend on their brimstone preaching, to save us from destruction. This sojourn in Charis and the World of Wonders lets us experience reality bare of illusions: life can end at any moment, avoiding grief is folly, joys should be taken gratefully when they come, and creation is full of beauty, fear, mystery, and God.
--novelist H. S. Cross. "In the Liminal Zone," The Living Church (Anglican Communion), 30 July 2020

* * *

And here's a pandemic poem from The Book of the Red King...

The Cloud Like a Child
A Folk Story of the Red King’s Kingdom

A cloud no bigger than a child appeared
And hovered just above the castle spires.
Next the sickness came with evening sweats
That seemed to bleed all force away from those
Who ploughed or pounded hammers at the forge,
Strong souls who laughed at first but later wept.
At night the cloud became a rag of blood
That served to veil the brightness of the moon,
And people said, “The end of the world is near.”
The greater part of the Red Kingdom’s men
Died, and no child was born, for women all
Were barren. So the Red King in that time
Took pity on the sons and daughters who
Were not and seemed unlikely to become:
Three generations he raised them from stones
Until the demon rag was worn to shreds
And lost to every eye except the King’s.
So was preserved the kingdom of his love. 

You may see and hear a reading of the poem here.