As I've had to be away a great deal this year, I haven't posted much... but here's a poem that just emerged in First Things, in print and online. Posting in the small hours with a wave to fellow insomniacs...
Seek Giacometti’s “The Palace at 4 a.m.” Go back two hours. See towers and curtain walls of matchsticks, marble, marbles, light, cloud at stasis. Walk in. The beggar queen is dreaming on her throne of words…You have arrived at the web home of Marly Youmans, maker of novels, poetry collections, and stories, as well as the occasional fantasy for younger readers.
- Seren of the Wildwood 2023
- Charis in the World of Wonders 2020
- The Book of the Red King 2019
- Maze of Blood 2015
- Glimmerglass 2014
- Thaliad 2012
- The Foliate Head 2012
- A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage 2012
- The Throne of Psyche 2011
- Val/Orson 2009
- Ingledove 2005
- Claire 2003
- The Curse of the Raven Mocker 2003
- The Wolf Pit 2001
- Catherwood 1996
- Little Jordan 1995
- Short stories and poems
- Honors, praise, etc.
SAFARI seems to no longer work
Saturday, December 11, 2021
"Starting with a Sentence by Aidan Hart"
As I've had to be away a great deal this year, I haven't posted much... but here's a poem that just emerged in First Things, in print and online. Posting in the small hours with a wave to fellow insomniacs...
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
My Puritan story at CT...
Charis has clambered on top of the new-and-noteworthy reviews at Christianity Today. I'm very glad to have that attention, and happy for the words of reviewer and novelist Heather Cross.
Charis in the World of Wonders
Marly Youmans (Ignatius Press)
Set in Massachusetts Bay Colony during the 1690s, Charis in the World of Wonders plunges us into the mind, language, and worldview of a young woman struggling to survive yet finding grace in unexpected places. Youmans’s lush prose evokes a preindustrial, perilous, socially connected world in which the Divine has sovereign reign over outcomes both joyous and sorrowful. Reading it feels like traveling through time and space to experience reality laid bare: Life is fragile, humans need each other, and the created world is shot through with beauty, fear, mystery, and God.
Read more of the list HERE.
Saturday, September 18, 2021
Sun and Moon etc.
|Sun and Moon.|
Taken near the side door by Michael.
Norm Macdonald: You know, I think about my deathbed a lot.Vulture: What do you think about it?Macdonald: I think I never should have purchased a deathbed in the first place.
Friday, July 30, 2021
Rabbits, Tavener, Poems
Thanks to Conor Sweetman and the staff of Ekstasis, who recently accepted a couple of poems of mine; the first can be found HERE. If you want to know more about the rabbits--hares, really-- you can see a Cornish tin miner's badge here, an Alsace puzzle plate here, a Mogao Caves temple decoration here, a Jewish tombstone here... And there are many more examples, in many cultures.
In England and Europe, the three hares appear to have been adopted as a symbol of the Trinity, and certainly they are three-in-one in an Escheresque manner! Syncretic symbol? In part because rabbits are linked to fertility, I think of the also-fertile green man motif. I've never understood the reason academics don't see why Medieval churches adopted the image of the green man, often shown as vomiting leaves. Surely he is an emblem of new life and creation. Moreover, he speaks creation like the God of Genesis, who says, "Let there be light: and there was light." The green man is a rude thing, sure, but clearly bursting with life and its enchantment. I expect the Gawain poet with his Green Knight would've understood. The three hares seem a similar borrowing, an understanding that patterns underlie the nature of the world and are meaningful, even when they seem a bit homely and countrified. The three hares remind me of what composer John Taverner called images or verse of "primordial innocence," work that is simple and beautiful and childlike. For him, that's always connected with being open to revelation, ready to receive something from beyond.
TAVENER, YOUTH, POEMS
Thinking of Taverner and beauty...
His Three Holy Sonnets (inspired by Donne's "Spit in My Face," "Death Be Not Proud," and "I am a little world") were written when he was fifteen. And I'm still thinking about how Stravinsky looked at the score and wrote "I know" on it. So many possible reasons to write such a thing!
Interesting to have good work remaining from the teen years. I regret throwing away all my poems when I was twenty and graduated from college. They were fantastical and full of youth, whatever else they were. In love with sound and enchantment. And I should never have gone on to graduate school. It was not good for my poems. Unlearning took me a long time.
STILL IN A MAYBE-ISH MOOD
Though I've been doing too much travel and have too many strenuous things to accomplish this year (not bookish things!), I'm again thinking about writing another long poem, as I mentioned before. I've been surprised by how many people have read and liked Thaliad (that is, in the smaller scale numbers of poetry), but even more years of Western cultural decay have passed by since that poem was published, so that I find that I now have some doubt of readers picking up a long formal poem.
But I still might do it, at least for myself. I have a good deal of work I've never tried to publish, and not everything has to be sent out in the world. Still pondering.
Friday, July 23, 2021
Rain-poem, rumination, Russian
Poem at NAA:
Friday, July 16, 2021
Poems, bridges, signs
Some poems that the late poet, editor, and professor Kim Bridgford accepted for Mezzo Cammin are up--now re-accepted by editor Anna Evans. Thanks to her and the journal!
Here are titles and first lines to entice you to fly HERE...
The Maiden-Saint of France
While still a child I was a thing men fear,
The fire-struck one who has the ears to hear
The Watering Place
We wished the stream to be alive, as rinsed
And quick as a twisting blue rill of thought.
Far Away Long Ago
The world’s as rust as blood, as white
As sperm, as black as ebony—
The crown springs from his skull to say
That all his rule is flowering
"Far Away Long Ago" and "Stellate" are from "Seven Triolets for the King of Finisterre," a series written for painter Graham Ward, a friend in the U.K. Here is his "King of Finisterre":
13 July: Novels aren't meant to be bowdlerized by agents and publishers and "sensitivity readers" who act like bossy committee members! May your friend stand strong and maintain the book as he dreamed it to be. As he made it to be. I send him good wishes, whoever he is...9 July: I recently used Moby Dick as an example of why writers shouldn't use "beta readers." Just think what they would have done to that book! It is great and weirdly holy in both energies and essence.
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Stay cool! Winter poem. Gogol on art and transformation.
I got up at 7:00 a.m., coolest hour of the day, to pull the fans and shut the windows and curtains...
Here's an image of this week's hot-weather picnic. Spanish tapas followed by homemade ice cream hiding little morsels of fresh cherries and dark chocolate.
If somebody has a secret weapon against Japanese knotweed (that green stuff in the background), let me know! Losing every battle here...
The weather was around 90F yesterday--not bad compared to what's happening elsewhere, but disturbing for many a Yankee villager. I'm rather glad to get hot out-of-doors, though I like to preserve the coolness in the house.
Brainchild of poet and publisher Karen Kelsay, The Orchards Poetry Journal popped up online today. Find it HERE.
I see writers I e-know--Dan Sheehan, David Landrum, Katherine Hoerth, etc.--and one of my poems can be found on pp. 82-83. "Midnight Between the Water and the Air." It is set in winter, so good for mental cooling. You may take a vicarious walk on Lake Otsego aka James Fenimore Cooper's Glimmerglass.
A GOGOLIAN THOUGHT
Art reconciles us with life. Art is the introduction of order and harmony into the soul, not of trouble and disorder... If an artist does not accomplish the miracle of transforming the soul of the spectator into an attitude of love and forgiveness, then his art is only an ephemeral passion. --Nicholas Gogol
This is not how post-post-moderns think of art.
Gogol believed that art and life should fit together, that they must achieve a kind of friendship. In his view, art gifts us with the opposite of chaos--with order and resolution and consolation. But that's not always what the past century of art has sought to give us. Nor is it what most of our academies teach today, not after having passed through the wringer of the French critics. Many of our "best schools" show a marked disdain for works that sought after beauty and the harmony that comes with resolution of narrative or form. It's very old news that we can send a son or daughter to college for an English major and have them leave school without reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or Lear or Jane Eyre or many another work of beauty and power.And of course it is difficult to talk of what beauty can do for the human soul when so many think there is no element in us that could be named as soul. Dissect us, and the soul proves invisible, impossible to capture. We're materialists! Why not get rid of the past when its beauties can do nothing for a non-existent thing? And so if people never pick up Emily Dickinson's poems or Fielding's Tom Jones, well, there's just no finding out that perhaps works of arts do something strange and potent and stirring to an incorporeal, hard-to-pin part of them. Meanwhile, in a time of chaos and lack of unity between peoples, Gogol goes on telling us to reach for the highest possible thing in the realm of art. Imagine a making so strong and beautiful and full of energies that it leads to the transformation of all those who encounter it.ENDING ON A CHILLY NOTE
Picnic with no dessert? It took a while to freeze. But here's a 67-year-old woman with a bowl of homemade ice cream studded with fresh cherries and dark chocolate.
Was it fantabulous? Yes. Made her a child again.
Friday, June 25, 2021
Late morning thoughts
Aside from tweaking yesterday's poem, I have managed to lay waste to the morning without much accomplishment. Unlike yesterday, when I was a weeding demon in the garden, and also cut down the leaves of autumn crocuses (croci!) that will magically return as flowers in the fall... What a weird emblem of resurrection they are! The big broad leaves of spring turn brown and die, and the the autumn ravishment comes, dreamy and floating and leafless. Spirit flowers...
Святитель Феофан Затворник Вышенский, епископ Тамбовский (St. Theophan the Recluse of Vyshensky, Bishop of Tambov), known as Theophan the Recluse:
Works of art are delightful not just for the beauty of inward composition, the intellectual-contemplative beauty, the ideal. Where do such visitors come from in the soul? They are visitors from another realm, from the realm of the spirit.
Theophan the Recluse. Ivar the Boneless. Alexander the Great. Æþelræd / Æthelred the Unready. Samwise the Brave. Why don't we name people this way any longer? Well, I know why, but why don't we do it anyway, just for the fun of it?
I had to look up Theophan, as I found that quote in Aidan Hart's Beauty Spirit Matter but, as often happens, knew... nothing. He's Saint Theophan of the Russian Orthodox Church. Bishop Theophan wrote a number of books on prayer and spiritual transformation and also translated the Philokalia from Church Slavonic into Russian, which must have been a mighty long job.
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Click HERE to find a Zoom invite for my CANO (Community Arts Network of Oneonta) reading on the 17th, tomorrow, 7:30 p.m. EST (It kicks off with a short open mike session followed by yours truly reading from THE BOOK OF THE RED KING (Phoenicia Publishing, 2019) and CHARIS IN THE WORLD OF WONDERS (Ignatius Press, 2020.)
Sunday, June 13, 2021
Formal frolics, just up--
Just home from four days in New Hampshire, and pleased to find people sharing two new poems of mine on social media... enjoy!
Self-portrait as Ruth the Moabite at Measure Review
Pilfered from Measure Review on Twitter: "Writing in a nonce form that's half-sestina and half-ghazal, #poet Marly Youmans (@marlyyoumans) has created a stunning and hopeful #poem worth remembering - and form worth trying yourself. Read it now at http://measurereview.org. #measurereview"
Seaside Pentina for a Chinese Painter at Autumn Sky Poetry Daily
"Editor’s Note: This delightful pentina uses lush imagery to draw the reader into a landscape that feels as ephemeral as a painting, but with a structure that perfectly encapsulates the concept of 'li'."
Monday, June 07, 2021
June, June, June
Home after five weeks on my mother's North Carolina mountaintop and a meet-in-Philly trip to celebrate my youngest child's birthday... noting my June events here. Evidently anyone can attend the CANO event, though a link is needed. And I think that'll be sent the week before.
Saturday, May 22, 2021
Playlist! Hidden Cathedral poets!
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
A singing bird for The Hidden Cathedral Poetry Celebration
If you liked the prior post with videos from The Hidden Cathedral Poetry Celebration, please sign up for emails from Cathedral Arts of The Cathedral of All Saints in Albany, New York. Malcolm Guite and much more, including 24 videos from me. And I am also moving the videos to the public setting a few days after they appear at the Cathedral Arts sites, so you can also go HERE to find all the HCPC videos by me, eventually... as well as other videos about my poetry and fiction or made by me. A playlist will pop up for the 24 when the last one goes public.
Monday, April 12, 2021
The Hidden Cathedral Poetry: the first 4 of my 24 tiny videos
Another reason to hate the (usually useful) internet
CEASE AND DESIST
Thursday, April 08, 2021
My poems in another's voice
Sunday, April 04, 2021
Celebrating Easter with three makers--
To celebrate Easter, here are a few images from contemporary makers I have explored and admire, masters of religious art... None of these celebrated Easter earlier today, as they are all Eastern Orthodox congregants. While I am not Orthodox, I would say that I have leanings in that direction (particularly toward the beauty, the densely visual and narrative quality of their churches, and the love of early writers), and I was for a time on the board of an Orthodox contemplative center. I'll have to write about that some time...
The first is a mosaic by Aidan Hart, a wonderful all-around maker of church furniture and decoration, and a writer whose book Beauty Spirit Matter: Icons in the Modern World is a splendid, ravishing thing. You may think it strange, but I have found his writing about church decoration to be generative for my writing--and that's a rare quality. I recently wrote a poem beginning with a line quoted from Aidan Hart, and another structured by his advice to iconographers. Writers, of course, are magpies, and pluck up glittering bits of inspiration where they will, sometimes in surprising places.
One of two new Aidan Hart mosaics for
Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.
from George Herbert (1593-1633), "Easter"
Here's another image I like--a chandelier by the wonderful Orthodox architect, Andrew Gould, installed in his home church in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Long ago, I used to spend a good deal of time in Mt. Pleasant and Charleston, and some day I'd like to do a Gould-tour of the area, jaunting about to see his clever churches and houses and the wonderfully imaginative wine store...
I love the way he nestles new homes into historic communities by creating a sort of narrative around them, establishing a place and time and story for each. In fact, I love the way narrative interpenetrates the work of all three makers here. It rises up naturally as a response to bedrock narratives and also to traditional ways of incorporating narrative into church buildings.
Looke up, thou seest birds rais’d on crossed wings;
All the Globes frame, and spheares, is nothing else
But the Meridians crossing Parallels.
Materiall Crosses then, good physicke bee,
But yet spirituall have chiefe dignity.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Jackson Center interview
Though most people who keep up with me go to social media sites, I'm posting this for the wonderful dinosaurs who still follow blogs and don't follow facebook. It's a copy of the facebook interview from The Jackson Center for Creative Writing at Hollins. Conducted by MFA student Lena Fultz. Thanks to her and to the Jackson Center!
Hollins Creative Writing Alum Spotlight: Marly Youmans, M.A. ‘75
Marly Youmans describes herself as a “Carolinian astray in snowy upstate New York.” After graduating from Hollins in 1975, she has written across genres—novels, short stories, and poetry. Youmans returned to Hollins in 2010 to serve as a Writer in Residence for the Children’s Literature summer program.
Her work continues to win awards, with novels regularly appearing as finalists in ForeWord’s Book of the Year contest, among many others. John Wilson, editor at Books and Culture Magazine, describes Youmans as “the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. She writes like an angel—an angel who has learned what it is to be human.”
Youmans spoke on her time at Hollins and her most recent (fifteenth!) novel, CHARIS IN THE WORLD OF WONDERS, with MFA student Lena Fultz.
LF: What was your experience at Hollins like? What did you take away from your time here?
MY: I wrote reams of poems at Hollins, and when I left at 20, I threw them all away—very much a young poet’s thing to do, though now I regret renouncing all those sparks of youth. Some years ago, Lee Smith told me that she found one of those old poems lying about the department and liked it: “The Magician’s Daughter.”
Some of the women who were entranced with poetry (and the beloved Richard Dillard) are still friends of mine, especially Mary Bullington, Robbi (Kellman) Nester, and Susan Hankla. Susan was at Brown with me as well (riotous days!), and my fifteenth book, CHARIS IN THE WORLD OF WONDERS, is dedicated to Richard and Susan.
Amanda Cockrell invited me to be Writer in Residence at the summer Children’s Literature program some years back, and I enjoyed the return and still hear from some of the students. Just last fall, I had the decided pleasure of discussing Susan Hankla’s first full-length book, CLINCH RIVER, in THE HOLLINS CRITIC.
I suppose that many a young writer discovers a need to rebel against what she has been taught in school, and against the times. And so I have ended up bounding away from the vers libre of Modernism and its after-shock movements, and have embraced meter and sometimes rhyme as liberating and strengthening forces. I’ve gone back to older and larger definitions of what poetry can be and can include: narrative and long poem, as in THE THRONE OF PSYCHE; long sequence with repeating characters, as in THE BOOK OF THE RED KING; epic adventure, as in THALIAD. Falling into the land of stories helped, for I soon wanted my poems and fiction to be entirely different creatures.
LF: Your recent novel, CHARIS IN THE WORLD OF WONDERS, is set in Puritan New England. What does your research process look like for writing in a time before you were born? What is the biggest challenge?
MY: In the books where I’ve delved into the past, I’ve moved through regions of time where I felt comfortable: CATHERWOOD and CHARIS in the seventeenth century, THE WOLF PIT in the nineteenth, and A DEATH AT THE WHITE CAMELLIA ORPHANGE in the Depression.
I tend to consider fiction-time as a place rather than as an inaccessible era. Some of this is due to my extended family in Georgia. As a child, I spent some of my summer traveling-time at my maternal grandmother’s big Queen Anne house and property in Collins. My mother was the accidental ninth baby of a woman born in 1883; the home and our matriarch, Lila Eugenia Arnold Morris, felt Edwardian. And some of my vacation time was spent with my paternal grandparents; the sharecropper’s shack and farm are closely described in A DEATH AT THE WHITE CAMELLIA ORPHANAGE. Utilities were minimal, comforts sparse, mules stubborn, sun boiling. Tenant labors of ploughing in the fields, picking cotton and tobacco, preserving food, or making turpentine in the piney woods didn’t appear impossibly distant from the peasant’s vassal duties in a medieval and feudal world. My two Georgia family homes have been a blessing to me as settings for my imagination and as ways of understanding how to live and move in the past, as well as how to navigate a landscape of hardship, toil, and poverty.
(Here I should pause and thank my late father for the burning motivation that made him a teenage tailgunner on a B-17 in World War II and afterward a professor of analytical chemistry—one who bought his elderly parents a house in town. And thank you, America, for the G. I. bill.)
For CHARIS IN THE WORLD OF WONDERS, I could skip over a lot of basic research because I had read so much colonial documentation and literature in earlier years. But I spent nine days at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, looking up specific things: occupations and titles in Massachusetts Bay Colony; accounts of Haverhill and Andover (now North Andover); letters; modes of address in England and the colonies; laws and punishment; differences between English and colonial goldsmiths; silver styles; contracts; marriage ways; recipes, etc.
Mainly, I didn’t want to tumble into the silly ways in which “the godly,” as they called themselves, have been depicted with black clothes (out of reach for most), buckles on hats, constant dreariness, and so on. The keys to writing a novel set in the past are few but essential: never put contemporary beliefs and contemporary characters into the past (unless, of course, you are writing a time-travel book!); show the same amount of “stuff” and landscape as you would in writing of your own place and time; don’t feel that you must prove (by over-reference to songs, politicians, scandals, etc.) that a character really and truly is in past time; and wear any historical research lightly, avoiding the dread info-dump.
LF: With the current state of the world right now, are you finding time and space to write? What does your writing routine (if you have one) look like?
MY: A great deal of my adult life has been spent as a mother of three (one is still at home), and children have no need for a writer. They need a writer about as much as an octopus needs a party dress, and this is a good thing; it has kept me from ever accumulating any big-headed thoughts and forced me to be ingenious about scraps of time. So no, I never developed a routine; I seem to be fatally allergic to anything that smacks of over-organization, outlines, or the old-fashioned writer with wife who protects writing time. I do, however, have a husband who cooks and bakes wonderfully well, and for that I am grateful.
Despite the pandemic, I am dividing my days between Cooperstown, New York, my home for the last 22 years, and Cullowhee, North Carolina, where I attended high school and where my mother lives. So, I’m sometimes shuttling back and forth along the Appalachian chain . . . Given my current situation, I’ve decided not to start a new novel until later, but I am writing poems.
LF: Any future projects or upcoming events we can look forward to?
MY: I expect that the next book will be a poetry collection. Meanwhile, reviews and interviews and podcasts for CHARIS are still trickling out—it seems that I have an unfortunate tendency to have books launch during national disasters, but I’m hoping that readers will be kind enough to support pandemic books!
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Charis, NCLR, and two poetry projects in Lent
CHARIS IN THE WORLD OF WONDERS
Monday, March 08, 2021
Charis images on Sussex Lustreware
A peek at the Sussex Lustreware "World of Wonders" line, with images by Clive Hicks-Jenkins from his illuminations for Charis in the World of Wonders. To see all, go HERE.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
This snowy, icy week...
A few warm things...
Charis in the World of Wonders
I've updated the Charis page, so please take a look--there is a great deal there now. This week I'm glad of a lovely long review of Charis in the World of Wonders by notable musician, teacher, and editor Lorraine Hale Robinson. And it's hosted at North Carolina Literary Review, edited by Margaret Bauer. To have four thoughtful pages in NCLR is something for which I am grateful!
You may find the digital version of the magazine HERE, or you may leap directly to the review HERE.
Monday, February 01, 2021
Jot of news
"Hoop of Time"
at Better than Starbucks... HERE.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Bailey, Wetta, Charis...
This is a beautiful book. Some readers, I have noticed, have difficulty with the poetic nature of Youmans' prose, and to them I say they should become better readers and lovers of language's music. "tilt and spill" "wondrous cascade" "ungrasped length" "bear and vessel what is unearthly and rained down" are wonderful constructions: just listen to the vowels and the rhythms, the moving accents from one sentence to the next. Youmans stretches prose, but never goes too far. Sound and sense, it's all there. I never do any book justice when I write about it, and I keep that tradition with this wee essay. Charis in the World of Wonders deserves lots of readers. Go be one of them, do.
--novelist Scott G. F. Bailey, review post at Six Words for a Hat, 22 January 2021
And his earlier comment:
Marly Youmans' latest novel, Charis in the World of Wonders, is a great book...a rich tapestry of invention, a lovely long song of many overlapping themes. As with so much of Youmans' work, it is a myth writ on human scale, an instruction manual for discovering beauty and love in this fallen world. I do not exaggerate.
C--novelist Scott G. F. Bailey, Six Words for a Hat, 31 December 2020
* * * * * * *
Fr. Augustine Wetta video on Charis
A Wetta-and-moi video was supposed to be up on youtube, but I can't seem to find it... so HERE is a link to the video on facebook. If you click, you'll discover me in my dining room being interviewed by author and Benedictine monk Fr. Augustine Wetta (who was a private student of mine at the Antioch Workshops a few years ago. He has since published the novel we discussed (in part) at Antioch: The Eighth Arrow: Odysseus in the Underworld.) I always cringe at seeing/hearing myself, so I have not watched it, but Fr. Dude (as he is known to his students at the St. Louis Priory school) asked some interesting questions...