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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.


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.


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...

Despite having wasted my precious time, today I am pleased with the thought that at 4:00 p.m. for approximately 30 minutes (if you believe the prophecies of the weather mages), it will hit 80 degrees. I do not really believe the online weather mages but am still pleased (being a Southerner not adjusted to Yankeedom despite all these years here) by the hope. 

And I am also idly, not particularly seriously, wondering if the world has changed so much that it's really not mine anymore, and so it's a good thing that I live a mostly unseen life in an obscure little village. Out there in the world, do people read books anymore? Do they read poetry? And if they do, do they read what's called free verse and / or formal poetry (the thing we used to call "poetry"?) 

Are poets and writers like modern-day lacemakers, addicted to making things of beauty and truth? Everybody loves the idea of beautiful handmade lace, but few have any. (What does it mean for lace to be truthful? Well-made, I suppose. Delicate but strong.) Maybe for a marriage? For a wedding dress? 

Except some of us elope and need no lace. 

I eloped.  

* * *
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 #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.

June 17

CANO reading via Zoom
I'll read from
The Book of the Red King 
Charis in the World of Wonders
Community Arts Network of Oneonta - Writers Salon
(607) 432-2070

Coming soon!

June 2
Zoom with St. Francis Book Club
Charis in the World of Wonders
led by Fr. Mark Michael
St. Francis Episcopal Church
Potomac, Md

Thank you to the participants...
Loved this event--such interesting questions!