SETH WRIGHT at FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
Youmans’ gift for creating primordial archetypal images that stir the gut and fascinate the eye of the mind places her among the best of the poets. If you’re a connoisseur, even a lapsed or dilatory one, of narrative poetry, buy Seren of the Wildwood and read it today...
What is particularly impressive about Youmans’ weaving is her ability to use such venerable archetypes freshly. Yes, I’ve met them all before, and given time I could tell you where... The same with the landmarks and inhabitants of Youmans’ Wildwood; they seem hauntingly familiar yet disconcertingly strange. Her power simultaneously to defamiliarize and reenchant is enviable and deliciously enjoyable...
My first encounter with Seren of the Wildwood brought to mind dozens of my favourite poems, poems that over the millennia people have taken the trouble to read, copy, annotate, memorise, and perform. Seren of the Wildwood reminded me of them by way of family resemblance; the poem is at home among the poems that last. It is a good poem. A very good poem.
--Seth Wright, Front Porch Republic, 10 April 2023; read the long, thoughtful essay HERE
JONATHAN GELTER at SLANT BOOKS BLOG
Marly Youmans, in Seren of the Wildwood, now available from Wiseblood Books, offers a vivid fantasy. I will call it that even though the word fantasy appears several times in the story in its meaning of something untrue, a hallucination or deceptive visionary experience. And well it might—although by the end we witness a wonderful transformation of the idea of fantasy—for deceptive visionary experience sets the plot in motion. An invisible creature whom the young girl Seren (Welsh for “star”) names Ariel lures her into the Wildwood, on whose border she lives with her parents. She had two older brothers, but they died just as Seren was born: it is suggested by the narrator a curse emanating from someone in the Wildwood sickened them.
Youmans’s command of the poetic form is masterful, and a superb choice for fantasy, invoking as it does one of the great medieval fantasists in English.
--Jonathan Geltner, "The Spirit of Fantasy and the Sense of Place," Slant Books, 6 March 2023: read this interesting essay HERE