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The Book of the Red King 2019

Marly Youmans, The Book of the Red King
Hardcover and paperback, 172 pages.
Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal
Order directly from Phoenicia HERE
Available via Amazon, your local indies, and more.


"Youmans (@marlyyoumans), who lives in upstate New York, has just published a stunning collection of poems that comprise “The Book Of The Red King" --"The Book Of The Red King’ a stunning collection of poems" | via Biblio File, from Dan Barnett, Book Columnist, Chico Enterprise-Record, 18 July 2019

"Marly Youmans is brilliant, perhaps a genius. Her poems tell a story, offering us a vision of, well, I would say the Trinity, but that is only one possible interpretation. After a difficult and sometimes dangerous journey, a Red King, a Fool, and Precious Wentletrap converge into one, a resurrection that is heavenly. Is it true, or is it fable or fairytale? "When I want to write a new book," she has said, "I run across the land and leap off the edge of the known world." Her formal poems are impeccable and include sestinas, villanelles, rondels, rhyming schemes she may have invented, and perfect metrical patterns. Every poet can learn from this poet, and the reader—the reader will be spellbound."
--Kelly Cherry, poet, novelist, and former Poet Laureate of Virginia

"The Book of the Red King by Marly Youmans is an ambitious, magical book about the nature of power and language. The Red King and the Fool, while they control different realms, make us consider whether it is better to rule on earth or in one’s imagination. In these gorgeous poems, Youmans makes the case for both. Whatever side we take, Youmans reminds us of the paradox in each. Even if we side with the Fool in this world of “hurt joy,” we are left with the realm of poetry. It is not a bad trade. For those who love well-formed poems and for those who love fantasy, this is a must-read and a distinctive, evocative voice. There is no one like Marly Youmans."
--Kim Bridgford, celebrated poet, editor, and director of the global conference, Poetry by the Sea ​

"Marly Youmans occupies an imaginative space that straddles both the present and the mythological past. It is the territory of Yeats and Tolkien, and Youmans shares not only a taste for primal imagery with these great poets, but also their love of rhyme, rhythm and sound."
 --A. M. Juster, award-winning poet and translator

And thanks to Micah Mattix and The Prufrock News!

Phoenicia Publishing:

From Marly Youmans, author of the epic poem Thaliad (Phoenicia, 2012) comes the story of the mysterious Red King, the metamorphosing Fool, and the ethereal Precious Wentletrap, told in a series of connected poems of rare beauty. Whether read as fantasy, allegory, or simply poetry, the world Marly has created is a spellbinding place where we can glimpse truths about our own lives, and the world. The Book of the Red King is illustrated with drawings by the acclaimed Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Both hardcover (clothbound with a printed dust jacket) and paperback editions are available for pre-order at special prices, through July 15, directly from the publisher. Shipping is expected in late July. 


"What does it mean to be a fool? / Is it to reel about the world / Like stars made out of icicles, / Dangerous and breakable?" Not knowing what he is or can be, the self-convicted Fool burrows in his bed of blackened leaves. In time, he answers the call to live a larger life. On his journey to the Red King's castle, he may learn something--sorrow? self? the urge to rise?--and begin to be changed, as if by alchemy.

And what is this, The Book of the Red King? The Fool hardly knows, though he wrote The Red Book himself--though he knows the pages that are his gift to the Red King, packed with tales and ruminations, love and grief, birthday hats and transformation. Perhaps the book begins with his arrival at the marketplace near the castle, when for him "language was a gold chrysanthemum / That burst with fountain-like abandonings / Of stories, fragments, anecdotes and jokes." Perhaps it begins when "The Red King left his tower under stars / And followed gold to make the Fool his fool."

Deep in mystery, in the distant lands of the Red King, the Fool suffers metamorphosis. He moves in a kind of dance with his friend the King, the wheeling court that surrounds them, and that princess who walks the moonbeam path on the sea, Precious Wentletrap: "He has the gift of fetching her. / He sings, wearing the fish-skin cloak / Under a crown of sparkling dust." And when her light is nearest him, "This glory makes the Fool a King." Out of quicksilver change, out of the dark forest and the moonbeam path, out of torment and joy, the Fool makes The Red Book for the Red King, and for us.


Novelist Howard Bahr writes, "When a person reads a Marly Youmans poem, all the spaces ‘round about fall silent. The busy world is hushed, and her words, each one perfect and pinned in its perfect place, rise into the silence and burst into light. I, a poor mortal, can explain her work in no other terms."
Marly Youmans is poet and novelist, author of five books of poetry and nine novels.  She has won national awards and many "best of the year" citations. Her fiction and poetry have been lauded by writers and critics. Greg Langley, former Books Editor of The Baton Rouge Advocate, says: "Youmans is a writer of rare ability whose works will one day be studied by serious students of poetry." John Wilson, longtime editor of Books and Culture, writes that "Youmans (pronounced like "yeoman" with an "s" added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. She writes like an angel--an angel who has learned what it is to be human."

A Southerner astray in upstate New York, she has lived for the past two decades within sight of Kingfisher Tower and the lake James Fenimore Cooper called Glimmerglass. No wonder she dreamed the Fool and the Red King and Princess Wentletrap.


Clive Hicks-Jenkins is an easel artist, stage director and illustrator who lives in Wales. He collaborates with a small, regular group of writers, and has recently completed two books for the poet -- and just-appointed Poet Laureate -- Simon Armitage: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for Faber and Faber, and Hansel and Gretel: a Nightmare in Eight Scenes for Design for Today. Before illustrating Hansel and Gretel, he directed and designed the UK national tour of the stage production for which Armitage's poem was the libretto. As an illustrator his most frequent collaborations have been with Marly Youmans, and The Book of the Red King is his second with her at Phoenicia Publishing, the first having been the epic, post-apocalyptic poem Thaliad.

Cover headshot

Video and music by Paul Digby
"The Birthday Roses" from The Book of the Red King


  1. So cool!! Can't wait to see these books out. I love the poems from the Red Kings that you have shared in the past.

    1. Midori, thank you, thank you! I think that one will be down your own little alley!

  2. How wonderful!! 2020 seems so far away when one in anticipating a new Youmans masterpiece - and now two. Be still my leaping heart/hart.

    1. Jeffery, thank you so much for remembering me when you have a brand new book out--and especially lovely-looking, too.

  3. Amazing. I am awaiting these beauties.

    1. Thanks, Robbi--I am looking forward to seeing them...

  4. A personal, perhaps even selfish experience for those who write. Two books to which nothing more may, or can, be added. The skin is sloughed, two pebbles removed from our footwear. No more nagging thoughts about that illusory goal of perfection.

    Of course other skins may be grown, other pebbles acquired, but never mind. Whoever thought that finality could be such a delicious and calming state of mind?

    1. Yes, it is good to feel completion, even though nothing is ever perfect. I had to cut the poetry ms. considerably, as it was gigantic... And I'll probably have another go-round on the novel after I get editorial comments, though people tend to say my mss. are "clean."

  5. A high school friend quoted a definition of "Yankee": outside the USA, somebody from the USA; In the USA, but outside the north, somebody from the north; within the north, someone from New England; within New England, someone from Maine or New Hampshire; within Maine and New Hampshire, someone who has pie for breakfast. (I'm not sure about the states in the last two steps--it has been a while since high school.) An odd breed, apparently, however one draws the boundaries. I heard this in Colorado. But my friend's parents were from Iowa, part of which maybe not theirs) is clearly Greater New England.

    Anyway, I trust that you will have figured the Yankees out. Quite a few natives and sojourners have tried, and found themselves disenchanted.

    1. Disenchanted... Well, I'm hoping for a little book enchantment along the way.

      I've heard some of that but not all. Sort of a matreshka series of definitions. I think it has to be pie with baked beans out of the same skillet to be properly Yankee!


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.