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The Foliate Head 2012

UK: Stanza Press
And now both printings are hard to find...

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Greg Langley, The Baton Rouge Advocate, January 30, 2013 
A rarity among poets today, Youmans writes in metered verse, sometimes rhyme. Her skill at mastering the forms is impressive.
Ben Steelman, The Star News (Wilmington, North Carolina) 9 November 2014
I have been meaning to write for years about “The Foliate Head,” her 2012 poem cycle about the Green Man, published in Britain by Stanza Press, which must rank as one of the most beautiful books of the 21st century. Notable are the illustrations and illuminations by the Welsh artist Clive Hicks Jenkins. Hicks-]Jenkins also did the artwork for “Glimmerglass" [and "Thaliad." The designer for "The Foliate Head" was Andrew Wakelin.]
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The poems in Marly Youmans' The Foliate Head are startling, vivid and strange. Excellent stuff. As I was reading the book, I had a powerful urge to set aside all of my current work and write a novel based on a tangential image inspired by the poetry. I managed to restrain myself, which was probably either a mistake or a blessing. I tell you that Youmans is a great poet, deserving a much wider audience. I can't remember if she'll have something new out in 2019. I hope so.  --novelist Scott G. F. Bailey at Six Words for a Hat, 31 December 2018

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The poems in this sampler were originally published as follows:  qarrtsiluni ("I Heard Their Wings"), Mezzo Cammin ("The Shadow of the Jasmine," "Puck in Spring," and "The Goodbye"); Books and Culture ("The Magnolia Girl"), and on the website of Clive Hicks-Jenkins ("Master Jug and Lady Candle Stick.")

The Foliate Head contains three divisions, and a sample of images and poems from each are represented here (UK: Stanza Press, July 2012.) An especially lovely book, it is a collaboration of friends: poet and novelist Marly Youmans (US), artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins (Wales), and designer Andrew Wakelin (Wales). It was no surprise to us that we also received valuable input from a fourth conspirator, Peter Wakelin, head of The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. We thank publisher Pete Crowther--first for requesting a manuscript, and then for allowing us to form the book together. It is an rare thing for a publisher to do, and we are grateful for the challenge and the pleasure it gave us.

from Powers

(The first poem is drawn from a .pdf version of the then-future book, so it is closer to the way the poems look on the page.)

“I Heard Their Wings Like the Sound of Many Waters” 
In the dark, in the deeps of the night that are
Crevasses of a sea, I heard their wings.
I heard the trickling of tiny feathers
With their hairs out like milkweed parachutes
Floating idly on the summer air,
I heard the curl and splash, the thunderbolts
Of pinions, the rapids and rattle of shafts—
Heard Niagara sweep the barreled woman
And shove her under water for three days,
I heard a jar of fragrance spill its waves
As a lone figure poured out all she could,
Heard the sky’s bronze-colored raindrops scatter
On corrugated roofs and tops of wells,
I heard the water-devil whirligigs,
I heard an awesome silence when the wings
Held still, upright as flowers in a vase,
And when I turned to see why they had stilled,
Then what I saw was likenesses to star
Imprisoned in a form of marble flesh,
With a face like lightning-fires and aura
Trembling like a rainbow on the shoulders,
But all the else I saw was unlikeness
That bent me like a bow until my brow
Was pressed against the minerals of earth,
And when I gasped at air, I tasted gold.

One of the many beautiful interior decorations
by Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins.


     in the shade—the eternal jasmine’s—
     with immaculate joy.
          --Wasyl Barka, “The Mad Woman”

As white as jasmine though more crystalline,
The snow goes on for miles around the house
Under a freighted, leaning sky of ice.
So it has been for months—first the river
Flowing choppily between us and, next,
Torrential time, widening the spaces.
Then came the soft relentlessness of snow.
At first I thought one second was enough
To alter us forever and bereave
My soul of you—and so it was—but soon
Your face went slipping through my memory
Like water that no human hands can hold
Until I ran along the banks of death,
Stumbling, cutting my feet, calling your name,
And there I glimpsed the shade of you, not torn
In pieces by mad terror’s strike . . . To think,
They’ve named me mad who had divinest sense
Of love for you that would not ebb and die
As others wished, as others would commend!
I knew your voice, your body wavering
As if in ancient glass—you steadied, were
A vision of full-bodied soul, my love,
Who elsewhere lay in fragments in the grave,
And there along the shrapnel-edge of death,
We made the only vows we’ll ever have,
To walk past time into the jasmine shade
Where fragrance may be music, where our love
May fuse with light, where we’re not as we were.

At night my sheets are white as miles of snow;
My body, restless, aches for what is not,
And when I sleep my dreams are jasmine-lit.
I wander in the moonlight, break the stems
Of closed-up jasmine flowers just at dawn
And make them into tea. Sun’s corolla
Transforms into a single jessamine.

Above your bones I draw in snow a bloom
That glints as if it were a diamond brooch—
A scentless thing with dust at every heart
Of every flake of snow. No matter how
Broken, each crystal star is beautiful,
Fallen from perfection into a world
Infinitely precious, infinitely
Small against the dark and galaxies.
My love, my love, there is no terror here
But only grief that passes and a joy
I cannot share, these stars upon my skin.
I bend to taste the snow, and it is sweet.

Another green man by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

from The Book of Ystwyth

The middle section of the book is a series of seven poems written in response to art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, to whom the book is dedicated. This one is the most playful one...


With hands on hips and foliate attire,
The candlestick is all umbrageousness,
A shady lady who has stripped the trees
At upper right to flock her dress with leaves,
A woman apt to give or take offense,
Set resolute beside the one-armed jug.
The wide blue boat of hat upholds a stub
With candlewick to warn his waters off—
She’ll have no wild outpourings of his love,
No boarding of the levees of her skirts.
She doesn’t know that he, entrenched in peace,
Is only musing on the color blue
And how he can by rounding clasp the sea
Until his wheel-turned soul grows chasmal-deep.
Impaled upon a thorn, the little fish
At lower right perceives what she cannot
And dreams cloud-cuckoo lands below the waves—
Will get there just as soon as Master Jug
Can gather all the seas inside himself,
Enspelling blue chimeric revery.

—The Blue Jug, 2006

Another by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

from The Green World

Before Clive was a painter, he was a dancer, an actor, a choreographer, a set designer, a director, and no doubt many other things I am leaving out. As a boy actor, he played the part of Puck, and one day I wrote this little poem in part for him and in part for the joy of spring and sent it to him in a letter:


Now the catamount will scream,
Now the bears awake from dream
That the winter’s night prolongs
Till the ice dissolves in songs.
Now the daybreak fires the mist
By the mountain ridges kissed.
While the crocus blossoms yield,
Opening along the field.
Now it is the hour in spring
When the jetting sap will bring
Fresh desire to boy and girl
Waking to a brighter world.
And the fairies hunting shade,
Finding meadow grass arrayed
With the bloom of early bells,
Creep inside the fragrant cells.
Now in clearing, vale, and slope,
All the land is drunk with hope—
In the ancient greening weald,
Now is loosed what once was sealed.
Why, the very mountains reel
At the turning of the wheel.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins


Good-bye, my borrowed bits of loveliness,
You necklaces of pomegranate seeds,
You leaf-green shadows clustered in a gem,
You priceless pearl, redeemer of the dust.
Good-bye to my dear husband, children, friends,
For something wilding calls my secret name,
And light and forest overshadow me.
Already beams that slant between the boles
Go sliding through my skin until I shine,
And white-eyed vireos have plucked at leaves
To build my nest among the sycamores.
I wander emerald woods until I tire—
Pursuing still some moving goal in dreams,
I sleep in leaves beside a nacred sea.
The greeny shadows in this land of peace
Are pattering with rain that brings a scent
Of earth—the droplets rise again as cloud,
Foretelling metamorphosis in me.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins


She climbed the great magnolia tree
To learn the ways of bird and bee,

And there the Prince of Darkness came
To tempt her with delicious shame.

He bore her up and bore her down,
He let her try his royal crown

While leaves went clattering-a-clack
Like gossips warning at her back.

A burst of starlight from his face,
His every move a sigh of grace—

Could you resist his lightsome wiles,
Or stop the arrows of his smiles?

What was a tendency to hiss
When set beside a glowing kiss?

In long-ago and far-away,
She danced her dance the livelong day—

She showed him all her naked skin,
And what they did was mortal sin.

When boredom dulled his passion’s rage,
The Serpent Prince desired a cage;

He jailed her in the blooming tree
And spread a lie that she was free.

Addicted to the streaming light
From which her lover once took flight,

She now repents those leisure hours
Misspent among magnolia flowers.


  1. Gorgeous. Do you have a link to order yet?

  2. There are several links in the top picture's caption... May be others later.

  3. So happy to read these again. I looked for my copy, couldn't find it here (another one I lent out that wasn't returned), so I quickly searched online and located a "like new signed by the author copy." I won't be lending this one out when it arrives!!

    1. It's going to be a rare one... There were two print runs, but the total probably was not huge...

      Thank you for reading and loaning and scouring the world for another book!



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.