Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.

--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Maze of Blood news

Art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
1. News:
My youngest has graduated, with many frolics and much company, and I had a wonderful time at the Culture Care Day at Cairn University (sponsored by Fujimura Institute and International Arts Movement), where I did a poetry reading, an interview and fiction reading, a small kickoff reading for the concert, and a taped interview. Whew. What a week that was!

2. Pages

New page
on Maze of Blood at Facebook here.  
(Evidently Facebook will not allow the world "blood" as part of a page title!)

Old page on my website, now updated, here. 

Art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins,
design by Burt and Burt
3. Recent comments on a Maze of Blood galley
at twitter, with slash marks to separate each tweet:

5 tweets from editor John Wilson ‏@jwilson1812 Jun 28:
The novel is inspired by the life of Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian), and Coleridge is a / tutelary spirit. (Cover and illustrations by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.) Like all of Marly's books, it's one of a kind. / I marvel at the arc you've followed. Each time you start from scratch, in a new direction, so that a bald summary of your / novels would seem to suggest that "Marly Youmans" is actually 8 or 9 different writers, and yet in fact each book is so / clearly and distinctively yours, with your "inscape."

3 Tweets from John Wilson, editor of Books and Culture:
Saved galley of Maze of Blood (new novel by @marlyyoumans) for this trip. Finished it yesterday: wonderful. Coming in Sept from @mupress / The novel is inspired by the life of Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian), and Coleridge is a ... / tutelary spirit. (Cover and illustrations by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.) Like all of Marly's books, it's one of a kind. @marlyyoumans @mupress

And here's a 4-tweet quote, John Wilson ‏@jwilson1812 Jun 28
"And so the tale of a Green Knight with his chopped-off head still holding a knight of the Round Table to promises made / is no less true than the tale of a man crammed with secrets who spontaneously combusts and leaves behind only a black, / tallowy mark on the floorboards, and his story in turn is no less true than the tale of a Texas sharecropper's wife who / has had a miscarriage only ten days before but just this morning was walking behind the mule and guiding the jerking plow."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

5 poems at Mezzo Cammin

Lovely day doing various events at International Arts Movement and Fujimura Institute's Culture Care Day at Cairn University (Langhorne, Pennsylvania) on Wednesday, lovely day with family at graduation today... And now I find some poems just up at Mezzo Cammin--here is a taste of what is there, titles and opening lines. Thanks as always to editor and poet and culture maker Kim Bridgford.

Portrait of Carolyn Wyeth with Leaves

Leaves moving in the evening light and air—
Some are lit from within, irregular

Bride, with Magnolia Blossom 

The piano-and-fiddle tune is faint,
As light as eyes in the daguerreotype… 

My Lover Sang to Me 

He sang a ballad in my ear;
     Song echoed like a shell.

The Dream of the King's Clothes 

Seven years we toiled, collecting the orb
Spiders at dawn, coaxing the spinnerets 


Firstborn, strange in the womb, too-late turner, brow-positioned— 
     In the cathedral I wandered to the Lady Chapel 

Monday, June 22, 2015


Internet fast until next Monday--Culture Care Day at Cairn, company, graduation, parties!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

At Cairn: Culture Care

Fujimura Institute 
Culture Care Day
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Cairn University
Chatlos Chapel
200 Manor Ave.
Langhorne, PA 19047

"Join friends of the International Arts Movement and the Fujimura Institute for an evening of lectures and performances exploring Culture Care.

"IAM founder Mako Fujimura (author, Culture Care) will host an afternoon discussion with Dr. Esther Meek (philosopher and Fujimura Institute Fellow) and Dr. Peter Candler (author and Fujimura Institute Fellow) and Marly Youmans (poet/author). The evening benefit concert will feature Danielson and The Nine-Fruit Tree, MAE, Andrew Nemr with Max ZT, Ruth Naomi Floyd, Marly Youmans, Ron Witzke, and white lotus."
My event schedule for the day, subject to lots of change as we approach the day. This is probably not the final word:
Poetry and fiction reading at 11:00
Interview, conducted by Makoto Fujimura, after lunch
4:15-5:00 p.m. I'll be joining the panel on culture care. Chatlos Chapel.
6:30-9:30 p.m. I'll kick off the benefit concert with a tiny poetry reading. Chatlos Chapel.

Strong-minded words from Makoto Fujimura:

Younger artists often ask me whether their art is "good enough," and whether they are called to be an artist. My answer is: "if you are not sure, you are not called." That may seem harsh, but the reality of the arts requires that we follow our calling no matter what others think, or even what we believe ourselves. When art is simply what we must do to stay true to ourselves, it is a calling.

It is not surprising that Emily and Vincent--and their art--were marginalized, for both intuited that such an exiled existence was the only way to remain consistent with their humanity given the cultural pressures of their time. Yet  more than a century later these two exiled souls still speak eloquently to what our hearts long for. Her poems give us words to express our own resistance to utility. His paintings offer parables of beauty that sow seeds of authentic being into our wounded, dehumanized souls. Their works are antidotes to utilitarian drive for commercial and ideological gain, remedies for the poison in the river of culture. They offer our dying culture unfading bouquets, gifts of enduring beauty that we do not want to refuse (p. 63, Culture Care.)

...who you are and what you are built to do...

from Michael Lind, at The Smart Set:
"Artless: Why do intelligent people no longer care about art?"

The fine arts don’t matter any more to most educated people. This is not a statement of opinion; it is a statement of fact...

What happened? How is it that, in only a generation or two, educated Americans went from at least pretending to know and care about the fine arts to paying no attention at all?

Our culture...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Word power

This page in the nigh-infinite library of the web is devoted to words arranged in the right order. Here are heartfelt, powerful words of anguish, beauty, and forgiveness--words that reveal the heart and soul, the mixed tangle of feelings, and the chosen determination to hew close to the injunction, "Love one another."
"You have killed some of the most beautifulest people I know. Every fiber in my body hurts.... May God have mercy on your soul...We are the family that love built."

The response by "Mother Emmanuel" church to the shootings reminds me so much of the words from the Old Order Amish to the shooting of ten girls, ages 6 to 13, at the Amish West Nickel Mines School back in 2006. They were shot at close range, execution-style, and five of the girls died on the spot or soon afterward, while the others were seriously injured. The Amish expressed forgiveness and comforted the family of the killer. The thought of an Amish man holding the killer's father in his arms makes an indelible picture.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tilting against trendy views of Carroll

An Alice from the fabulous pen of Mervyn Peake
wonderful illustrator and author of the Gormenghast trilogy;
see more of his work at

Two in one, three in one

As someone who fell in love with the Alice books at five, I've enjoyed the many articles of late about that precocious young miss, and about those two interesting, contradictory yet identical people, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Lewis Carroll. I say identical because so many writers suggest that they were two, as they are frequently contradictory in manner and writings. But are we not all one with our reversed image in the mirror? A logician and mathematician who loved to present children with number and "river-crossing" puzzles, Dodgson well knew that 1 x 1 = 1.  Most important of all, how big a trick is it to be both Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Lewis Carroll, when the man is a deacon in the Anglican Church and acknowledges with frequency in public and before God that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one?

An ideal from which we are barred

Let's consider the wholly bizarre-to-us idea that Dodgson could enjoy tea and boating parties with little girls and photographing little Victorian girls, sometimes in the "attire of Eve," without being an incipient pedophile. Is this possible? Is it possible for a Victorian artist to enjoy the beauty of naked form without feeling even a tiny urge to ravage, ravish it?

Our own times are quite odd about the matter of childhood and sex. Our young teen models and actresses with their revealing designer clothing bind together childhood and sexuality. Revelations about the abuse of little children are commonplace. And yet we still live in a world where tiny children love to toss off their clothes and dash about in the freedom of nakedness. I remember an Irish poet telling me that men must bathe their tiny daughters to help their wives, but also because the children's bodies are so radiant--delicious and beautiful. I leave off his name because such sentiments in our post-Freud times have the power to shock many of us. The lyrical family photographs of Sally Munger Mann in her private, rural Eden of river and woods have caused dust-ups and argument in the world of museums and the fine arts.

So can we go back to and enter into an era in which the upper class of the culture held up images of children as unstained innocence and loveliness? Can we ever see through their eyes? Or is there a peculiar angel of time barring our way to that Edenic concept? Of course, things in Victorian times were not sweetness and light for children scrambling up chimneys or living in workhouses; nevertheless, a child world of sweetness and light formed an upper class, educated ideal, one that Carroll photographed.

Our culture, shocked by the celibate

Could it be that what offends the current sensibility of Western minds--our sex-and-youth-exalting media, our worship of movie celebrities and their changing lovers, our insistence on freedom in our pleasures--is the idea that someone could choose to set aside his sexuality, whatever its nature? The mistrust of Dodgson among many critics may, at least in part, be rooted in his distance from our own sensuous culture through his position as a celibate deacon in the Anglican church. Imagine that degree of renunciation and discipline; it's not only quite uncommon in our time, but frowned upon by many educated people, both in and out of the church. Can many critics in our current culture consider Dodgson-Carroll without feeling almost a disgust for his celibacy, a thing that challenges our own culture's values in multiple ways? I think not.

Alice's adventures last

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"Better than yourself"

I had forgotten this wonderful Paris Review interview until Brenda Bowen quoted a line from it on Facebook. I just found and reread it. So brilliant, so fascinating. Read the whole thing; it's full of wonderful, often unexpected responses that still are full of meaning for readers and writers and just plain old human beings.

When I was a teen and in my early twenties, I was passionate about and read virtually all of Faulkner. I was mad about Spotted Horses and The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom and more. I am sure plenty of what I read was not properly digested, and certainly time has wiped much of what I read from memory. But the books were a fine diet for a dreaming, aspiring Southerner.

My father, who rose from being a Depression-era Georgia sharecropper's child to a professor of analytical chemistry, disapproved of and resented Faulkner's depiction of poor Southerners. I always remember him when I think of Faulkner.

Some clips to entice

Ninety-nine percent talent . . . ninety-nine percent discipline . . . ninety-nine percent work. He must never be satisfied with what he does. It never is as good as it can be done. Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.


The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.


People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand. They are afraid to find out how tough they are. Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich.


Nothing can injure a man’s writing if he’s a first-rate writer. If a man is not a first-rate writer, there’s not anything can help it much. The problem does not apply if he is not first rate because he has already sold his soul for a swimming pool.


His obligation is to get the work done the best he can do it; whatever obligation he has left over after that he can spend any way he likes. I myself am too busy to care about the public. I have no time to wonder who is reading me. I don’t care about John Doe’s opinion on my or anyone else’s work. Mine is the standard which has to be met, which is when the work makes me feel the way I do when I read [Flaubert's] La Tentation de Saint Antoine, or the Old Testament. They make me feel good. So does watching a bird make me feel good.


The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.


The quality an artist must have is objectivity in judging his work, plus the honesty and courage not to kid himself about it. Since none of my work has met my own standards, I must judge it on the basis of that one which caused me the most grief and anguish, as the mother loves the child who became the thief or murderer more than the one who became the priest.

INTERVIEWER Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them? FAULKNER Read it four times.
It's all worth reading. Read it! Or, as in my case, reread it and find it just as good and intriguing as before.