Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, ed., Books and Culture. / New at patreon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Hodgepodgery, or thoughts collected and bits of articles read over the past Sunday and Monday and tossed into a post in disorderly fashion... Stew over them as you will!

"Madison," WCU, circa 1904.
Marly in Cullowhee

What hometown fun! Thanks to undergraduate Amelia Holmes for the article on me in Nomad: The Quasquicentennial Edition (Western Carolina University), written for Dr. Kinser's senior seminar course. "The students wrote about topics related to Western Carolina University, highlighting the university and its faculty over the course of 125 years." My father was professor of analytical chemistry, and my mother head of serials at Hunter Library, WCU.

Rereading. Christopher Beha on "Holy crap":

So here’s my main point: books that one doesn’t know how to read, books that challenge our ideas about what fiction is supposed to be doing, are more interesting to talk and think about. And at least when it comes to fiction, these are the books that I want professional critics weighing in on, so these are the books that I want the TBR to cover. Unfortunately, the phrase we most frequently use to describe such books is the same phrase we use to describe members in good standing of the conventional genre called “literary fiction.” This is one reason I don’t really like the phrase “literary fiction.” It is also one reason I don’t like thinking about books as members of genres at all. Instead I like to think about individual books. If I have to think about genres I suppose it could be said that the genre of fiction I find most interesting to talk and write and read about—the one I think the TBR should be reviewing—is the genre that has the genre specification “does not conform to any genre specifications.” For our purposes I would call this genre “Holy Crap fiction.” In case I haven’t made this clear, lots of Holy Crap fiction isn’t all that good. Certainly lots of it is objectively worse than the average competent genre novel. But even bad Holy Crap fiction is far more interesting to talk about and read about than a competent genre novel, because it requires making sense of. A corollary to this is that there is no such thing as a merely competent Holy Crap novel.

Launch day

Gary Dietz's book of heartfelt, real-life narratives about fathers and disabled children has its launch day today. I've updated the page on Lady Word of Mouth to include more purchasing links and the book's facebook page--please visit and like.

More thoughts on patreon 

10 p.m. Monday: At the end of 48 hours on patreon, I have three patrons... and am still pondering whether this is: a.) desirable; b.) useful; c.) all-around okay; or something I can do, since I am somewhat allergic to vigorous horn-tooting. Anyway, tonight there are three pieces up, all free. Nevertheless, I could dither over my opinion if I had time. However, I don't right now. Maybe after tonight's eclipse, if I don't crash. Should peak about 3:00 here. Yawn. However, it seems to be . . . raining.

Art for Glimmerglass by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
2nd pass galleys, Glimmerglass 

The galleys are done. I proofed and made five little tweaks. And that's THE END of that. Next time I'll see a .pdf with Clive's art in place, so that will be exciting. The design for chapter openers looked lovely. Then will come lovely new books.

Great poetry giveaway

We're about halfway through the time for the giveaway. One lucky person will receive a couple of books...

At Salon: David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture 

But David Foster Wallace predicted a hopeful turn. He could see a new wave of artistic rebels who “might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels… who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles… Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue.” Yet Wallace was tentative and self-conscious in describing these rebels of sincerity. He suspected they would be called out as “backward, quaint, naïve, anachronistic.” He didn’t know if their mission would succeed, but he knew real rebels risked disapproval. As far as he could tell, the next wave of great artists would dare to cut against the prevailing tone of cynicism and irony, risking “sentimentality,” “overcredulity” and “softness.”

Wallace called for art that redeems rather than simply ridicules, but he didn’t look widely enough. Mostly, he fixed his gaze within a limited tradition of white, male novelists. Indeed, no matter how cynical and nihilistic the times, we have always had artists who make work that invokes meaning, hope and mystery. But they might not have been the heirs to Thomas Pynchon or Don Delillo. So, to be more nuanced about what’s at stake: In the present moment, where does art rise above ironic ridicule and aspire to greatness, in terms of challenging convention and elevating the human spirit? Where does art build on the best of human creation and also open possibilities for the future? What does inspired art-making look like?    --Matt Ashby and Brendan Carroll

Dear Salon, 

Look harder. A lot of us out here in the wilderness have been making art out of words and paint and more, setting ourselves against the grain of the times. Plenty of us have devoted our lives to making a kind of art that can soar up above nihilism and despair and irony--making "art that redeems" in opposition to what is most lauded and supported by the system that tells people what art to see and read.  Put on your glasses. Those who have eyes to see, let them see.

So touching...

I love this little article about writer Hugh Nissenson. He was no failure but seems to have often felt himself one. So I am glad to see this tribute. No doubt if he had been more sentimental and less of a truth-teller, he might have had more readers. In this age, it is his glory that he hewed to his own path.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Irresistible Sonnets" at Lady Word of Mouth

Mary Meriam's new anthology, Irresistible Sonnets, is up at Lady Word of Mouth. Please help it sell like hotcakes! (Click here to see lots of information about the book.) And she put one of my poems in the post--a big surprise for me and an extra for those of you who read my work. The poem originally appeared in Able Muse.

This is a treasure that you must allow to ravish you slowly.
--Robin Williams, Author of Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare?

This stunning collection of "Irresistible Sonnets", like a handful of snowflakes, contains no two alike.
--Rayne Allinson, Author of A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth I

Click to purchase +
Click to like

The patreon experiment...

Vignette by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
for Thaliad (Phoenicia Publishing, 2012)
On Saturday night, I started a patreon account, and I have (very small whee!) three patrons. Thanks to Robbi Nester, Paul Digby, and Sienna Latham for being my first readers!

So far all the material is free, as a good deal of it will be as I go on--now up are the first chapter of A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, a group of poems from The Foliate Head, and a link to material from Thaliad. I'll probably continue putting out a lot of free material, as I don't see how people can become interested in work without seeing it! In addition, there's a post with link to the great poetry giveaway

In the near future, the patron-only material will be small short stories, which I have begun writing while proofing galleys for an upcoming book. These (or a group of these) will be posts that ask for a dollar in return, or about a half of a Starbuck's regular brewed coffee. Actually I rarely see a Starbuck's in the hinterlands, so I might be wrong about that one. Also, other work that I want to keep private, either because I'm planning on expanding it or because I want to publish it elsewhere, will be patron-only.

I'm planning on keeping the experiment for at least a month. After that, I'll see what I think and either drop the account or keep going. Writers have to be nimble in times of change, and the world of publishing is certainly in ferment. My hope is that it will be an interesting experiment in finding new readers and ways to support what I write.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dear friends and readers of The Palace at 2:00 a.m.,

my current front page
image at
I have just this instant started something new, and I hope you will follow me. I've signed up for a "creator account" at patreon. If you do sign up as a patron, know that a great deal of the work I post will be free, and that there will be some one-dollar posts of stories and groups of poems, maybe occasionally a chapter of a forthcoming book. (I will not be doing the kickstarter-style monthly support fees.) You are not required to commit to the dollar posts in order to sign on and follow the site, but I will be posting some patron-posts that are small short stories in the very near future.
I'm looking forward to the experiment and hoping that it may help to expand my readership. I will leave a notice here whenever I post something at patreon, whether free or not. Hope you will support me by your presence there!

Good cheer and watch out for dystopian futures,

P. S. First post: here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

At Antioch this summer--

Photographs courtesy of
and Ivan Prole of Zemun, Serbia

July 12-18 
Antioch University at Yellow Springs
Sharon Short, Director

The week's schedule here

Summer program faculty here
Andre Dubus, keynote speaker
Eileen Cronin
Chris DeWeese
Matthew Goodman
Hallie Ephron
Erin Flanagan
Tara Ison
Katrina Kittle
Marly Youmans
and more...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Phillips at Lady Word of Mouth

Anna Lena Phillips's little book of poetic forms, a letterpress work made during a stay at The Penland School and available in multiple colors and with the option of a slipcase, is now up at Lady Word of Mouth. Pink, blue, brown, or orange with gold foil!

And the great poetry giveaway is here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A refusal to pine--

Note: If you're looking for the Great Poetry Giveaway, scoot down one post...

Image courtesy of and Patrick Nijhuis
of Deventer, the Netherlands.
I'm a little peeved at The Atlantic's writers-need-a-Vera article. I definitely don't agree with "The Legend of Vera Nabokov: Why Writers Pine for a Do-It-All Spouse." Let's just do the work, and if our bathrooms are cleaned a little less often and our laundry sometimes stands up in a mountain and we don't have as many dinner parties as we might like, well, so be it. And if we don't write as many masterpieces as we hoped . . . we can just remember than our number one piece of assigned work is life, and that we need to try to get better at it as we go on.

So what if some of us could use but can't manage a secretary, a housekeeper, and a full-time cheerleader? Sure, I lack all and would enjoy all, but who cares? My husband and I have three children to send to college, and I'd rather have the rather pricey children than the helpers. And I'm grateful that I was able to quit my "career" and stay home to write poetry, stories, and novels and raise children. I'm still pleased, and I'm not going to complain.

In fact, I feel wonderfully lucky not to have been born into a life where I'd end up cleaning hotel rooms (or crabs at the beach--what a tough job! I admire those women, cracking claws and laughing as they work), scraping paint off clapboard, or smiling as I ring up your brand new material possessions at Walmart. Writers need to be a part of the daily dirt and occasional magic of life just like everybody else, and we don't have to whimper if we don't live in a sweet rainbow bubble where other people serve us.

What is a spouse for? Not to be your personal servant, certainly! I'm glad to have married a man who likes to cook and does so. But I didn't and don't expect my husband to read or critique manuscripts, act as my secretary, clean the bathrooms, do the laundry for five people (or however many are in residence at the moment), vacuum, etc. Do I wish he would do all those things? It's a bit tempting . . . but no, not really, thanks.

As for Vera Nabokov, I thank her for managing Vladimir Nabokov's life and career. I hope she found considerable satisfaction and even some joy in her choice. Because that's what it was--a choice of how to live her life.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The great poetry giveaway, 2014--

I'll be giving away books (see below) as part of the great poetry giveaway, 2014, and all you have to do is leave a comment on the post below to have a random chance at a few books. No matter where you are in the world, you may feel free to toss your name in the e-hat!

Update: I will respond to comments, and am thinking about what could be an appropriate e-prize for everybody who leaves a note--maybe a selection of poems drawn from all four of my poetry books. And I'll also do a post with selections from the book that is not by me later on.

UK: Stanza Press, 2012

One of many interior vignettes
by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
for The Foliate Head

One will be a book of mine, either the paperback of Thaliad or a copy of The Foliate Head. The choice is yours. Check the links or tabs above for some review clips, samples, and other information.

The other book will be...

I will give away a copy of Need-Fire by Becky Gould Gibson, in order to share the book but also to share the work of Bertha Rogers, Bright Hill Books, and The Treadwell Literary Center, where I read last week. This choice is to be a book on our shelves that we have read and liked, and it is a book I am currently reading and enjoying--good thing the drawing is in May! The sequence of poems centers around the 7th century Hild, first abbess at Whitby in Northumberland.

Winner, Bright Hill Press Poetry Award Series, 12
One of many interior vignettes by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
for Thaliad (Phoenicia Publishing, 2012)
Montreal: Phoenicia Press, 2012

Marly at random

Eucalyptus bark, courtesy of Ruth Steele, Devon, UK and 
Today I am spending most of time in ways that take me back to high school--I went to see the twelve Ruggles essay finalists, all juniors, including my own youngest child and others I know well. And I'll be off to Mt. Markham for a track meet soon. In between I wanted to read galleys but had too much else to do, alas. Maybe tonight I will manage it! Update: Somebody give me a gold star. Almost two hours in the sleet with an umbrella over my head. And give child no. 3 a gold star as well. Frozen. These wild, hardy Yanks finally called off the last three events. All the kids were soaking wet and shaking with cold. Brrr!

Not having much time, I am going to just open up one of my recent books, stab a finger down, and leave you with whatever I found... And here it is, the start of a scene (A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage) after the wandering Pip has lit down in California, which looks very different from the sharecropper's farm he knew back in south Georgia.

* * *

     After a while one of the little girls began crying in her sleep, and Irisanne woke and got up. He could see her sitting on the floor by the cot, her hand swooping along the child's spine. The Rushing of the wind through the branches grew louder, made him feel uneasy. When her daughter tossed restlessly in the cot, the mother began to sing an old tune:

          Silvering's on the Jordan stream,
          Silvering's on the feet that pass,
          And bright silvering's on the tree.

          It's lessening that time imparts;
          Hours of sorrow fall upon us,
          And sad and sere are all our hearts--

     To Pip it felt eerie and comfortless, the melody even more mournful than the verses. He got up and slipped down the stairs. Outside the house, he could still make out the words, the notes mixing with the noise from the leaves.
     Swain had called the trees a windbreak, but they were more like a confined, immensely high forest than anything so domestic and useful. He walked on the aromatic debris, looking up at the chinks of moon through the canopy and pausing to touch the bones. He had never seen anything like the grove of eucalyptus with the moonlight showering down. The older trees had few lower branches, and the trunks were tall and tapering but straight like masts for a clipper ship. Where the saplings were crowed, they spired up, narrow and tall. Some of the mature trunks looked as if they had been sheathed in tattered wallpaper that shed in ribbons and flakes, but underneath the smooth naked skin was as smooth and fair as the inner thigh of a girl--one with hair so pale and metallic that she might be an elf or a fairy. He touched a tree like mottled silver marble. The wind fell away, and the mosaic of leaves above him grew still: blue, light green, grey-green, and jade.