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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Chapter header by Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Glimmerglass
Photo from the Artlog
On the Move 

I'll be off soon, abandoning the rest of the family to do some events for Glimmerglass and attend to some other matters. Events are scheduled for: Norfolk, Virginia (SIBA trade show and "Moveable Feast of Authors" plus "Double Trouble" reading in town with Luisa Igloria); Athens, Georgia (a reading with Philip Lee Williams); Sylva, North Carolina; Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Take a look at my Events page to see those and other upcoming readings, talks, or signings. Safe mayst thou wander, safe return again! --Shakespeare

excerpt, Dr. Dalrymple on Hamlet

The lines that seem to me crucial in Hamlet are those that occur in act 3, scene 2, in which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern seek, at Claudius’s behest, to sound out the reasons for Hamlet’s strange behavior, so akin to madness. Hamlet asks Guildenstern to play upon a pipe. “I know no touch of it, my lord,” he replies, and when Hamlet insists, pointing out the stops, Guildenstern says, “But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony; I have not the skill.” Hamlet then says:
Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me. You would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery. You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak? ’Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.
This passage is of enormous significance on many levels—personal, philosophical, psychological, and even political. For the mystery of Hamlet, that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern would “pluck out,” is the mystery of what it is to be a human being. If we could pluck out that mystery, then we should be able to play upon people as upon a pipe, treat them as objects rather than as subjects. (More Dalrymple on Hamlet here.)

Kim Bridgford and poetry

Please see the foot of the prior post on how to support poet Kim Bridgford in the current trying situation at West Chester's Poetry Center. And in the meantime, here is a snip from an interview with her.
Poetry is an intimate art, and it communicates intensely about the most important moments of our lives: birth, death, marriage, love and loss, heartache. It delights in language and form, and shares that delight with others. We wouldn’t perish without poetry, but we would be considerably less.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mercer at PW

Congratulations to Mercer University Press, director Marc Jolley, and staff on Mercer's 35th anniversary! Here they are on the back cover of Publishers Weekly. Below, see them on the interior back cover. (You can find Glimmerglass on one of those, and me on the other.)

As someone who writes both poetry and fiction and who values collaboration, I've inevitably found a wild range of publishers--Big 6 (now Big 5) houses, mid-size houses, small presses, and university presses, and there are very different things to say about each. But I can say that Mercer is distinguished as producing immaculate books that pass my librarian mother's tests (the only time a book has ever passed her demanding scrutiny), allowing writer input and collaboration (as Glimmerglass, with art by Clive Hicks Jenkins), and possessing a stellar design team (Mary-Frances Glover Burt did a wonderful job with Glimmerglass.) I have enjoyed frolicking with smaller houses and being a part of making beautiful books like Glimmerglass, Thaliad, and The Foliate Head. Mercer's designers also made very handsome books for A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage and The Throne of Psyche, which won an Addy for design. (See tabs above if you're curious about any of those books.)

As a child I spent part of every summer in Georgia and still go back there at times--mostly for funerals, alas. I was born barely over the South Carolina line in Aiken, but Georgia was the only constant place in my childhood because my father--the bright Georgia sharecropper's boy who became a teenage tail-gunner in World War II and then a professor of analytical chemistry--had a strong itch to move on and see the world. So I rather like the idea of having a publisher who returns me to that part of the country.

Addendum to the day: West Chester Poetry Center and Conference

To support Kim Bridgford, just removed as Director of the WCU Poetry Center, write to:

Dr. Lori A. Vermeulen
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Chemistry
West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Anderson Hall, Suite 119
West Chester, PA 19383

Thanks to Allison Joseph for sharing the news. If you care about the conference and poetry center, please write in support of the stellar job Kim Bridgford has done.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Real / irreal

Clive photographs the title page.
Art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.
Design by Mary-Frances Glover Burt.
For an essay of mine having to do with what is called fantastic and what is called realistic, please go here to the Mercer blog. And here's a taste:
    Given the way books are discussed in our time, it’s possible to say that my A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage is a realistic narrative about a Depression-era’s orphan’s struggle to find his place, or that Glimmerglass is a search that takes place in a solid, realistic world but does the fantastic thing of taking the muse as a possible, literal figure—and at one point borrows from the ancient form of the somnium, or dream vision. But I would not reach for genre terms to describe either of them. For me, books are on a kind of thread or continuum, moving from one way of telling the truth to another. All that matters to me is whether they are good books or not.
     All art is created, shaped, dreamed into existence. What matters is not genre or categorization but the extent to which a fabric made of words—the warp and weft making up a kind of little maze—contains an Ariadne’s thread of energy that leads to larger life.
Comments are open there. I'd love to know what other people think about these things and have already gotten an interesting letter from a fellow novelist... Please leave a comment at the Mercer site if you have an opinion!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

editor John Wilson's shortlist for 2014, etc.


If you're in upstate/central New York, here's an idea for today... See you there if you go! I'll be there with some painter friends.

Tonight, an opening in Oneonta at Marten-Mullen.
I'm going with painter friend Ashley Cooper--
our friend Yolanda Sharpe (of Detroit) is acting
chair of the art department at SUNY. One sad note:
artist Gilda Snowden died two days ago.


Even the jacket flaps are beautiful.
Art (and photo) by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
Design by Mary-Frances Glover Burt.
Mercer University Press, 2014


Read from bottom to top, twitter-wise!
The + sign stands in for an ampersand, as Blogger refuses them...

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The illuminator, cock-a-hoop!

My copies of 'Glimmerglass' have arrived from Mercer University Press in the US, neatly and safely packed. I'm cock-a-hoop with delight. This is SUCH a pretty book, from its generously-sized reproductions of my chapter-headings, to the tawny endpapers picking up colours from the jacket. Mercer and the designer Mary-Frances Glover Burt have between them done a great job. Marly must be a happy author. I'm certainly a happy illuminator!  --Clive Hicks-Jenkins on facebook

I'm so glad he is pleased with the new book!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Books-and-words gallimaufry


I have updated the Glimmerglass page, cutting and adding and tweaking, and wouldn't mind a bit any comments to improve it. Launch events will start later in the month. Right now I'm working on the final stages of a manuscript...

The Uses of Tolkien

I've noticed a growing number of slight mentions of of Tolkien in the context of current events. Victor Davis Hansen has just dug into that vein of comparison. Here Hansen analyzes the state of the world, launching off from The Lord of the Rings.

"10 books"

I'm loving all these facebook lists of books that affected people and stuck with them. Every now and then I bump into one of mine--so far I've seen A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Thaliad, Ingledove, and Catherwood on lists. Catherwood is out ahead of the rest. Considering that people can dive back more than a thousand years through English language books alone, I am tickled.

 "10 books" from that lovely poet and man, Dave Favier

The King of Elfland's Daughter, Lord Dunsany
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt
Marx's 1844 manuscripts
A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Marly Youmans
All the Strange Hours, Loren Eisley
Leaves of Grass, Whitman
William Blake's lyric poetry
Juan Luna's Revolver, Luisa A. Igloria*
William Butler Yeats' lyric poetry
The Walls Do Not Fall, H.D.
History of the Civil War, Shelby Foote
Vanity Fair, Wm Thackeray
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
Debt: the first 5,000 years, David Graeber

*Note: Luisa and I will be reading together this month! See here. I'll also be reading from Glimmerglass with Philip Lee Williams, Lev Grossman, Kelly Link (and Raymond-Atkins-if-we-work-it-out...)

Bill Knight commented, "I had Marly Youmans on my list as well, but it was "The Thaliad", not "A Death", which I have not read." So that's the first I've seen for Thaliad.

Free speech (h/t @prufrocknews)

Wordsmiths rely on free speech. Academics ought to know what it means. But in our time, is it any surprise that the chancellor of Berkeley gets it wrong? Administrators have a weird challenge; they tend to be tugged toward a Babel of obfuscation, sophistry, word-inflation, falsehood, and jargon. It's evidently hard to resist. Go here for an interesting takedown and analysis of the chancellor's letter to the university. Here's a sample:
First, observe the hidden premise Chancellor Dirks is presenting — that free speech must have "meaning." This implies that speech that does not have "meaning" — as defined, one presumes, by Chancellor Dirks or a committee of people like him — then it is not "free speech," and perhaps is not entitled to protection. Dirks is smuggling a vague and easily malleable precondition to free speech. There is no such precondition. Our rights are not limited by some free-floating test of merit or meaning.
It gets tougher from there...

Saturday, September 06, 2014

More "10 books"

Not a bull's head but a minotaur.
Clive Hicks-Jenkins
I love popping up on these lists. It's fun to be on one, and it's interesting to see what books are chosen. Here's the third one I've seen one of my books on, this one from Erica Eisdorfer, novelist and 35-year ruler of the Bull's Head Bookshop at UNC-Chapel Hill. That's an awful lot of service to words in the right order! Thanks, Erica.
Rules: In your status list ten books that changed your life in some way....

a. The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
b. The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell
c. Catherwood by Marly Youmans
d. Regeneration by Pat Barker
e. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
f. Wet Nursing by Valerie Fildes
g. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
h. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls
i. You Never Call! You Never Write: A History of the Jewish Mother by Joyce Antlerd.