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

--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Artist is Present
I've been thinking about Marina Abramović (a person's swarming bee-mind buzzes off to many flowers and weeds and honey pots while reading book galleys), and in particular her The Artist is Present (March-May 2010) performance at MOMA. I've never been drawn to performance art, finding ugliness and tediousness in much of it. I'm rather quick to be bored, and my eye delights in color and texture and form and evidence of high aspiration.

But The Artist Is Present is a curious thing, and possible more than MOMA ever intended to sponsor. As Abramović sat in her strange, heavy robes for all those months, all day, looking into the eyes of people who stared into hers, occasionally smiling slightly or impelled to let a tear fall, she became something other. In fact, she became something that relates strongly to the holy. She became one with another, over and over again.
Mysticism is the art of union with Reality... All that [the practical, ordinary person] is asked to consider now is this: that the word "union" represents not so much a rare and unimaginable operation, as something which he is doing, in a vague, imperfect fashion, at every moment of his conscious life, and doing with intensity and thoroughness in all the more valid moments of that life. We know a thing only by uniting with it; by assimilating it; by an interpenetration of it and ourselves. --Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism
The appearance of union was opposed to her much earlier Rhythm 0, in which her own passivity and the presence of weapons allowed others to pierce and cut her. Rhythm 0 (1974) diminished the humanity of those present and separated them from her, even while they were touching her. In The Artist is Present, there was never any touching of bodies, though there was a greater touching through the mind and spirit.

Those who sat with Abramović were asked--without any words at all--to match and mirror back a contemplative consciousness. They achieved something rare in daily life, a kind of union, and in a quiet not so far removed from still prayer. Here was a linkage with "intensity and thoroughness" and the production of "valid moments" of lives. The participants woke up a little; they became more alive, according to their desire to experience and see, and according to their ability to be childlike and freed from the fetters and fritterings of thought. They experienced a rare turning of undivided attention to them--an examination from a place removed from ordinary life that offered no criticism and appeared to be an attention that involved the simplicity of receptiveness and love.

Such a turning of attention like sunlight onto a naked soul is clearly tied to the mysteries of life--God and love and the truth of one soul looking back at another in receptivity. There is, indeed, something beautiful and strange about it, something that draws its strength from religion and from the old, now-obscured aspirations of high art. In this way, The Artist is Present is far closer to the traditional, orthodox aims of art with its spiritual, moral needs and timeless world than one might imagine.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The little news page--

* In the clouds

Enjoyed teaching a day-long reading-and-writing workshop at Mons Nubifer Sanctus (Holy Cloud-bearing Mountain, a center for contemplative prayer at St. James, Lake Delaware) on Saturday. I'll be helping out there again some time...


* Blurb 

Marly Youmans' new novelMaze of Blood is a haunting tale of dark obsessions and transcendent creative fire, rendered brilliantly in Youmans' richly poetic prose. --Midori Snyder


* What's up

Tonight I'll cut the tape on the box of galleys and start pushing through Maze of Blood.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Early bird review!

Novelist Midori Snyder has written a thoughtful and very early review of Maze of Blood at her site, In the Labyrinth. Since I can't possibly thank her enough for writing an entire review when she was asked for a mere blurb, be sure and go and noodle around her website and take a look at her books, too! That would make a great thanks, and her site is an especially interesting one.


And since the book will not be out until fall, I'll just remind people that my current in-print books are Glimmerglass, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Thaliad, The Foliate Head, and The Throne of Psyche. Click on the tabs above to find out more about them.

Image: Detail with wing and name, cover for Maze of Blood... from the wonderful hands and brain-maze of Clive Hicks-Jenkins. See the finished image here!


First released pictures for Maze of Blood, my upcoming novel from Mercer with art from Clive Hicks-Jenkins and design from Mary-Frances Glover Burt, can be seen here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Birds and snow and jacket--

detail, "The Congregation of Birds"
Clive Hicks-Jenkins, 2009
And I'm looking at how well
these colors go with Glimmerglass...

Ventured out in the blowing snow as far as a bird conservatory with my husband and youngest child. Saw lots of birds--Gouldian finches and blue-neck and paradise tanagers and many more--and odd, stray creatures, lizards and tortoises and a sloth and mud skippers. On the way home, the world was mostly whited-out, all long snow-fields with a few sketchy trees and a blurred line of forest in the distance.

Now I need to do some work...

But what I keep thinking is that I cannot wait to see Clive's jacket image for Maze of Blood on Monday!

Glimmery, etc.

First Things
John Wilson's article "Books of 2014" is now available on the website of print magazine First Things. If you are a novel-reading maniac and don't want to hear about beetles and more (me, I like beetles and desert fathers), scroll down to the letter C and you'll find six novels from 2014, including Glimmerglass.

And if you want more Glimmerglass, take a peek at the post just prior, with links to a multi-part interview with me, conducted by Suzanne Brazil and published in various places on the web. It's a painstaking interview, done over time, each question emerging out of prior conversation.

Mons Nubifer Sanctus workshop
If you're near the Catskills and want to sign up for a February workshop (analysis and writing) on scripture and language, related writing exercises, and poetry in beautiful Lake Delaware, take a look at Mons Nubifer Sanctus, Holy Cloud-Bearing Mountain, a center for contemplative life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Long interview just up--

A long two-part interview with me conducted by Suzanne Brazil is now up at The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Blogcritics, and will be at the interviewer's own website. The interview came about after Suzanne Brazil wrote a review, also at The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Blogcritics. (As for the interview itself, I'm not quite sure why the Seattle paper sub-titled it with "poet and writing instructor," as I seldom do workshops, and we talk about Glimmerglass and other novels as well as poetry, but that's okay by me--I'm grateful to be with them.) It's a very long interview, and Suzanne asked interesting questions, so take a look...

The interview was conducted over a long period of time, each new question coming after the answer to a prior one. So this is the first time I have seen the whole series as one large interview and had a sense of what was talked about as a whole. I was horribly honest, so there might be some things you find curious or intriguing.

But now that I see all the questions together, I wish we had talked about collaboration with artists as something I value deeply, particularly my collaboration with Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Maybe that's the subject for another interview! It would be fun to do a three-way interview with Clive and me and Suzanne Brazil... Hmm? I also think it would be fun some time to do something about the collaborations with Paul Digby on poetry videos. I have done other collaborative projects as well, with Makoto Fujimura and others. It's an interesting topic...
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
part 1 and  part 2
and Blogcritics  part 1 and part 2
Suzanne Brazil will be re-posting on her website, Suzanne Brazil: Living the Writing Life, and on her Facebook page as well.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Glimmerglass at First Things

Clip from "Books of 2014: John Wilson takes us from beetles to the Desert Fathers," First Things, March 2015 (print), pp. 45-48--
Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times but in tune with the ages. Glimmerglass is set in the present in a fictional village patterned on Cooperstown. It's a sweetly uncanny mix of the quotidian and the magical, a portrait of the artist (and this is such a refreshing change) as a middle-aged woman recovering her vocation. There's a very odd house, too, with Gothic chambers, and a family secret, and much more.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day

A happy St. Valentine's afternoon to you--
Photo courtesy of John McMurdo of the UK and