Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Marly on poetry

My husband Jonathan is a genius computer guy. He does not, however, repair toasters. Toasters are wonderful pieces of technology. If you use them just right, you can make a Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tart even more amazing than it already is. But just because Jonathan can build robust distributed systems doesn't mean he can make your bread brown faster. It's a different kind of technology. That's not to say that being technically minded doesn't connect with other technical things sometimes, it's just to say that one doesn't necessarily follow the other.

The same goes for writing. I write creative nonfiction short stories and children's fiction for older children/young adults. I do not write romantic sci-fi thriller trilogies. I don't write picture books. I don't write copy or journal articles or comic book captions or biographies. They're all different and take different skills.

Marly Youmans is, among many other magical things including being a children's author, a poet. I mean she has the rare gift of being simultaneously poignant and succinct, of not only seeing things in a unique way but being able to communicate her point of view with language. Not every writer has these gifts (these skills, these powers) coupled with the discipline to harness them. Marly does.

Because poetry is a beautiful mystery to me, I recently asked Marly to be my first One Question Interview interviewee, and I'm happy to say she accepted. Thank you, Marly! My one question for Marly was this: Why poetry? Her answer follows.

To begin in longing.
To fall in love with language.
To make the beautiful as it is made in no other way.
To rejoice. To grieve. To dance my dance with a reader.
To be a reader. To play with Hopkins and Dickinson and Yeats and the Gawain poet and people from other lands and other times.
To be a part of a dream-village of readers and poets that stretches vertically through time and horizontally through space.
To wield the gift. To give a gift.
For mystery.
Because I can, and because I’m good at it, as Flannery O’Connor said about her fiction. She didn’t think she was good at much else, except maybe chickens and peacocks and writing wonderful essays. I don’t think I am good at much else, except making stories and novels and maybe raising three rather unusual children. And the occasional performance…
To knock the tedious weight of post-post-Modernism off my back so I can live in a place where tradition and today marry.
To practice humility before the work of the great masters of poetry.
To be like a magic room that grows bigger on the inside, where it matters.
To sing without a note.
To know the pleasure of streaming-forth words.
To change my life.
To make something like this only different:

           THE STARRY FOOL
from The Book of the Red King

In a shivering of bells
The Fool comes shining, shimmering
Unseen along the moonshine way.

Little fir trees sprinkle his path
With needles, lift their limbs and point
To the bright whirligigs of stars.

And the crack in the Fool's heart is for once
Mended, as if without a seam:
He shakes his bell-branched staff at the stars.

So cold, no one plays the watchman,
But in the tower called
The Spear
The Red King rules the chiming hour.

There he will spy the moon-washed Fool
Skittling like a toy top through the city.
He will run outside to greet him,

My brother and my self,
My mirror, the crack inside my heart!

Reprinted from Mezzo Cammin

The eighth book (and second book of poems) by Marly Youmans is The Throne of Psyche (Mercer University Press, 2011.) Forthcoming books include an epic poem, Thaliad (Montreal, CA: Phoenica Publishing) and A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (Ferrol Sams Award, Mercer University Press, 2012.) www.marlyyoumans.com www.thepalaceat2.blogspot.com