Cooperstown author Marly Youmans is awash in books.
A 2012 judge for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, she read 316 books between June and early September. Before that, she did a book tour in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. And she has now published the second of three books due out this year — a collection of poems that follows a novel and precedes an epic poem.
Stanza Press in the U. K. has just announced the publication of her collection of poetry, “The Foliate Head.” This edition, a collaboration between the writer and an artist, is available only in a hardcover, limited edition.
Originally requested for publication by Stanza Press and P. S. Publishing owner and publisher Pete Crowther, the book as published is a labor of love between friends: Marly Youmans, poet and novelist; Clive Hicks-Jenkins (Wales), painter and visual artist; and noted designer Andrew Wakelin. Peter Wakelin, head of The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, also influenced the book design.
Profusely decorated with leafy images of the Green Man of mythology, “The Foliate Head” is divided into three parts: “Powers,” a group of poems about earthly and otherworldly powers; “The Book of Ystwyth,” a little collection of ekphrastic poems (poems in response to paintings) written in honor of Hicks-Jenkins’s 60th birthday painting retrospective; and “The Green World,” a series of poems with forest settings and dealing with characters such as Puck, the Green Man, Ezekiel, the Prince of Darkness and the Forest’s bride. An emphasis on nature, mythology, the otherworldly and art marks the book, according to a media release from Stanza Press.
The release, said Kim Bridgford, director of The West Chester Poetry Conference, the only formal poetry gathering in the United States, praises Youmans’ range and writes that her poems “always seem utterly new and startlingly familiar. While I tend to favor her poems about the mythological, Youmans shows astonishing skill, whatever the subject.”
The poems in this collection are formal poems (sonnets, blank verse, heroic couplets, quatrains and nonce forms) were earlier published in “Books & Culture,” “Mezzo Cammin,” and elsewhere.
Books editor Greg Langley writes in “The Baton Rouge Advocate” that: “Youmans is a traditionalist in her use of forms, and her work will delight those who enjoy classical poetry with direction and structure, yet her strong and inventive metaphors and similes evoke an otherness that only Coleridge attained ... wholly beautiful and brilliant. Youmans is a writer of rare ability whose works will one day be studied by serious students of poetry.”
Youmans has had a busy year. Forthcoming in November is a post-apocalyptic epic poem about seven children who journey to a place rather like her current home and settle, creating a new culture. “Thaliad” will be published in simultaneous hardcover and paperback by Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal and will again feature profuse artwork by Hicks-Jenkins.
Youmans’ novel “A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage” was selected as the winner of The Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction for 2010.The award is given by Mercer University Press “for the best book that speaks to the human condition in a Southern context.” Youmans has won various awards for her short fiction and has received a wide variety of recognition for her work.
However, she said this acknowledgement is especially nice because it was given by a press in Georgia, the setting of her book and the place where most of her family is based. She has written six other novels. Her third novel, “The Wolf Pit” (published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux) won The Michael Shaara Award. Her book “Val/Orson,” was chosen as “Book of the Year’’ for 2009 by “Books and Culture’’ magazine editor John Wilson.
Other poetry books by Youmans are “Claire” (Louisiana State University Press), “The Throne of Psyche” (Mercer University Press), and “Thaliad,” forthcoming in November from Phoenicia.
Youmans said she likes to veer from writing short stories to the novel to formal poetry.
“Writers come from passionate readers; I was that,” she said.
She said as a child, her books would be open under her desk at school and follow her into the tub or bed. Her mother says that she knew her daughter would be a writer when she was in second grade. Youmans said she considered herself a poet in high school, and it was not until her 30s that she became serious about writing fiction.
Once when she was working as a college teacher, a colleague asked, “What does the world need with another poem?” She said she could not write another poem for about a year after that and is when she began writing fiction.
“I don’t function well when I am not writing, so I had to be doing something,’’ Youmans said.
To learn more about her work, visit her blog and website at http://www.