Woodrat Podcast 43: Marly Youmans in Wales

Marly Youmans with an ancient yew on the grounds of Powis Castle
admiring yew #35 on the grounds of Powis Castle

Even though my friend the poet and novelist Marly Youmans lives just five hours away from me in upstate New York, we went all the way to Wales to record this podcast. How’s that for dedication? We start out at a tea house on the grounds of Powis Castle, where we’re joined by another novelist and blogger, Clare Dudman. Then we go to Ty Isaf, the stately Clive Hicks-Jenkins residence near Aberystwyth, where we talk about such topics as the ghosts of Cooperstown, New York; whether children are an inspiration or a hindrance for a busy writer; women leaving the world for the woods; and how writing in rhyme resembles surfing. We are serenaded by rooks.

Marly’s latest book of poems is The Throne of Psyche and her latest novel is Val/Orson. She blogs at The Palace at 2:00 a.m. and tweets about raspberries and radishes.

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Theme music: “Le grand sequoia,” by Innvivo (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence).

17 Comments


  1. I do think that formal poetry is still more popular in the UK than here in the USA, as you mention, Dave. Perhaps America fell more into the idea of ‘the individualist’ than did the UK? Formal poetry and socialist approaches to poetry work well together, perhaps? Social rules?
    The ‘anything goes’ and freedom of the individual to express in highly individual ways that is so touted here in the USA balks at such formality?
    The rooks sound most informal and create a wonderful backdrop to this interview. A very nice way to start the day!

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  2. I love the image of writing in rhyme as surfing! Thanks for another interesting interview!

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  3. Just wonderful, eavesdropping on this wide-ranging conversation between two people I’m fond of! Marly, your reading of the poem from The Book of Ystwyth was even better than in the video; I was very touched by it. And I love the rooks.

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  4. Beth, that was a lovely thing to say–or two lovely things–thanks!

    Ren, glad you liked it.

    Paul, what a can of worms you open… You seem to suggest that perhaps Americans back in the Modernist day saw free verse as more egalitarian and friendly to individuals, which does make a kind of sense, although that’s not at all what Pound and Eliot seem to have been seeking–they were not really egalitarian types or into empowering democratic individuals! They were rather elite sort of figures, really, and right-leaning in many ways. Now things have shifted around in the U. S. so that metrical verse appears to be considered elitist, which is rather ironic when we have things like metrical/rhyming popular lyrics and rap, which actually are not at all elitist. And meanwhile we have various coteries of the avant garde who write free verse that is closed and unreadable to your average reader; what is that but elitist? So everything seems a little upside down. In fact, I’m no doubt getting confused and should sit down and be quiet!

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  5. That made me laugh out loud, Dave! Everything does appear to be all over the place, I agree. So many influences and a hotchpotch of so many influences everywhere. A tapestry for hell – or heaven….
    I speak only on a hunch, really. I just notice the tendency toward self-expression unfettered by ‘rules’ (what are seen as rules) in the USA – which is fine, but structure is also a very important element in the expressive arts and it appears that many people like to reinvent the wheel!
    I bring Socialism into the argument because I am so baffled by the belittling of the ‘social’ part of that word and the stress on the dreaded ‘ism’ part. Socialism is likely to offer up agreements and rules to many aspects of life and expression, whereas Capitalism is likely to throw new stuff out there constantly at the whim of the moment. Any moment.
    I think the unfettered approach can be extremely creative (so many ways to create the wheel) but ignores the importance of the tried and tested sometimes.
    Now my head hurts.

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    1. Hey, Paul–

      a. That was not Dave!
      b. That makes two of us. But I am clearly on the side of structure!

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  6. a) Oh! So it wasn’t! I do apologize to both Dave and you, Marly.
    b) I am too, on the whole.

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    1. a. No apology needed! Yet accepted because, well, it’s polite, isn’t it?
      b. Yes, on the whole…

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  7. Dave,

    Paul has proposed (in another thread with other people far, far away) that I was channeling you in the biggish comment (Eliot and Pound one), and that was the reason he responded to me as if I were you (strange thought.) Oddly, we then began rhyming in that thread. But what we really want to know is whether the Pound and Eliot comment is really you because it didn’t actually sound like me to me. And now back to the baboons and macaroons and so forth…

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  8. I’ve only just got around to catching up with the Wales podcast. (2011 has been the summer of galloping!)

    Great to hear you guys talking about writing. Strange to hear the Ty Isaf rookery in full throat. As I write it has gone into Autumn mode, the cacophony long since ceased.

    Marly, your reading and what you spoke of afterwards made me cry!

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    1. Clive,

      Writers love to hear that they’ve made readers/listeners cry! However, I was rather sleepy that afternoon and so I can’t quite remember what was read and so on. I shall have to listen to it again.

      I’m quite sure that I didn’t do as wonderfully as the Theatre Boy. You are so fluent when on the spot that it is wonderful! Never forget you talking so beautifully at the opening, with not even a few notes scribbled on your hand…

      However, the rooks make up for deficiencies, I am sure. Quite happy that you cried, Clive. If you were here I would give you a little lace hankie to dry your eyes. If I had a lace hankie, that is.

      Good cheer!

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  9. A delightful podcast to hear today as I installed shelves in our bedroom. Encouraging to hear how much Marly gets done while raising children, and delightful to hear her thoughts on poetry forms. Best of all, it was so fun being part of a sweet conversation featuring the soft voices of Marly, you, and the many rooks.

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