Marly Youmans

Melville at Mooring

So frail and nearly mad, too old for seas,
Recalling Greylock like a cresting wave,
A house with mighty chimney like a mast,
Lost Pittsfield floorboards creaking like a ship
And deathwatch beetle going tick tick tick
As it awakens to the teapot's heat:
Life's a long voyage out, with many gams,
Each one a book, each one (you say) a botch,
A glittering tangle, coruscant, with limbs
Bound to an anchor hauled up from the deep.
And we all know your story with its deaths,
The book inscribed with the beloved name,
The South Seas idol on the hearth that stares
As you outlive the world that once you knew—
"Time flies over us but leaves its shadow."
Too sullied and too solid, lacking praise,
The landscape hurts your feet on morning walks.

Marooned, for one last time you dream the sea.


One of them is wandering with Bartram,
Tasting breast-of-heron, vision shaken
By a blind slave swinging in a cage
Or glitter from magnolia pyramids.

One is flickering a brush till the page
Is surging sea-green water that runs deep
Yet shines phosphorescent with strange top-lights.
Some love the world one way, some another.

Muse-bound, my stars are dear but partly crazy
From birth or staring hard at earth and time…
Such friends are constellations and the lights
By which I read my fate, find comfort's zone.

Look: one is stock-still in a fragrant cloud
Emitted by gardenia purity,
The mind still whispering its spell of words
Into the night garden of white flowers.

And one, ink- and paint-flecked, crosses morning
Where primroses have lifted rosette shields
And spears of daffodil and hyacinth
Disarm the final ice of wintertime.

Under the branches of a quince he spies
A hedgehog sleeping in a drift of leaves
And tucks an apple into nearby grass,
Against the hunger of awakenings.

Family Storybook: Peter Rabbit

In the yard with the thrum of hummingbirds,
With zinnias rioting from coffee cans,
With scorpions jig-joyous under roots,
With pomegranates gravid on the branch,
With chicken hoedowns on the fresh-raked sand,
Something unusual is happening.
First Mommer carries out the coverlets
To tuck around the straw, and Daddy totes
The boy, the one they call Peter Rabbit,
And settles him, and adds a flour-sack quilt
For fear he might be chilled, though air is hot
And sun a spike that's forged in furnace sky.
Then the mule plods away with the wagon,
And Mommer crouches in the wagon-bed
To urge the sweet well water on her boy
Whose lips are parched from hours of inner heat,
Whose neck is stiff, whose wounded eyes are red.
His daddy slaps the reins and wishes hard
For a genie with a soaring carpet…
But there's no use of wishing anything
In lands where doctors will not see the son
Of poor sharecroppers, where a little boy
Stops breathing on the mule-walk way to home.


Marly Youmans is the author of thirteen books of poetry and fiction. Find her at www.thepalaceat2.blogspot.com.


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Marly Youmans


The most recent addition to The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline is Rosa Newmarch by Jean L. Kreiling.

Marie Ponsot was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Celebration of the Timeline reaching 75 essays, Lincoln Center, Fordham University (Sponsored by Fordham's Curran Center) Friday, October 20th, 2017.

Charlotte Innes is the recipient of the 2018 Mezzo Cammin Scholarship to the Poetry by the Sea conference.

Rachael Gorchov: Recently I completed a body of work that focused on the landscapes that define suburban office and industrial complexes, contemplating their subtle relationships with the history of landscape painting. When looking at these places I saw English landscape gardens – orchestrated nature that gave way to picturesque landscape painting. I documented my subjects onsite by drawing their reflections in a Claude Glass, a convex black mirror popularized as an observation device in the 18th century. This tool appealed to me for how its skews and bulges its reflection, making my work highly subjective from the start. I then constructed paintings in the studio based on these drawings. The three-dimensional nature of my paintings further emphasized the forced perspective in my initial drawings and required viewers to explore the paintings much like they might explore a physical space by moving around, crouching and craning their necks.

Irregular versions of geometric forms such as cubes, parabolic curves, cones and triangles comprised the dimensional shapes of these pieces and eventually gave way to my working nearly exclusively on concave surfaces and ‘rocks with cast shadows.’ I settled on these structures for a few reasons. When a viewer stands directly in front of the concave works, irregular half-spheres with the convex side attached to the wall, the paintings fill their peripheral vision for an immersive experience. The rocks and shadows, amorphous objects paired with adhesive-backed prints, are reminiscent of portals and geologic abrasions. They invite viewers to question if the dimensional form is emerging from or entering into another space. Like in other works, these pieces frame the physical space the artworks inhabit.

In 2016, I visited Europe where I recognized parallels between the interiors of Renaissance spaces and my own paintings, such as the power that foreshortening possesses in its ability to collapse and intensify space in cathedrals– similar to my Claude Glass works. This experience coincided with a visit to an exhibition in Vienna featuring renderings of synagogues that once stood in the city. This piqued an interest in contemplating architectural space in my work and prompted me to consider architectural language in my own Jewish cultural heritage. I then began a series of tondos, a Renaissance term for circular artworks, of European Jewish architecture.

Beginning with paintings and mixed-media, in these works I build a photographic image that engages the space wherever it is installed, becoming part of the architecture. I arrived at the tondo format through my own history of making non-rectangular paintings, and appreciate its relationship to reliefs and rose windows found in synagogues and cathedrals. In gathering source imagery, I rely heavily on documentation – photographs and engravings as most of these buildings have been destroyed. I contemplate the collective memory images of architectural space can reveal. In this spirit, this work depicts layered environments where scale, color and depth shift ambiguously, revealing experiential space.

I consistently begin works by looking at a particular subject because of an art historical or personal association, and then through a process of extracting details from their surroundings using an accumulation of marks, color and a tactility, I sacrifice specificity of form and place, ultimately revealing a specificity of experience as my subject.

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