I am so excited to share two new poems from author and poet Marly Youmans (whose previous work I have reviewed here and here). Recently, I realized that the Journal of Mythic Arts Poetry archives was incomplete without something from Marly, whose work in mythic and fairy tale poetry is really stunning. I asked, and she obliged by sending in these two exquisite poems: Night Journey from Kingfisher and Prothalamion for Linnet, part of a collection of poems inspired by the forms of oriki -- African praise poems.
In "Prothalamion for Linnet," Marly offers a unique perspective on the Child Ballad "Tam Lin." She begins the poem on familiar ground, recounting in lush and sensual imagery the brief but fertile meeting between Janet and Tam Lin in the woods, and the subsequent violence of freeing him from his enchantment. But Marly provides the reader with a new point of view: Linnet, the now-grown child who before her birth was already a vital force in the story. She was "in the rose womb/ The pollen bed of Janet, her mother," and "there, rose-lit, unseen, under /The seeking, pilfering, fey-tinged/ Fingertips of Tam Lin." Later, when Janet returns to confront the Fairy Queen , heavily pregnant, Linnet is present at the confrontation with Fairy Queen and the transformations of Tam Lin, from beastly forms to man. As a young woman, returning with her parents to wild woods, Linnet is the intersection of human and fantastic, of the castle and the dark forest where "Girls cannot go," of the idea and its creation into story.
"At dawn, Linnet dreamed a stream,
A certain, sure stream,
A stream threading silver through the forest,
Silver bedded below leaves of Carterhaugh.
Girls must not go there, not even with a hand
Held by a mother on the right, not
Even with a hand held by a father at left.
Girls from the kitchen must not go there,
Girls from the castle laundry must not go there,
Girls from the village must not go there,
Even girls from the city must not go there,
Not even with needle and scissors for swords,
Not even with polished serving trays for shields.
But this very morning Linnet goes there.
Linnet the storyteller, Linnet the singer of tales."
The poem is a sumptuous re-interpretation of a well-known ballad, that gives it a rich and unexpected "ever-after."
The second poem, "Journey from Kingfisher," is a song of praise for the poet who is "Not jailed princess but woman/" and who with "With a candle and a notebook, bends/Above the waves sloshing against the stones/ Above the paths sprawling, spraddling from shore" whose creative will flows out from the tower window, "Out for distance, for horizon/ Her hands twisting words into a distaff, a staff/ Pulling words like clay into a potter’s, a beggar’s bowl/Hammering them into the shape of a pail." Here, most wonderfully, stories and tales are lifted out of the elements and nature, "Tumbling, slipping, sailing/From the edge of a world made of words/ Trusting that the tingling soles, bare in summer/ Booted in winter, will find/ Ground, that gold/ Is meant to fill a pail..." There are so many wonderful fairy tale references re-configured to describe the tangible act of creating stories with the intangible nature of the creative process.
Once again, many thanks to Marly for sharing these terrific poems with JoMA readers!
Art: Henry John Stock, "Portrait of a Girl Surrounded by Ivy Leaves," and Odilion Redon, "Light and Shadow, 1900.