Marly Youmans, "The Book of the Red King"
Marly Youmans, The Book of the Red King
Thursday, September 19, 7pm
"What does it mean to be a fool? / Is it to reel about the world / Like stars made out of icicles, / Dangerous and breakable?" Not knowing what he is or can be, the self-convicted Fool burrows in his bed of blackened leaves. In time, he answers the call to live a larger life. On his journey to the Red King's castle, he may learn something--sorrow? self? the urge to rise?--and begin to be changed, as if by alchemy.
And what is this, The Book of the Red King? The Fool hardly knows, though he wrote The Red Book himself--though he knows the pages that are his gift to the Red King, packed with tales and ruminations, love and grief, birthday hats and transformation. Perhaps the book begins with his arrival at the marketplace near the castle, when for him "language was a gold chrysanthemum / That burst with fountain-like abandonings / Of stories, fragments, anecdotes and jokes." Perhaps it begins when "The Red King left his tower under stars / And followed gold to make the Fool his fool."
Deep in mystery, in the distant lands of the Red King, the Fool suffers metamorphosis. He moves in a kind of dance with his friend the King, the wheeling court that surrounds them, and that princess who walks the moonbeam path on the sea, Precious Wentletrap: "He has the gift of fetching her. / He sings, wearing the fish-skin cloak / Under a crown of sparkling dust." And when her light is nearest him, "This glory makes the Fool a King." Out of quicksilver change, out of the dark forest and the moonbeam path, out of torment and joy, the Fool makes The Red Book for the Red King, and for us.
Marly Youmans is poet and novelist, author of five books of poetry and nine novels. She has won national awards and many "best of the year" citations. Her fiction and poetry have been lauded by writers and critics. Greg Langley, former Books Editor of The Baton Rouge Advocate, says: "Youmans is a writer of rare ability whose works will one day be studied by serious students of poetry." John Wilson, longtime editor of Books and Culture, writes that "Youmans (pronounced like "yeoman" with an "s" added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. She writes like an angel--an angel who has learned what it is to be human."
A Southerner astray in upstate New York, she has lived for the past two decades within sight of Kingfisher Tower and the lake James Fenimore Cooper called Glimmerglass. No wonder she dreamed the Fool and the Red King and Princess Wentletrap.