Cover art and interior decorations by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
168 pages. July 20, 2019.
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About the Artist
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Clive Hicks-Jenkins is an easel artist, stage director and illustrator who lives in Wales. He collaborates with a small, regular group of writers, and has recently completed two books for the poet -- and just-appointed Poet Laureate -- Simon Armitage: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for Faber & Faber, and Hansel & Gretel: a Nightmare in Eight Scenes for Design for Today. Before illustrating Hansel & Gretel, he directed and designed the UK national tour of the stage production for which Armitage's poem was the libretto. As an illustrator his most frequent collaborations have been with Marly Youmans, and The Book of the Red King is his second with her at Phoenicia Publishing, the first having been the epic, post-apocalyptic poem Thaliad.
The Book of the Red King
by Marly Youmans
"For those who love well-formed poems and for those who love fantasy, this is a must-read and a distinctive, evocative voice. There is no one like Marly Youmans." --Kim Bridgford
"The reader will be spellbound." --Kelly Cherry
"It is the territory of Yeats and Tolkien." -- A.M. Juster
"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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Novelist Howard Bahr writes, "When a person reads a Marly Youmans poem, all the spaces ‘round about fall silent. The busy world is hushed, and her words, each one perfect and pinned in its perfect place, rise into the silence and burst into light. I, a poor mortal, can explain her work in no other terms."
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 & 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.
Praise for THE BOOK OF THE RED KING
"Marly Youmans is brilliant, perhaps a genius. Her poems tell a story, offering us a vision of, well, I would say the Trinity, but that is only one possible interpretation. After a difficult and sometimes dangerous journey, a Red King, a Fool, and Precious Wentletrap converge into one, a resurrection that is heavenly. Is it true, or is it fable or fairytale? "When I want to write a new book," she has said, "I run across the land and leap off the edge of the known world." Her formal poems are impeccable and include sestinas, villanelles, rondels, rhyming schemes she may have invented, and perfect metrical patterns. Every poet can learn from this poet, and the reader—the reader will be spellbound."
--Kelly Cherry, poet, novelist, and former Poet Laureate of Virginia
"The Book of the Red King by Marly Youmans is an ambitious, magical book about the nature of power and language. The Red King and the Fool, while they control different realms, make us consider whether it is better to rule on earth or in one’s imagination. In these gorgeous poems, Youmans makes the case for both. Whatever side we take, Youmans reminds us of the paradox in each. Even if we side with the Fool in this world of “hurt joy,” we are left with the realm of poetry. It is not a bad trade. For those who love well-formed poems and for those who love fantasy, this is a must-read and a distinctive, evocative voice. There is no one like Marly Youmans."
--Kim Bridgford, celebrated poet, editor, and director of the global conference, Poetry by the Sea
"Marly Youmans occupies an imaginative space that straddles both the present and the mythological past. It is the territory of Yeats and Tolkien, and Youmans shares not only a taste for primal imagery with these great poets, but also their love of rhyme, rhythm and sound."
--A. M. Juster, award-winning poet and translator