Marly Youmans is an American poet, novelist and short story writer. The editor of Books and Culture says, “Youmans (pronounced like ‘yeoman’ with an ‘s’ added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. Marly Youmans grew up in Louisiana, North Carolina, and elsewhere. She currently lives in the village of Cooperstown, New York, with her husband and three children. She graduated from Hollins College, Brown University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She taught at State University of New York but quit academia after receiving promotion and tenure in her fifth year.
Her published work consists of four books of poetry, seven novels and two fantasies for young readers, as well as uncollected short stories, essays and poems. Across all these idioms, her work displays a commitment to rhythm, the sound of words, imagery and complexity of form and allusion. Thaliad, for example, is an epic poem that tells a compelling story of children who survive an apocalypse to begin a new society, written as though a spoken history remembranced in blank verse a generation on. Her novels have been described as ‘literary fiction at its finest’ in Books and Culture while The Advocate has cited her skill at mastering poetic forms.
Her books demonstrate a number of continuing interests: in lives lived close to nature, whether in the past (Catherwood) or the future (Thaliad), magic, faith and redemption (Val/Orson, The Foliate Head) and the individual’s journey from youth to adulthood (Inglewood, A Death at the White Camelia Orphanage). Visual art is often referenced in her work and Thaliad, The Foliate Head, Glimmerglass, and Maze of Blood were collaborations with the artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins with decorations throughout the texts. She provided the title poems for an illustrated anthology, The Book of Ystwyth: Six Poets on the Art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins.