Private: Paging Marlys West

When I lived in Austin, one of my favorite poets to hear read was Marlys M. West. I saw her read almost every Tuesday at the Chicago House. According to Amazon, she doesn’t have anything new out, and her last book (published in 1999) is available only on special order. I have an earlier collection of hers that I love called Evangaline Was A Beauty Queen And Other Stories. It consists mainly of a cycle of poems devoted to the aging Evangaline, described this way in “New Model Thresher Honor”:

Evangaline was a beauty queen
36 years ago
She has a leatherette case
with a faux diamond crown
to prove it.

It was what she got to keep
because the next year
the market bottomed out
and there weren’t anymore
New Model Thresher Parades

So Evangaline
she went down to history
as the last beauty queen
and that always made her
the most beautiful

As you can see, like Gluck’s poem “October”, the preoccupations here are autumnal. But the accent’s, um, different. West has a really pleasing, really rhythmic Texas accent — think drawl and cadence — that I can hear in my head as I re-read the Evangaline poems. I would invite you to phone me up and I would try to recreate it for you but I have a weird North Carolina-Wisconsin hybrid accent — think twang and cheese.