‘Naked in The Sea’
A collection of sixty poems
Richard Vallance, Editor-in-Chief, Describe Adonis Press, Canada, writes:
Marie Marshall’s Naked in the Sea leaves me naked, body, mind and soul. Listen! Listen as she plays ‘Greensleeves’ on our heartstrings, leafing through the runic manuscript of the soul. As Marie herself recently wrote, “To describe is to destroy. Décrire, c’est détruire.” Marie never meanly describes; she sublimely pens soul to soul. In her own striking rhythms we may find traces of those of Gerard Manley-Hopkins. And that is not all. Like Gerard Manley-Hopkins before her, she often resorts to mystifying hyphenated turns of phrase. In Hopkins we find such constructs as “wind-wandering weed-winding bank” (Binsey Poplars) and “skies of couple-colour” (Pied Beauty). Likewise, in “Naked in the Sea” [the title poem of the collection] we find, “true-cross of sea-nails”, and “later, later still, star-late…” strikingly reminiscent of Hopkins. On the surface perhaps; in the depths, far from it. Marie Marshall’s elocution is far afield from Hopkins’. Given the remarkable sensibility of her poetry, I find myself all but speechless at the sweeping genius that so often informs Naked in the Sea.
This being said, I defy any critic to do justice to her luminous creativity, the soul of her heart’s aspirations and desires so eloquently transformed into poetry, in the truest sense of the word. If asked to assign her a place along with the finest poets of the twentieth century, I find that I must rank her with the likes of William Butler Yeats and Edna Saint-Vincent Millay, however much her style and disposition as a poet diverge from theirs, as indeed it does. Marie Marshall shines as a beacon amongst early twenty-first century poets, all too many of whom are mediocre wordsmiths, merely regurgitating the rigidity that characterised so much of the poetry of the twentieth century, a century in which the vast preponderance of poetry seemed sadly oblivious of the halcyon heights of the best of English poetry of the past.
Marie Marshall’s poetry is irradiated with the very soul and spirit of rhythm, assonance, alliteration and rhyme that is the hallmark of the most prized of English poetry, past or present. We are somehow aware that she, among a few select contemporary poets, has re-entered the Elysium of historic English poetry, with unique qualities which speak, not for the past, but for the emotional and spiritual needs and aspirations of poetry readers today, in our world of the early third millennium, and on such a scale that she shall, I am sure, endure.
Let the last leaf to leave sweep the tree clean,
her dreams, her thumbnail-bible seeds, all
clean away; and lay her blaming ghosts,
flame-filled, candle-guttering, fluttering blades,
broad spears and swords of summer parlayed.
Those maiden-memories of twig-tip talk,
leaf-lip to leaf-lip in the language of green,
let them all go, black hands against the blue
if the sky is still kind, caught in the rush of gold.
Let the tree be stark, silent in the thunder-shock,
shorn and hollow-souled and, of-a-sudden, old;
no more whispers, no tree-to-tree gossip,
only a sigh, and not the sigh-in-music
that is the in-breath of love, but the long,
sharp, fading sigh of pain, the sightless sigh.
Let her be naked and alone, thought-free,
while the leaf-rush goes skying, or hangs
on the hawthorn-hooks of rough hedges,
scattering rooks from the mourning branches,
in the cruel, spare scything of a new wind.
Let the tree die, let her sleep, sleep, sleep,
and let the last leaf to leave
sweep the tree clean.