Marie Marshall

Author. Poet. Editor.

Category: poetry

Are things moving again?

Yes. Maybe not so much on the writing front at present, but I hear encouraging noises on the publication front. What might it mean? Well don’t hold your breath, but:

  • My collection of short stories, The Last-but-one Samurai and other stories, is coming forward for publication.
  • My novel KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE – sequel to From My Cold Undead Hand – is also coming forward. I hear that the earlier novel is to be re-launched and they are both to have an entirely new cover concept.
  • Possibly my first collection of poems from 2010, Naked in the Sea, will be re-issued.

All of this is up in the air at the moment, so…

graphic-watch-this-space

‘the zen space’ etc.

Hello. I know I’ve been quiet, but I haven’t actually been inactive. I have been posting my poetry regularly, for example. Also I’ve been keeping the zen space going – that’s the e-zine I edit – where you can read haiku and other short forms of poetry.

picasso-2The latest Showcase (Autumn 2018) was published a few days ago, and you find a portal to it it here. As well as words it includes picture; featured this time are portraits by Man Ray, the 20c surrealist photographer, like the one of Pablo Picasso, here to the right.

By the way, I’m always on the lookout for new ‘names’ for the zen space, so if you know anyone – yourself even – who can turn their hand to short, vivid, in-the-moment poetry, then direct them to the ‘Submission’ tab at the zen space.

I am still on sabbatical from novel writing. I don’t know when that will change. Certainly not before this mornings cup of Earl Grey, that’s for sure…

‘I am not a fish’

My T.S. Eliot Prize-nominated collection of poetry I am not a fish is still available direct from the publisher, though I suspect that they might be about to take it out of stock. So if you don’t have a copy right now might be your last opportunity to get one!

I have to say that I’m proud of the collection, written specially for the publisher after their having selected me from a competitive field and published nowhere else. None of the poems are online, none are blogged, tweeted, Facebooked, whatever. If you want to read them, you’re going to have to get them in print.

Let a few reviewers and readers blow a trumpet for me:

“A highly unusual book, with a rich collection of characters…”

“Marie Marshall is a poet of substance. Relatively speaking, I would place her at the level of the late Sylvia Plath…”

“… her poetry is poignant and of a rare beauty.”

“… I am smitten…”

“… a great read…”

“…Marie uses words that intrigue, make you want to know more and draw you into a world of surprising thoughts…”

I am not a fish

Poetics: Difficulty 2

When I posted a short article on ‘difficult poetry’ a while back – and here I jump in and admit that I tend to shy away from explaining my own poetics – I didn’t realise that another poet, one whose work I admire, was going to pick up the ball and run with it. Daniel Paul Marshall (no relation) has thought long and hard about the subject, gone deeper into the issues, and written more on the subject than I could hope to. I commend his article to you.

Dylan Thomas

Daniel mentions Dylan Thomas. Thomas is a poet who had a great influence on my writing at one time. I didn’t try to write like him, but rather I felt myself drifted along on the flotsam of his words, his transferred epithets, his god-knows-what. So I thought I would celebrate him today with one of my ‘easy’ poems from the past. This is a straight-down-the-line sonnet I wrote in 2008, and it uses some of Thomas’s words, as quoted by Daniel.

Closing time at Laugharne

I miss you – yes I do, you boozy Celt!
I’ve half a mind to hear you spin a yarn
While you, with pints of stout beneath your belt,
Traipse homewards through the rainy streets of Laugharne,
From Brown’s Hotel, where we propped up the bar
Till closing time. What’s closing time to me
Or you? Come on – the Boathouse isn’t far –
Down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack sea!
There’s pen and paper ready for your muse,
A bottle, and some glasses for a toast,
We’ll sit, and laugh, and rhyme a while, and booze –
But, Duw, dear lad, you’re nothing but a ghost!
Can such as you go, gentle, into night,
Or did you rage against that dying light?

Poetics: difficulty

But the fact of modern poetry’s being “hard to read” can be extolled as a virtue in and of itself […]. In writing that is propelled by sonic associations, for example, what one might call musicality, the result may, paradoxically, be a form of realism, giving the poem’s language material reality, palpability, presence, and worldliness. Such difficulty, even when it doesn’t produce conventional sense, may be engaging in its own right; or, from another point of view, it may be disengaging. It may be emblematic of resistance, elaborating a rejection and even a defiance of the production of totalizing and normalizing meanings, in resisting dogmatism, it may create spaces for ambiguity, provisionality, and difference. […] it may serve to roughen the surface of the work, so that it catches one’s attention, impedes one’s reading, wakes one up to reality. (Lyn Hejinian, The Language of Inquiry, p330)

I am grateful to a friend of mine for pointing me in the direction of the above quotation. It comes from a book of collected essays by one of the late 20c’s most challenging and fascinating poets, and one for whom I have a great regard. I say 20c, but of course Lyn Hejinian is still with us, and long may she remain. My reference was to the fact that it was in the 1970s that she, along with the likes of Barrett Watten, came to write a type of poetry that attempted to put the reader and the reader’s interpretation at the forefront of the creative process.

RolandBarthesI have often, in conversation and on line, mentioned Roland Barthes’ famous essay ‘The Death of the Author’. These days it has become fashionable to scoff at Barthes, but for me he will always remain someone who forced home the important lesson that it is impossible to isolate The Great Poet-Goddess and Her Great Work from what came before and what comes after, that this Great Work is a work of a moment’s completion, after which it is totally free of the further influence of the Great Poet-Goddess, and is the property of all of us.

And that last phrase – ‘the property of all of us’ – is a principle that drives much of my poetry these days. I write for everybody. I write my poetry to turn it over to you. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to read. ‘Accessibility’ isn’t the point. Everything is inaccessible until you access it, and to access something doesn’t necessarily means you’ll instantly ‘get’ it.

People seem to think that it’s all right to be really into, say, Wagner, and yet also listen to Country & Western, and Trance. But not the other way round, for some reason. That’s where class and intellectual snobbery rear their ugly heads, and conversely intellectual reverse-snobbery too – yes, it works both ways. And all of this makes people feel that they can’t pick up something outside their comfort zone. We fear the facile and we fear the difficult.

HejinianBut my message today is that difficulty belongs to all of us. Lyn Hejinian’s words at the head of this blog post seem, at first sight, not to offer much satisfaction. They are not a key to interpreting the intentions of a ‘difficult’ poet’s work, they seem to leave all that up in the air – it might be this, it might be that, it might be the other. But that is nothing more nor less than openness. It is an invitation to take a piece of ‘difficult’ poetry (or art, or music, or whatever) and run with it. If you don’t ‘get’ all of it, so what? Get what you can, make something out of it, play with the words and with the associations they spark in your own mind.

My poetry, at least some of it, resides here. Pick it up and run with it. It’s yours.

‘the zen space’ – latest Showcase

In case you missed it elsewhere, the latest (Summer 2017) Showcase at the zen space is now published.

the zen space is an e-zine for haiku and related in-the-moment words, and I have been the editor since it started six years ago. Yes, with this issue the zen space celebrates its sixth birthday! The latest Showcase includes not only haiku and other recognisable Japanese-inspired forms in English, but also some poetry it’s hard to categorise. It also features some beautiful mandalas from our most ‘quoted’ artist Marie Taylor.

Although I say it myself, it’s a good ‘un this time. Check it out for yourselves – click on the Mandala below and follow the links.

MM.

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Sergeant Cuff names a rose ‘Catherine Earnshaw’

I had a CRAFT moment and clean forgot about the April issue of Jersey Devil Press (the May issue’s already out, as you would imagine!). I have a poem in that April issue, with the title Sergeant Cuff names a rose ‘Catherine Earnshaw’. It was originally intended for their ‘Victorian Mash-up’ issue, but the editors slipped it in ahead of that. Jersey Devil Press is notoriously difficult to get something accepted by, unless you hit precisely the right note for them, so I’m belatedly proud. This is the first time I have submitted a poem to a journal for about five years (I stopped while I was writing my collection I am not a fish and I never got started again), so I’m doubly pleased.

Check out the April issue here, and maybe keep an eye on JDP as a whole, as there’s always some good stuff in there.

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The Two Magicians (Child 44)

12I have returned, once again, to the Child Ballads. This is my reworking of the song we know in Scotland as ‘The Twa Magicians’; it concerns a woman whose virginity is tried by a persistent suitor, the magical lengths to which she will go to preserve it, and the magical lengths to which he will go to take it. It exists in many versions, but in most the woman is a high-born lady and the suitor is a blacksmith. With this one I can ‘hear’ a tune not dissimilar to Ralph Stanley’s version of ‘Matty Groves’, but paced up and with a picked banjo accompaniment. I love the phrasing of folk songs, I love the patterning and balance, I love the peculiar syntax and the way that narrative connections often get lost in the transmission from singer to singer, and this is what I try to capture in my adaptations.

It’s of a lady highly born
and silken soft her skin,
And to her door a blacksmith came
to beg her let him in.

You lusty, dusty, coal-black smith,
sing me no lying song.
You’ll never have my maidenhead
that I have kept so long
.
No lusty, dusty, coal-black smith
will share my marriage bed,
I’d rather lose my young life
than lose my maidenhead.

It’s she with skin as white as silk,
and he with coal-black hair
Says marry me my darling one
and be my lady fair.

It’s she’s become an old oak tree
all standing in the wood,
And he’s become a woodman bold
to fell her where she stood.

It’s she’s become a salmon grey
all swimming in the book,
And he’s become a fisherman
to catch her with his hook.

It’s she’s become a silver star
all shining in the night,
And he’s become a thundercloud
to hide her out of sight.

It’s she’s become a tiny fly
all buzzing in the air,
And he’s become a spider bug
to catch her to his lair.

It’s she’s become a corpse so grey
all in her coffin bound,
And he’s become the cold, cold clay
to cover her around.

It’s she’s become a hare so swift
all running on the plain,
And he’s become a greyhound tall
to fetch her back again.

It’s she’s become a praying nun
all dressed in grey and white,
And he’s become a canting priest
to preach to her all night.

It’s she’s become a barquentine
all mizzen, main, and fore,
And he’s become a captain bold
to steer her back to shore.

It’s every step that she has took
there’s he took two as well,
And where they both have vanished to
no tongue can ever tell.

You lusty, dusty, coal-black smith,
sing me no lying song.
You’ll never have my maidenhead
that I have kept so long
.
No lusty, dusty, coal-black smith
will share my marriage bed,
I’d rather lose my young life
than lose my maidenhead.

How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, or not, as the case may be.

“An attempt has recently been made on the life of Robert Browning.”
Reuters.

 

I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
We galloped and galloped, oh Lord how we galloped,
We galloped like billy-oh over the lea.

My steed gave a whinny, Dirck’s ass gave a bray,
As Joris, who rode in the van, cried “I say,
Three riders are galloping – My, how they gallop! –
They gallop like anything, heading this way!”

We held up our gauntlets and shouted halloo,
Demanded “Whence from, lads, and whither go you
Flat out at a gallop? Good grief how you gallop!
Oh please stop your galloping, good gallants, do!”

They reined to a halt and exclaimed, “Mercy sakes!
We’re three men of Ghent, all redoubtable rakes,
Who’ve galloped and galloped and jolly-well galloped,
a-bringing good news to the burghers of Aix!”

We cried, “We’re from Aachen – that’s Aix-la-Chapelle –
And we have glad tidings a-plenty as well.
We’ve galloped and galloped, right manfully galloped –
Supposed to reach Ghent by the Angelus bell!”

One rider from Ghent, with a beard like a Turk,
Said, “Though I’m not known as the fellow to shirk
A jolly good gallop – I love a good gallop –
It seems all this galloping’s double the work!”

I wanted to answer, but Joris said, “We
Could all turn around and be back home for tea.
Oh why don’t we gallop – a rattling gallop –
Let’s all gallop back and have several hours free!

We’ll take up each other’s work; nothing will daunt
The six jolly gallopers out on a jaunt.
Let’s gallop and gallop, mon dieu how we’ll gallop,
We three back to Aachen and you lot to Gaunt.”

I sprang to the stirrup; with whip-cracks and kicks
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all six!
We galloped and galloped, oh Lord how we galloped,
Past such rustic nonsense as hen-coops and ricks.

We galloped to Aix as the rush hour was near,
No thoughts in our minds save for pork pies and beer.
We galloped and slavered – my word how we slavered –
For pork pies and barmaids and lots of good cheer.

We reached a fine inn, and Dirck could not refuse
To galumph right in for a tray-load of booze.
He galumphed for wallop, for gallons of wallop,
And Joris said, “Hey! What about the good news?”

I muttered to Dirck, and then Joris conferred –
The subject? The substance? And so we concurred
We’d galloped and galloped, all bloody day galloped,
But of the good news had forgot every word!

I spoke to the subject: “We’ll gallop to Ghent
The very same way that the other chaps went.
We’ll gallop and gallop, bejabers we’ll gallop!”
But Dirck said, “You’re barmy – our horses are spent!”

I raised my pint Bierstein, and Joris said, “We
Can do that tomorrow. The evening’s still free
To swallow our wallop. Tomorrow we’ll gallop…
…to whatsitsname… billy-oh… over the lea!”

__________

I thought we could do with a reprise of the above piece of nonsense I wrote a few years ago. It will, of course, be lost on anyone who was never forced to read Robert Browning at School, and most of the population of America, who, if they have heard of Ghent, probably think it’s in Columbia County NY.

What have I been up to lately? Not a lot. My poetry blog ticks over, and I have recently written a couple of pieces for my satirical blog. One of the latter is yet another Keats and Chapman story, and the other a short but serious piece about Holocaust denial.

It will soon be 2017. I have no idea what next year will bring. I’m hoping to provide another macabre short story for the ‘Fearie Tales’ event at Pitlochry’s Winter Words Festival, but we’ll have to see. I can’t make any other writing promises, but I will say I’m hoping that my teen-vampire novel KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE will be published. It was finished some time ago and, as I understand it, lacks only a cover design. If you missed the first novel to which KvsV is the sequel – From My Cold, Undead Hand – then now would be an excellent opportunity to read it, or even to buy someone the e-book as a Christmas present.

Burning Man 2016

3There’s a lot that can be said about the Burning Man festival, held every year in the Nevada desert, and not all of it is positive. But the one thing that I support is that its internal function depends on everything being free – not bought and sold, not even bartered, but free. Everything is, somehow, paid on. Now, of course I don’t attend, for many, many practical reasons, but this year I have had a remote presence. Not only did I write the script for the Guild History of I Tamburisiti di FIREnze, as posted here before, but I also provided some poetry for display there.

This poem, and this, are among several that were displayed inside the portable toilets!

This one, however, was displayed in the Temple.

I have to say that I am very glad to be able to contribute something to the overall experience of Burning Man, and to do it with no thought or expectation of anything in return. It’s a principle I admire, support, and wish to foster.

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©Marie Marshall