Marie Marshall

Author. Poet. Editor.

Tag: news

‘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…

‘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.

9

Farewell Iain Rossouw

I learned this morning of the death by violence of Iain Rossouw. Iain headed Honeymead Books, sister-house of my publisher P’kaboo. More can be read here on his wife Lyz’s blog. I don’t really know what to say – this is awful news.

ir

2016… 2017…

Wow, what a year for the world 2016 has been, with all the good guys checking out. Even the arguably worst person to die in 2016 was passionate about public health, public education, and anti-colonialism. I keep trying to stop myself hoping that if the carnage continues into 2017 we lose some of the bad guys too, but – hey! – I don’t like to indulge in that kind of Schadenfreude.

2017 is, as yet, an unwritten page. I do know that the Winter Words festival in Scotland has been shortened, so presumably the ‘Fearie Tales’ competition will be tougher. I have a story ready to go, as it happens.

In 2016, I suppose my major writing project was, in response to a request, to come up with a text for the ‘history’ of I Tamburisti di FIREnze for this year’s Burning Man (see previous news items here). I thought you would like to see how some of that turned out, so there follows some images of the Renaissance section of the book. Enjoy.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Images are ©

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.

4

©Marie Marshall

A script to finish, a man to burn, a drum to build…

During my sabbatical from novel-writing, I haven’t exactly been idle. Here are a couple of things that are going on right now.

girl-gang

Turning my short story ‘Axe’ into a screenplay. I had been working closely with a Scottish screen-writer to turn my short story ‘Axe‘ into a drama for TV or the ‘big screen’. Currently, many scenes have been written, both from the story itself and from additional narrative material I have provided – and it’s looking good!

However, the screen-writer has had to pull out, for unforeseen private reasons, and he’s not certain whether he’ll be able to take up the task again. I fully understand the reasons he gave me, and he left the ball in my court as to what to do next. Between us we have a substantial amount of material. I think my choices are as follows:
1. Do nothing, in the hope that the screen-writer may be able to resume the project at a later date; this of course runs the risk of the whole project stalling completely.
2. Try to finish the script myself; this is not my area of expertise, and I am, after all, on a writing sabbatical.
3. Get together with my literary agent and look for another screen-writer; my previous collaborator would be okay with that, but it would need someone who could build seamlessly onto the work already done.

I’ll let you know what turns up.

I Tamburisti di FIREnze. If you don’t already know about Burning Man, find out about it. It’s a festival, for want of a better word, or rather an annual gathering of people in the middle of a desert in Nevada, USA. Whilst there, people perform, make things, share, live together, interact, laugh, work, and generally enjoy themselves. But the main thing is that they do so entirely without money transactions, or even barter transactions. Everything that is provided is a gift entirely without strings, given in the hope that everything will be paid forward in some way. It seems to work, right down to the clearing away of site debris afterwards.

renThis year the theme is The Renaissance. I was contacted a few days ago by the Project Coordinator of ‘Camp Thump Thump’, a group that regularly attends Burning Man, giving lessons in drum-making and drumming, letting people build, play, and take away their own drums. For 2016 the group has adopted a theme based on renaissance Italy – the time of the Borgias, the Medici, and Leonardo da Vinci – and have reinvented themselves as I Tamburisti di FIREnze for the duration of this year’s Burning Man. The Coordinator asked me to provide some Renaissance-flavoured text for their use, and I have been working on pen-portraits of (fictitious) 16c Guild-members for her.

I’m not yet sure whether or how my work will be used, but again if it is, I’ll let you know.

My Gothic spring continues…

The manuscript of KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE is open in front of me, and my collection The Last-but-one Samurai and other stories is currently being edited. Meanwhile Angélique Jamail has featured another of my Gothic poems from 2010 on her blog…

candlelight

I’m having a Gothic spring…

… amongst the snake’s head fritillaries. Meanwhile…

… in 2010 I was writing all kinds of poetry, from sonnets to brutalist ‘Lithopoesis’. During that year I put together a little collection of Gothic verses, many with a wry twist of humour, under the general title of The Wraith’s Complaining Mouth (a line from one of the poems), with no idea whether I would present them for publication or what. They have sat in my portfolio since then. During the current ‘National Poetry Month’ in the USA, my friend Angélique Jamail is honouring me by featuring some of that collection, starting with the sonnet ‘Selena’. Click on the picture below to be transported to her blog to read the poem and see what she says about my old Gothic work…

Selena

… and the manuscript for KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE has been returned from the editor’s desk, with suggestions and corrections for me to pore through. I plan to launch into that this weekend.

The Spring 2016 Showcase at ‘the zen space’ is now published!

10Another quarter of the year has rolled round, and I have been busy putting together the latest offering from the zen space, the e-zine of which I am the editor, publisher, and wot-not. This time there is no set theme, and the illustrations by Vincent van Gogh are totally irrelevant. Or you could say their irrelevance is relevant, and if you wanted to sound really clever, you could say it’s the spaces in between that are relevant. Yer pays yer money and yer takes yer choice, as they say. Except of course the zen space is absolutely free. Click here, or on Vincent’s self portrait to be transported…

Tribute

Whenever a famous figure dies there is a race to pay tribute, as though we competed against each other for our mourning black. Though I must confess to donning a virtual black armband on Facebook from time-to-time, I don’t often do my funeral keening here. Over the past twenty-four hours two well-known authors have reminded me that we are all mortal. I don’t claim to have known either of them – I had a brush with one of their publishers recently, but let’s not go there again – but I do wish to note today that each of them had an influence on my writing.

Harper LeeAt the time I started writing seriously, Harper Lee had published one single work of fiction. However, that was the book that would come first to mind if ever one was asked to name a 21c American novel. Chances are that To Kill A Mockingbird would spring to one’s lips before anything by Hemingway, Sallinger, Fitzgerald, or even Steinbeck. Why? As a piece of literature it did not represent any great step forward, it offered no breakthrough in technique or genre. What it did do, however, was capture a 1960s Zeitgeist, and capture it early. Or did it? It was published five years after Rosa Parks had refused to give up her seat in the bus, and thirty years after the era it depicted. What was outstanding about it was that, notwithstanding its being written primarily for an adult readership, its narrative voice was that of a child; that child observed no great world events, but simply watched what happened in a small town in Alabama during the Depression, noting the attitudes of people of one race to those of another. Of course there’s much more to the book than that, and indeed if there is any change in racial attitudes by the end of the story it was the merest flicker of the needle on the dial! The tabula rasa of the child-narrator’s consciousness was a wonderful device for presenting truth without judgment, enabling the reader to see beyond the rights and wrongs that thirty years of hindsight reveal, to the ordinariness and humanity of the characters. To Kill A Mockingbird has never been out-of-print, is read by young and old, and is studied both by schoolchildren and academics.

By the time I had published my second novel and had realised that neither of them was the modern, Scottish equivalent of To Kill A Mockingbird, I knew that I would never do what this writer whom I admired so much had done. I would at one time have gladly sacrificed the two fingers I use to type, if I could have written one novel that contended with Lee’s, and then retired from writing as she did. And then last year she surprised us all by publishing a second novel. Controversy surrounded Go Set A Watchman from the beginning. Was it Lee herself who had authorised the publication, or was it released under someone else’s influence? Was it a stand-alone novel or a sequel to Mockingbird? Was it anything more than a draft of some chapters of her first attempt at a novel that followed Scout Finch from childhood to womanhood and Atticus to old age? I bought it and read it – how could I not? – and reviewed it. It inspired me to write a short story – now abandoned – about the lowering of the Confederate flag outside the courthouse of a small American town.

I wept yesterday. I’m not ashamed to say, though it is silly to admit it, that I felt bereft. Perhaps it’s not silly at all, because I have felt her influence throughout my own writing career, and it feels as though something in my own life has been wiped out. So this morning I had to steady myself afresh when I learned of the death of Umberto Eco.Umberto Eco Here was another writer from whom I claim influence. As a semiotician, Eco had a mind that was adept at cracking the codes of language, literature, culture, and philosophy, and reassembling them to tell stories. He dreamed up scenarios, pulled contexts from the thin air of history, wove plots that bent logic round like a Möbius strip, built on unlikely premises his unexpected yet inevitable outcomes, filled his books with compelling characters, played hide-the-easter-egg with references (no, not that Baskerville, this Baskerville; no, not that Foucault, this Foucault). Where he influenced me in my writing was firstly in that genius for unexpectedness. Secondly, there was his realisation that language was merely a code for something else that was going on, for a reality beyond the words themselves. I don’t mind admitting took direct from his The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana the idea of having a (supposedly) amnesiac protagonist and used it in my novel-in-progress The Deptford Bear.

Lives, ordinary or famous, do not end conveniently. Books do not close, they are left open. Curtains are not drawn, doors remain ajar, and our talk of eras ending is meaningless. What has ended, in the case of Harper Lee and Umberto Eco, is (merely?) their ongoing contribution; we may, if we wish, draw a line under the canon of each, construct a convenient timeline for them. In dying, they have not done anything that the rest of us don’t do. Their immortality will be a thing of our imagination, but in that they will be as solid to us as Atticus Finch and William of Baskerville.