Marie Marshall

Author. Poet. Editor.

Tag: poem

The Autumn 2019 Showcase at ‘the zen space’

Yes, it has been a long time, folks, but then I’m still enjoying a sabbatical, still sorting this old head out.

I’m not totally inactive, however. I continue to pen the occasional weird poem, and of course to edit the zen space. Speaking of which, the Autumn 2019 Showcase is now published there. Visit, please.

MM.

Vera Rich meets Taras Shevchenko at the Kievo-Percherska Lavra

I recently heard from poet Bob Newman, on his return from a trip to the Ukraine. He had been among the delegates to a commemoration of the late Vera Rich, held on the tenth anniversary of her death. This included a poetry-reading at the Ivan Franko University in Lviv. Bob told me that included in that reading was my poem with the above title, which had been published originally in issue 50 of Manifold, the poetry magazine Vera had founded, and which she had edited for many years before her death. I wrote it as a tribute to her.

As I have reported before, I got to know Vera Rich late in her life. We corresponded by email and on poetry forums. I always took her critiques of my poetry on the chin – she was very forthright – and I knew that if she praised something it must therefore be very good. Occasionally we had fun – just see our exchange of ‘Mongolian’ limericks.

Just before she died, Vera engaged me to read through her translation of the Ukrainian epic The Death of Cain by Ivan Franko. Unfortunately we never completed the work on that poem.

Anyway, here is the sonnet I wrote to Vera ten years ago. It describes her joyful arrival in heaven.

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Vera Rich meets Taras Shevchenko at the Kievo-Percherska Lavra

Hey – Taras! Is that really you, old friend?
Then that was not the Dnepr I just crossed
But Jordan. This is every journey’s end –
The halls of Paradise – and I’m not lost.

They say the Lavra’s gates remit all sins,
So I have walked through three times, to be safe,
And now discover here my rest begins,
My limbs are strong, my shoes no longer chafe.

Good Lord – this air is clear! Elysium
Reminds me of Ukraine and Belarus;
So this is what they mean by “Kingdom Come” –
But Taras, what will now be asked of us?

Eternal worship? Ah – in adoration –
The seraphs’ hymns deserve a good translation!

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Vera Rich 2005

Whichcraft

Recently, someone asked me what my fascination was with the tarocky pack – better known as tarot. I don’t know whether I can answer that, without telling a tale I first told in verse in 2008, about how I came to put on the mantle and hat of le bateleur!

Le bateleur

I met a man some time ago,
….beside the old High Road.
He asked me whither I would go,
….he bade me rest my load.
His doublet had a pearled jabot,
….pteruges, sleeves that flowed;
he asked me what I wished to know,
….beside the old High Road.

Upon his bench he set a stall,
….beside the old Highway,
with cups, and coins, and swords, and all,
….and said “I will soothsay.
All Nature answereth my call,
….no man can say me nay;
I can raise up, I must let fall,
….beside the old Highway.”

His beaver hat was lemniscate,
….beside the road to Town,
which is to say a figure-eight
….gave shadow to his crown;
a yellow thatch sprung from his pate,
….its ringlets hanging down.
His words gushed like the Rhine in spate,
….beside the road to Town.

He said to me, “Nu, zay nisht beyz’
….beside the Avenue.
“I’ll tell you all the mantic ways
….of Which, and How, and Who.”
And from his sleeves he drew bouquets
….of Pink, and Green, and Blue –
Abba-Dabar” was his catchphrase,
….beside the Avenue.

I took him for a Mountebank,
….beside the old Towpath,
that peeped and muttered, with an ankh
….scribed on his wand of lath;
or was he German, Celt, or Frank?
….“Forsooth,” thought I, “He hath
an eldritch air, a touch of swank,
….beside the old Towpath!”

“In my land, dwellings with mansards,
….beside the Country Lane,”
he said, “have in their sparse dooryards
….a trug of blue wolfsbane,
a driftwood cross, a pile of shards –
….a shattered windowpane.
Come friend, please buy my pack of cards,
….beside the Country Lane.”

I took a shilling from my purse
….beside the Old, Straight Track.
I took the cards and, with a curse,
….I put them in my pack,
as though his offer did coerce –
….I could not give them back!
The dyke and fence he did traverse,
….beside the Old, Straight Track.

I have not seen him from that time,
….beside the Thoroughfare,
although through every land and clime
….I’ve sought him here and there.
I’ve heard tell of his sleight and mime,
….at country wake and fair,
as fickle as the new springtime
….beside the Thoroughfare.

And I’ve heard tell that Woden, blind,
….beside the Great Turnpike,
where gibbets creak and nooses wind,
….walks by the misty dyke;
I’ve heard the Flying Dutchman pined
….to slip ashore and strike
his foot upon the tussocks, twined
….beside the Great Turnpike.

Along the weary moorland trench,
….beside the Boluevard,
amongst the Romany, the French,
….the Breton Campagnardes,
I searched in vain; but then – oy mensh,
….the canny old canard! –
I found his old three-legged bench
….beside the Boulevard!

No more I search, but set my stall
….beside the Old High Road.
Step up, mayn her – come one, come all –
….your fortune I’ll decode.
Come, try my cards, see how they fall;
….my scrying’s à la mode:
THE MOUNTEBANK – you’re in My thrall
….beside the Old High Road.

‘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?

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.

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

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.