Djelloul Marbrook: The Body Language of Poetry

Djelloul Marbrook: The Body Language of Poetry

Tune into Djelloul Marbrook’s thoughtful perspectives on reading poetry. Djelloul is the author of several books, his first poetry book, Far from Algiers, won the Wick Prize. Deerbrook Editions published his second book Brushstrokes and glances.

Vox Populi

Don’t gesticulate with your hands or make faces when speaking, the teachers at my British boarding school told me. It’s vulgar. I’m sure that this enjoinder at such an impressionable age imbued my poems with reticence and austerity.

But poetry has a body language. The poet’s way of breathing supplies oxygen to the body and to the poem. The poet’s way of walking and talking is inherent in the poem. I knew a poet who walked like the prow of a ship cutting through waves, the bone in its teeth, as sailors say, and that how her poems walked and talked.

The body language of a poem is also shaped by the script used in its writing. If it was first written by hand the poet’s hand, the stops and starts, the way I’s are dotted and t’s crossed, lives in the poem. If the poem was first typed, the…

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Djelloul Marbrook

Djelloul at Lincoln

Djelloul at Lincoln Center

You may not need an introduction to Djelloul Marbrook, author of several books, including Far from Algiers, winner of the Wick Poetry Prize, and author of Brushstrokes and glances (Deerbrook Editions), as an active and accomplished writer. Recently Djelloul posted about his following in Algiers, Bou Saada,  being in his heritage, and well, there is so much more to know about this very interesting man and his family, he agreed to let me post it here. I thought that some introduction would be nice for those  visitors who may not know Djelloul.

   When I received Djelloul’s manuscript for Brushstrokes and glances, I was in RI beginning work on restoring a press. His work struck me as being uniquely stimulating in its regard for art and intellect, and being form an art background, I was interested in publishing his book of poems.
   The fact that he had won a prize for a first book added to the intrigue. When I received the book and following links and notes on information about this writer, the intrigue grew. Not only was his mother a painter in NY in the early twentieth century, his aunt was also, and one of her paintings was used for the cover of his book.
   Does this seem to lack the force and nuance that you’d expect from a paragon of creativity? Small presses cannot broadcast enough about their winning authors. Poetry has been found to be a mysterious genre for many readers or so it would seem judging from the survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago on behalf of The Poetry Foundation.
   So here I continue the effort to bring to the attention of whomever visits this blog who is interested in poetry of the excellent writer that is Djelloul Marbrook. I assume many know him  in the circles that visit his blogs for he is more than a poet, as you will see if you go to the link above. He is an essayist and fiction writer that cares deeply about creativity and journalism. He spent most of his life in journalism as a newspaper editor. I encourage you to buy his books.
I give you this:
Hamdi Kamel, a Facebook friend from Algeria, graciously sent me this greeting from Bou Saada in eastern Algeria. My father, Ben Aissa ben Mabrouk, lived his entire adult life in Bou Saada, except for a few sojourns in England. He was born in Ain Rich, not far from Bou Saada. I was born in Algiers the year Albert Camus was finishing his studies at the University of Algiers in 1934. My mother was an American artist living in Bou Saada, sometimes called the City of Happiness. Their relationship failed and I never knew my father. My mother took me to England and then America, where I grew up. Bou Saada, under French rule, was famous for its European artists’ colony and the hospitable Oulad Nail tribe. My mother’s paintings and drawings of Bou Saada, some 165 of them, now reside in Le Musee des Beaux-Arts in Algiers. She often described her years among the Oulad Nail as the happiest of her long life. She painted its citizenry as her neighbors and friends, not as exotics, and this distinguished her work from the Orientalist painters. She preferred the company of the indigenous peoples to that of their colonial occupiers, a fact that often got her in trouble with the colonial administration. The fact that she was German-speaking and of German descent also aroused suspicion among the French who thought she might be making topographical studies for German intelligence. Ben Aissa married Rose Fitzsimmons, a longtime Scottish resident of Bou Saada who was well-regarded for her philanthropic work. Lawrence Morgan wrote a fictionalized version of the complex relationship between my mother, Ben Aissa and Rose in The Flute of Sand.
                                      —Djelloul Marbrook
If you are looking for an intriguing writer to follow I urge you to look at Djelloul Marbrook and read through his archives. I would be pleased, too, if you were to buy Brushstrokes and glances, and perhaps you’ll find some of the many reviews, I can’t keep up with them, by the many who have written about this fascinating man.
Here is a review at  the New York Journal of Books for Brushstrokes and glances.
If you go to our cover gallery you will find the info about the cover.

Object biography #12: A wooden shabti of King Seti I (Acc. no. 13906)

Object biography #12: A wooden shabti of King Seti I (Acc. no. 13906).

In mulling over a recent post, going back into WordPress there are my followed blogs, I noticed the word Shabtis. This word struck me since Djelloul Marbrook leads off his book “Brushstrokes and glances” with a poem of that name.

This is a beautiful image of a wooden Shabti. Please visit the Manchester blog.

Shabtis, by Djelloul Marbrook
(The Brooklyn Museum)

May I stay here in diorite
a millennium or two,
chat amiably with Thoth
or Horus, worry
about Ra and Apophis
but not Ponzi schemes?

I’d like to be a shabti
awakened at night
by Nefertiti
to prepare her bath
and anoint her with oil,
to rest in a cedar box

and not think of news,
to be an amulet,
a cylinder resting
between Isis’s breasts.
I’d like to stay here
when the lights go out.

Djelloul Marbrook received the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize

Marbrook poem sequence prophesied Sandy

The eerie prescience of Djelloul Marbrook’s poem sequence Manhattan Reef (Brushstrokes and glances) haunts the mind as New York City painfully wrings itself out. Breathtakingly prophetic, one of the poems gives voice to a drowning art world. Marbrook couldn’t have known that paintings actually would be drowned in the city’s Chelsea art district less than two years after the poem was published by Deerbrook Editions, and yet he clearly envisioned it.

The Curator Speaks

Enjoy the sunlight now,
some of you will be eyeless
down by garnets and beryls
in tunnels and watery cathedrals.

More always rises than meets the eye.

Waters rise to spare you beetles and flies,
to harbor your predecessors and womb
a new idea of creatureliness.

You were a jeweled motherboard
whose green brushstrokes of circuitries
hypnotized the peregrine that nictates now
in the antennae of drowned towers.

Now you are the moorings of dirigibles,
buoys and sea gongs for ospreys and ships.

Squid will massage your orifices,
stars will sequin you and check
your many-chambered heart.

No more hours or holidays,
no special exhibitions. Storms
will be heaven’s business, whales
will sing of the coming race;
even blades of light
will learn to rust.









Elsewhere in Manhattan Reef he imagines swimming through The Metropolitan Museum.

The Paintings Speak

We’re going to higher ground;
we’ve urged you do the same,
you’ve chosen to misunderstand.

Environment’s each other’s eyes
and other senses you despise.

These works witness you are holy alchemists.
There’s no place antiseptic enough
to save you from this viral truth.

If you were as open-eyed as fish
you’d elude this exquisite peril.

We leave you The Metropolitan to explore
unhindered by reminders of your divinity.

Swim among its empty galleries,
redact, censor, forget, devolve—
we await another race.

We told you to speak the wordless mother tongue
in senses you said you didn’t have
as you piled conceits on oyster beds
insisting we were mad.

We welcome the waters to every floor
that every molecule has seen before,
thousands of Atlantises unafraid to sleep,
their secrets becoming minerals.

Nothing lost, all is murmurous in this rite
of green alchemy, this ennoblement
of base noise and lewd light.

The sequence ends as prophetically as it begins:

We guess at our weathers, surmise
the nature of our orbits, wobble or tilt
of axis, but without artists’ daring
and cursed by our own unwillingness to see
the main thing we haven’t noticed
is that the lights are out,
the museum is dark.





Brushstrokes and glances is available from amazon, our distributor, and direct from Deerbrook Editions




The book cover features  the painting The Approaching Season, by Irene Rice Pereira.

Read more Marbrook.

Art and poetry event at SUNY Orange

Next week, September 22, there will be an opening and poetry reading at the SUNY Newburgh campus featuring paintings by Juanita Guccione and a poetry reading by Djelloul Marbrook from his book Brushstrokes and glances. To anyone able to attend this will be a very interesting event because the art and author are related  in at least a couple of ways. For one, the painter Juanita Guccione is Djelloul Marbrook’s mother and so the relationship of the author to art and his life as a museum goer are basic to the poetry in his book. I know I am doing my best to attend, and I live in Maine.