January 9th, 2010 20:05 EST
A Poetry Archive That Will Prove More Important Than The News
You can now hear me reading my poems and talking about poetry at From the Fishouse, an Audio Archive of Emerging Poets.
To be in the presence of such wonderful poets is immensely rewarding. My thoughts turn at this moment to Tony Barnstone whose magnificent Tongue of War I`m writing about now. But there are many other poets whose work I know and admire, and still others whose work awaits me.
Recording this archive was a joint project between Matt O`Donnell, Fishouse`s director, my wife Marilyn and me. Matt sent us a sophisticated little recording device in a box that looked like a first aid kit. The instructions admonished us to silence background noise from fans, furnaces, radios, television, faucets, doors, birds "the list is long when you think about it and comprises the measure of modern distractions.
Marilyn created a kind of sound booth with pillows on a dining room table. Then she covered them with bath towels. She nestled the recording device into this cove, and then I inserted myself. The first thing you discover when you record something is that you don`t sound to others as you sound to yourself. I sound adolescent and whiny to myself, but I`m told I sound better to others. Our skulls must have different resonances.
I had powerful qualms about this undertaking, even though I had won some oratorical contests as a student and have done quite a few readings. Perhaps it was because I understood the importance of the Fishouse concept and stood somewhat in awe of it. I thought of people long after I`m gone listening to me, and the thought tempered each session in Marilyn`s improvised studio.
I had to watch those plosive Bs and Ps that burst into the microphone like machine gun splatter.
But the biggest task was to convey the sound of my own mind thinking. I wanted to give an idea of what the poem sounded like when it occurred to me, and I felt that too practiced, too smooth a delivery would put listeners off. I had witnessed this at readings where I often followed grand deliveries and felt intimidated. Not so, I found. Listeners would lean towards me to hear me if I sounded like myself and not a facsimile of Richard Burton. If I faltered, they would forgive me. If I repeated a botched line, they would nod and smile. But why? I think it`s because they got that I wanted to give them the poem rather than deliver it. A subtle difference, to be sure, but one I think poetry audiences understand.
I find in my old age that I have zero tolerance for over-the-top performance. I like the actors and poets who make room for everybody else in the room, who defer to circumstance rather than trying to overwhelm it. I walk out on people who fill a room.
I hope you`ll listen to me at the Fishouse web site, directed by Matt O`Donnell, associate editor of Bowdoin magazine at Bowdoin College in Maine. I promise you won`t hear me rant and rave. It`s not my style in poetry. I can`t promise you`ll like what you hear, but I`ll give you a hint: if you like Emily Dickinson you probably won`t hate my poems.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.