Far from Algiersby Djelloul Marbrook
Winner of the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize
“How honored I amhow luckyto have been able to choose this superb first book by Djelloul Marbrook that honors a lifetime of hidden achievement. . . . Sometimes the poems seem utterly symbolic, surreal; they are philosophical, historical, psychological, political, and spiritual. The genius/b>
Winner of the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize
“How honored I amhow luckyto have been able to choose this superb first book by Djelloul Marbrook that honors a lifetime of hidden achievement. . . . Sometimes the poems seem utterly symbolic, surreal; they are philosophical, historical, psychological, political, and spiritual. The genius is in the many ways these poems can be read. I kept being rewarded by new awarenesses of the poet’s intentions, by the breadth and scope of the manuscript. As I read, I felt more and more that it was impossible that this was a first book. It seemed the writer knew exactly what to say, and, more importantly, exactly what to leave out.”
Toi Derricotte, judge
“In a dizzying and divisive time, it’s beautiful to see how Djelloul Marbrook’s wise and flinty poems outfox the Furies of exile, prejudice, and longing. Succinct, aphoristic, rich with the poet’s resilient clarity in the face of a knockabout world, Far from Algiers is a remarkable and distinctive debut.”
“Djelloul Marbrook, ‘a highly skilled outsider,’ bursts into poetry with this splendid first book, which brings together the energy of a young poet with the wisdom of long experience.”
Djelloul Marbrook started writing poems in Manhattan when he was fourteen. In his thirties he abandoned poetry after publishing a few poems in small journals, but he never stopped reading and studying poetry. Then at age sixty-seven, appalled by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the poet within awakened. Stuffing sky-blue notebooks in his pockets, Marbrook began walking around Manhattan determined to affirm his beloved home in the wake of the nihilistic attacks. Far from Algiers emerged from hundreds of poems he has composed in the years since.
Marbrook’s voice speaks to anyone who has ever had doubts about belonging. Born in Algiers to an American artist and a Bedouin father and arriving in America as a gravely ill infant, Marbrook has contemplated this issue throughout his life. Far from Algiers explores “belonging” in a society that is in denial about its own nativist sentiments. It speaks of the struggle to belong in a culture that pays lip service to assimilation but does not fully accept anyone perceived as “foreign.” Marbrook examines this issue with unflinching honesty. Anyone rejected by a family member or neighbor or coworker will relate to these well-crafted and moving poems.
One example is
Houses war to keep
what happens in them
from suck and blanch
This is as succinct as most stanzas by Dickinson. . . . an unusually mature, confidently composed first poetry collection.
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Meet the Author
Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaper editor. He and his wife, Marilyn, live in Germantown, New York.
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A strong sense of self is opens within to an interior life. It is necessary to preserve something on the turbulent path through cultures and decades of change.
Marbrook illuminates the thin resilient thread that connects us to our early years.
A boy who looks embarrassed to be young
skulks beneath the scaffolds avoiding light:
I hope I will not have to be his like again:
I don't know whether it is heartening or disturbing to feel yourself once more a child. Marbrooks poems invite the reader down that path. Over 60 years on from his childhood, the is keenly aware that he is one and the same person. Self-absorbed, with no negative connotations intended in the phrase. The self is after all the origin and source of all truth, all politics.
There are some marvellous little phrases that the reader will keep coming back to. This is a poet whose lines you will repeat to yourself over and over.
Whoever¿s selling nothing
is a truly frightening man.
I hope you¿ve met one lately.
Far From Algiers is the kind of book you will keep picking up until that quiet, enigmatic voice sounds like it is coming from inside your own head.
My humble review will not do justice to the wisdom and depth, style, of a lifelong experience, reflection and perfection. The work is splendid for it exteriorises the poet's innermost, a mix of sagacity and vision that dive into the different. Far from Algiers was written by a throbbing sensitive heart that sees through the mask of indifference of those who stuff their heart with greed to saturation, pleased of their incomprehension.
A "performance poet" I know once called poetry "the snack food of literature." Well, she was young, so I forgive her. But sometimes it seems that a snack is all the current literary scene wants. They won't get it here. Djelloul Marbrook's "Far From Algiers" is the best kind of repast: every poem multi-flavored, nutrient-rich, and demanding repeated tastings. This is poetry as nourishment, the solid meal so needed in a spiritually starved, caffeinated world. Slow down, chew each bite. Feel stronger aferward.
What makes these poems stand out is not only their evocation of Algeria, but the pain of being denied by one's own father. At a time when we've just elected as president a man who was largely denied by his -- and at a time when far too many young people grow up without fathers -- these poems go a long way toward imparting that sense of deep, lifelong hurt that often accompanies such abandonment. I'll never casually use the word "bastard" again without thinking of what these poems taught me. Rich, warm, lovely poems that are deeply satisfying and which last a long time in the mind.
These poems will stay with you long after you've read (and re-read) them. They grab you with titles such as What Good Did My Own Good Do Me? and Bitchy Nurse. What follows are hauntingly beautiful poems about belonging, not belonging and facing and owning our feelings. Mr. Marbrook shows a wicked sense of humor also. I think the next time someone asks me (as in the poem Sinistral) "And what is your background?" I will answer "I have an advanced degree in bastardy." There are many such treasures in this wonderful book of poems by Mr. Marbrook. I am looking forward to more from this talented writer!