The Essential Tom Marshall

The Essential Tom Marshall

by Tom Marshall

Paperback(First)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780889843530
Publisher: Porcupine's Quill, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/01/2012
Series: Essential Poets Series , #9
Edition description: First
Pages: 64
Product dimensions: 5.53(w) x 8.68(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Tom Marshall was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in April, 1938. He studied English and History at Queen's University in the late 1950s, returning to the school after graduation to complete a master's degree on the poetry of A M Klein. With David Helwig, Marshall was at the centre of a group of writers active in Kingston, where he began teaching at Queen's in 1964. As a poet, he is known for four linked collections (published between 1969 and 1976) of philosophical, meditative verse. The Silences of Fire (Macmillan 1969) is perhaps the best known of these, though all of them are neatly represented in a fifth book, The Elements (Oberon 1980). Marshall is also the author of seven novels, among them Rosemary Goal (Oberon 1978), a satire of academic and literary life, and Adele at the End of the Day (Macmillan 1987). Most important critically are The Psychic Mariner: A Reading of the Poems of D.H. Lawrence (1970) and Harsh and Lovely Land (1979), an incisive, insightful survey of contemporary Canadian poets and poetry. Marshall died at Kingston in 1993.

Read an Excerpt

'Words For H.S.K.M. (1910-91)'

The Kennedy profile recumbent is like a craggy mountain range rising above the oak casket.

Time's scythe has had its way with her.
The Ancient of Days has drawn a line around her. She survives herself no more.

For years she had been receding little by little. She had been remembered in dreams as younger, stronger.

A shrunken woman, kindly, distant,
not that terrifying sorceress not yet the strong, protective matrona.

Mother, in your darkness and light
I grew. Your love of music and reading.
Your hatred of space and freedom.

Curious contradictions of anxiety, nerves, depression persisting through generations

of Kennedys working the land.
Whence comes all that depth of darkness?
From Scotland's internecine turmoil?

Human mysteries persist, deepen.
There is no resolution. Only pain familiar and defining, strengthening.

Table of Contents

7 Foreword

The Silences of Fire (1969)

11 The park is more like a wood
14 Autobiographies
15 Astrology
16 Speedboat
18 Derangement
19 Notes from a London Diary
21 Words in Exile
24 Interior Monologue #666
25 Coda: Macdonald Park

Magic Water (1971)

26 Politics
28 from Islands
29 Strictly Personal
30 The Return

The Earthbook (1974)

31 Qualifications
32 Other Qualifications
33 Legend
34 Second Legend
35 The Friends
36 The Lamb

Dance of the Particles (1984)

39 Approaching 38
40 Christmas Travel Poem
41 Summer of Seventy-Seven
42 Field Syllabics

Ghost Safari (1991)

44 Dream Sequence
46 Daedelus, Icarus
49 "We are dying . . ."

Some Impossible Heaven of the Senses (1994)

50 Flight
51 To Whom It May Concern
52 Wave Movements
54 The Mother
56 Words for HSKM
57 Voyages
No Way
58 Sonnets of Scorpio
59 ( )

60 About Tom Marshall

63 A Bibliography

Preface

The city of Kingston stood at the centre of Tom Marshall's personal and imaginative universe. He moved to Kingston to study at Queen's University in 1957. In 1993 he died there, in the small brick house he had bought some years before. Though he spent time travelling in Europe after his graduation and later settled in London for a year to work toward a PhD, with a sabbatical year spent in Toronto a few years later, he always returned to the city where his parents had met. For years he lived close to the lake among the fine stone houses built in the nineteenth century when Kingston was in line to become the capital of Canada. In the 60s he inhabited an apartment overlooking the park named for Sir John A Macdonald and containing a statue of the man. Tom's first long poem was about Macdonald and his park. 'Overlooking the park,' he says in an introduction to the poem, 'I came to feel that there was a thing in it, a vision or Beast, to be observed and recorded.'

Later he wrote a lengthy set of poems, a kind of modernized sonnet cycle, which opens with a dedication to the city of Kingston. Marine city of my dreams, he calls it. Anyone who knew Tom in those days can easily trace on the map of memory a stroll down to the lakeshore with its view of Wolfe Island, the trudge to Queen's past the old courthouse, the few blocks to the downtown, the walk back to the apartment on West Street, or in later years to the Annandale Annex, where his windows on one side looked out over tall willows, on the other over a parking lot and the elegant old houses of William Street. Anyone reading his early poems will learn the details of his daily life, as he passed through that rackety, half-gentrified core of the limestone city searching out the mystic fire at the edge of things.

Sight burns us free of love to green paraphrase that burns us finally free of sight.

What is probably the earliest poem in this collection, 'Astrology', already suggests some of the qualities of voice and manner that lie at the core of Tom Marshall's poetry. The offhand opening statement: 'It's an approach. Say what you like/ about it. It's an approach,' leads on to a slyly ironic assertion 'I care more about this/ arrangement of words than about you,' and finally the poem that began in a denial of sentiment ends with a high romantic demand, 'give me the whole fire of your heart'. A conclusion imposed by a self-dramatizing young poet perhaps, but the calm irony of the opening lines is characteristic, and the poem suggests his range of tones, the balance of humour and seriousness, the way his poems remain lyrical even when he is writing of bitter love, self-abasement, brilliant restless nights. In the early park poems the calm insistence of a quiet inward voice urges the reader on to another thought, another stanza.

In this short selection there has not been room to include any of Tom Marshall's ambitious long poems, 'Macdonald Park', 'Islands', 'Cosmic Photographs', 'Fugue for Lonny'. One of the longer poems included here is 'The Lamb', an evocative and powerful elegy dedicated to Susan Alliston; it becomes an invocation of a whole era of artists in London. Some of Tom's poems about London in The Silences of Fire suggest that the city could still embody itself - as it did when T.S. Eliot published The Waste Land-as a kind of hell. 'The Lamb' plays with that metaphor.

The Lamb. Underworld saloon where Dickens, Wilde and Dylan Thomas drank,
those haunted dilettantes, the poets

of Hades and Bloomsbury . . . Oh Sue where are you? You should be the hostess of this Underworld.

(A sidebar for those who enjoy gossip, as Tom did: in 2010, it came to light that Susan Alliston, to whom 'The Lamb' is dedicated, was in bed with Ted Hughes on the winter night in 1963 when his wife Sylvia Plath committed suicide.)

One of five brothers born into a middle-class family, Tom Marshall was both secretive and obsessive about his personal life. As an undergraduate, he chose history as his main field of study, and he had a consuming sense of the drama of the Canadian past, which played itself out in his poems. He delighted in the fact that John Montgomery, the owner of the tavern where one of the half comic confrontations of the 1837 rebellion took place, was one of his ancestors. At the time of his death he was completing revisions on a novel on the subject.

In 1980 Tom Marshall's first four books, each named for one of the elements, were brought together in a substantial selection called The Elements. In the following years a good deal of his creative energy was taken up by the writing of fiction.

Tom Marshall's final collection of poetry was assembled from material found in his files after his death, some of it highly personal and more direct than the earlier poems, and it included poems that he had kept on hand but not published. The old age and death of his parents was a source for some of his best late poems. 'Dream Sequence', 'The Mother', and 'Words for HSKM' are attempts to come to terms with his strong and ambiguous feelings about his parents, his mother in particular. 'The Mother', a vigorous portrait etched in wormwood, was written and set aside while his mother was still alive; it is impelled by bitterness and anger and yet perhaps contains something that is their exact opposite. 'For HSKM' is an elegy and tries to reach some kind of accommodation.

Human mysteries persist, deepen.
There is no resolution. Only pain familiar and defining, strengthening.

It has been argued that that Tom was not at his best with endings, that sometimes poems are forced to a neat conclusion. Perhaps that's why the last poems are so strong; they open out, don't give in to something; they have a lovely tentativeness. It may be that their new directions in tone and shape are the result of the fact that they were 'unpublishable' poems and for that reason he allowed them a different aesthetic logic.

Tom Marshall's premature death at fifty-five in the small brick house on Victoria Street-where he imagined ghosts and lined up the sayings from Chinese fortune-cookies on his coffee table like some kind of Tarot-left his fine poetry to the merciless inattention of passing time. He is not on hand to help broadcast news of his work, though he is well remembered in Kingston as a figure central to the literary world there for more than two decades.

Everyone likes to believe that the best of poetry will endure, but it doesn't do so without help. Perhaps this collection, assembled by two old friends as a small act of affection and loyalty, will help to bring Tom back as a living voice.

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