Brushstrokes and Glances
This is a fantastic collection from a poet with a wonderful authentic voice. Where poetry is so often dense to the point of impenetrability, Brushstrokes and glances is a breath of fresh air. Like the artists that inform his poetry, Djelloul Marbrook has the rare ability to say a lot with a little. Yet his poetry is not spare or sparse. In fact his is a rich and populous poetry, often belied by the number of words used to convey his images.
Born in Algiers, Djelloul Marbrook grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip, and Manhattan, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia University. He has been many things in his life, including a soda jerk, newspaper vendor, messenger, theater and nightclub concessionaire, and serving in the U.S. Navy and merchant marine.
Mr. Marbrook also has extensive experience in journalism for a variety of publications including The Providence Journal, the Elmira Star-Gazette, Baltimore Sun, Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel, The Washington Star, and others. In 2006–2007 he was the editor in chief of the English version of Arabesques Literary and Cultural Review.
Mr. Marbrook is the 2007 winner of Kent State University’s Stan and Tom Wick Prize for a first book of poetry, Far From Algiers. In 2010, Far from Algiers won the International Book Award for Poetry. He also won the 2008 Literal Latté fiction prize for his story, “Artist’s Hill.”
With his clear insight into the world of art coupled with a strong social conscience, and a willingness to blend the private with the civic, Mr. Marbrook’s poems are clear expressions of his worldview:
“A government like Caravaggio”
If government painted a canvas
as exuberantly as Caravaggio
it would be accidentally civil,
if it had his reverence
for materials at hand
it would incidentally work,
if it had his irreverence
for dogma and popes
it would help somebody.
Whether it is commentary on state power, corporate greed, or the intensely personal death of a loved one, Djelloul Marbrook is clear sighted, eloquent, and precise. As the title of the collection suggests, he uses the lightest touch, a collection of fragments, brushstrokes and glances, to fashion poems that resonate with truth and honesty.
Nowhere is this more evident than in his reflections on the death of his mother:
“My mother dying”
If I can’t live a thousand years
why bother to live another day?
I loved the absurdity of it;
a teenager for eighty years,
she really wanted an answer.
Having bothered, why bother?
What could God say? I laughed,
hardest thing I ever did.
This is a deeply personal recollection of the person that was his mother. This is not about the mother as mother, but the mother as person. “Having bothered, why bother?” This short, clear fragment of perception is pure Marbrook. That he recognized the import and the humor and the heartbreaking reality of this short fragment is what makes him a poet worthy of respect and of a following.
Djelloul Marbrook has a lifetime of experience, a head full of knowledge, and an innate feeling for what works. Brushstrokes and glances is a collection that showcases a talent that perhaps should have been seen many years before now. He clearly has a unique and powerful point of view and a clear voice. Hopefully there will be more to come from this talented poet.