Marshall, Jack 1936-

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Marshall, Jack 1936-


Born February 25, 1936, in Brooklyn, NY; children: David. Education: Attended public schools in Brooklyn, NY.


Home—San Francisco, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Coffee House Press, 27 N. 4th St., Ste. 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1718.


Poet, playwright, and memoirist. Worked as housepainter, cook, steel mill hand, deckhand, long-shoreman, farmhand, clerk, salesman, shipping clerk, and proofreader; copywriter for J.C. Penney Co., Inc. Guest lecturer at poetry workshops at University of Iowa, 1969-71, California Western College, 1972-74, and San Francisco State University, 1975.


From Baghdad to Brooklyn: Growing up in a Jewish-Arabic Family in Midcentury America (memoir), Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2005.

Contributor to anthologies, including Of Poetry and Power, Basic Books, 1964; Young American Poets, Follet, 1968. Contributor to magazines and periodicals, including New Yorker, Hudson Review, Harper's, and Kayak.


The Darkest Continent, For Now Press (New York, NY), 1967.

Bearings: Poems, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1969.

(With Anselm Hollo and Sam Hamod) Surviving in America, Cedar Creek Press (Iowa City, IA), 1972.

Floats, Cedar Creek Press (Iowa City, IA), 1972.

Bits of Thirst & Other Poems & Translations, Cedar Creek Press (Iowa City, IA), 1973, enlarged edition, Blue Wind Press (Berkeley, CA), 1976.

Arabian Nights: Poems, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1986.

Sesame: Poems, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.

Chaos Comics, Pennywhistle Press (Santa Fe, NM), 1993.

Millennium Fever: Poems, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.

Gorgeous Chaos: New & Selected Poems, 1965-2001, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.


Jack Marshall is a poet and playwright whose works include nine books of poetry and numerous contributions to anthologies and magazines. His collection Sesame: Poems "questions most of the maps we use to chart contemporary American identity," observed reviewer Jonathan N. Barron in MELUS. Mar- shall writes free-verse, narrative poetry, but unlike the works of his contemporaries, "his free verse narratives do not resolve themselves in self-contained aesthetic webs; they are not designed to reveal foundational truths," Barron stated. "In Marshall's poetry, truths are not revealed—they are questioned." In poems such as "Gravesend," Marshall questions a person's ability to express one's individual identity. In the title poem, he delves deeper into ideas of the self and, in particular, his own identity as a person of mixed Arabic and Jewish identity. In "What Took Place There," he looks at varying concepts of identity and how language is often inadequate to express and contain the identity of a person or a people. In the collection, Marshall's "circuitous lines and meticulously selected words hit their target" squarely, "while readers are still caught up in the atmosphere he so beautifully paints" with his words and images, commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Barron observed that the concealed pun in the collection's title refers to the legendary phrase "Open Sesame." Barron noted that "the magic formula that opened the storybook cave will also open the cave of the self. Ironically, what we learn once the cave is opened is that the secrets of identity cannot be expressed."

Millennium Fever: Poems coincided with the furor surrounding the turn of the century/millennium in 2000. Thematically, the collection derives from what Marshall sees as the twentieth-century's long buildup and preparation for that prominent turn of the calendar. In verse dominated by "beat-flavored, bardic poetry," Marshall's work "conjures up the shredding ozone, vanishing species, melting icecaps, and collapsing worlds" evident at the inception of the twenty-first century, noted reviewer Bill Christophersen in Poetry. Several of the works tell a narrative story, and revolve around a center of structure and meaning, Christophersen commented. "The Lie of Health," for example, does double duty, centering around the poet as he lies ill in bed, contemplating the "lie" that his health has become during his sickness. "Their human subjects and story lines anchor them," Christophersen stated."On the other hand, lyrical fanfare is the poet's force, and when he lifts off, his flights make talk of a center seem almost square."

From Baghdad to Brooklyn: Growing up in a Jewish-Arabic Family in Midcentury America departs from Marshall's usual poetry and enters memoir as he explores his ethnic Arabic heritage and his upbringing in a Sephardic household in Brooklyn. Inspired by a collection of unsent letters written by his father, the memoir examines Marshall's similarities and differences with the other Jewish children around him. The son of an arranged marriage, Marshall recognizes the tensions that frequently manifested between his parents and the fearfulness of the outside world that his mother exhibited. Though mindful of his differences, Marshall also ruminates on the similarities he shared with his peers, including summer outings, budding relationships, and neighborhood sports. As he grew and matured, Marshall experienced greater and greater difficulty reconciling the science he was learning in school with the religious training he received at home. Attending Yeshiva University did not solve the problem; instead, while there, Marshall discovered the pleasures of letters, and embarked on his path as a poet. In the concluding pages of the memoir, Marshall literally and figuratively sets sail on his newly constructed life, determined to see the world as a hand on the ship S.S. Femgrove, reported a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. "Accomplished and expressive language permeates this coming-of-age memoir," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

Marshall told CA: "Once begun, a work tends to want to explore and investigate all the possibilities inherent in the first line, and the writer finds himself a medium of unexpected propulsions. It's in the language."



Marshall, Jack, From Baghdad to Brooklyn: Growing up in a Jewish-Arabic Family in Midcentury America, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2005.


Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2005, review of From Baghdad to Brooklyn, p. 721.

MELUS, spring, 1996, Jonathan N. Barron, review of Sesame: Poems, p. 140.

Poetry, March, 1998, Bill Christophersen, review of Millennium Fever: Poems, p. 339.

Publishers Weekly, October 18, 1993, review of Sesame, p. 69; July 18, 2005, review of From Baghdad to Brooklyn, p. 192.


Tarpaulin Sky Web site, (May 1, 2006), biography of Jack Marshall.

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Marshall, Jack 1936-

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