Djelloul Marbrook is an American writer, essayist and poet. His works include Far from Algiers, Saraceno, Brash Ice and Shadow of the Heron.
What is your earliest reading memory?
Tabloid headlines, probably 103 pt. hot lead headlines. I lived with Grandma Huldah and my Aunt Dorothy in Brooklyn and they used to cut out tabloid headlines as we sat on the floor in order to teach me the alphabet and how to string letters together. They made paste out of flour and water and we pasted words and then short sentences on sheets of paper. I remember how happy I was. It’s no wonder I eventually made a living writing headlines.
Has writing been a conscious choice or a natural thing for you?
I used to sit next to my stepfather in his office on 19th Street in Manhattan and do my homework when I was in high school. He loved Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The translation is great fun, quite musical, and utterly misleading. I liked it, but I had grown up in a Protestant boarding school run along English public school lines—it had been set up for East Anglian evacuees during World War II, and I was one of the very few Americans—so I took it on myself to respond to Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat from a Christian perspective, using his own prosodic schemata. I was hooked on prosody and began to study it intensely.