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.
Dedicated collaboration with a camera is worth an MFA degree to a writer. And editing in the era of the digital image is like recruiting unused brain cells.
The camera teaches us how to see things. It teaches us to look for what we routinely overlook. It teaches us nuance, shadow, light, and how to make collages with them.
What distinguishes a good photographer is not the cost of the equipment hanging around the neck. It’s an eye for composition, a sense of how things juxtapose to say something beyond the reach of each thing being composed.
Anyone can learn how to take a good picture of an object. But contextualizing that object in reference to its environ, that’s different. Writing a good sentence is not the same as being a good writer.