Cover image for Gorgeous chaos : new & selected poems, 1965-2001
Gorgeous chaos : new & selected poems, 1965-2001
Marshall, Jack, 1936-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Minneapolis : Coffee House Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
269 pages ; 26 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
PS3563.A722 G67 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In this vital collection of new and selected work, Jack Marshall never lets readers forget that they are meat-on-the-bone, organic beings incomplete in nature, often rattled by the tricky fortune of possessing free will and consciousness. With voice steady and language sublime, Marshall imparts a studied view of being alive and the possibilities that abound before, during, and after our earthly tryst as -psyche meeting flesh.

Jack Marshall was born in 1936 to Arabic-Jewish parents, and often mines these clashing cultures in his work. His critically acclaimed books include Sesame , a PEN West Literary winner and National Book Critics Circle finalist. He lives in San Francisco, California.

Author Notes

Jack Marshall was born in 1936 in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of several volumes of critically acclaimed poetry, including Sesame, a PEN Center West Literary Award winner and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. A past recipient of the Bay Area Book Reviewer's Award, he lives in San Francisco

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Spanning 35 years, Gorgeous Chaos: New and Selected Poems 1965-2001 brings together work from Jack Marshall's seven previous volumes (including Marshall's three most recent titles also available from Coffee House) along with over a dozen new pieces. Throughout his career, Marshall's work has remained thematically consistent as he meditates on the collision between mystical yearnings and the commonplace, often harsh realities of life. (Even Marshall's Arabic Jewish background embodies the potential for culture clash.) Recent pieces such as "Re-entry" observe that while transcendence may not ultimately be possible, the experience of living is enough, and Marshall "wouldn't change a thing" as he looks back. The spare yet powerful "Glimmer," propels the reader forward through a dizzying yet measured synthesis of body, mind and spirit. The voice of Marshall's recent work is especially musical and sure, ending this volume on a note that should please both long-time devotees and new fans alike. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



FROM The Darkest Continent Hitch-Hiker Each man to his forced march; this is mine. In the end everything runs out, runs under the wheels-a bandage unwinding on the centerline. Sometimes when my ribs clang like a metal signpost at the edge of town, and so much of the dark I cannot shut out crawls with me into my sleeping bag, I try to think where the owl goes. For years now, my life has taken no sharp turns, no climb, no detour, but moves in neutral down this smooth tar lane, one way. The towns, en route, the festooned, blazing towns, are they dreams in my sleep, vanished on waking? Even so, watching that white line grow thin and luminous at night, I feel the moon's hub unhinge from center and roll awry. Setting Out I give my hand back to its place in the country of hands I give my legs back to the road My flowing sex I give to the Mother of Water My hair to the mountain peak I give my eye back to the head of the chestnut pony The low spark at the tip of my spine I give to the backbone of stars My sweat I give to the cloud moving toward the warm gulfstream The letters of my name back to the Father of Alphabets The dark cave under the outcrop of my forehead is making way for the prowlers of the sea My lungs and ears and ambergris I give back to the wind My sputtering desire to the more steadily burning sun Not because it is all over But that it might begin The Gold Coast I. And so it is Africa we each seek after all. After watching toothless lions shrug through fire and, flawlessly as snow, tinsel-coiffed firs warding winter mildly off lavender walls, we trade some wax roses and a shawl and then retire. It is the mandrill's flagrant roar along the glades and deserts galloping astride the grinning blades of slave and sultan prostrate on the sand, (every bush burning the sandals from their feet) where parentheses of muezzin arms lift "Allah is highest." The blackamoor magdalenes of Marrakesh mince up, laughing, to their beds and love, the darkest continent of all, ascends to morning. 2. Tetanus gouts the marketplace; mulattos and bees sting the smoking oxen's eyes where a sunstruck beggar reeks lice and palm wine; the cataracts of his eyes lepers to the light; his turban coiling the sun like a cobra around his head. South, savannah and dune-scarfed Sudan swoops summer-Kismet's falcon assassinating the lion-hearted infidel and flying, giraffe-necked up Rha, the swarthy afternoon. Off Ghana, where stripped crews race their bum-boat cotton, Gold Coast Spartans appease the gods of fire and stone with drum and trident ... Assyrian script foam ... O blood bound sails of Saladin unfurling. Light Poem The light without a body without skin without bones or veins without feet without hands is strong, but lightly the light has no wants still the field flowers when he comes out of nowhere light is in the wood in the water without youth without age without old age though he is seen he was not born he does not die he is early he is late he will not come when we wish him he walks on the hillside in summer he walks on the snow he is naked he wears the seasons for clothes he is there with our enemies here with our friends he is silent he sings he comes from the heat of the sun the coolness of the moon Excerpted from Gorgeous Chaos by Jack Marshall Copyright © 2002 by Jack Marshall Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

from The Darkest Continent
Hitch-Hikerp. 4
Setting Outp. 5
The Gold Coastp. 6
Light Poemp. 8
The Way Backp. 9
My Tropicsp. 10
Elegy for the New Yearp. 11
Crosswindsp. 13
from Bearings
Bearingsp. 20
The Angelp. 21
Sky over Mexicop. 22
The Feeding Machinep. 25
The Lady is My Languagep. 26
Letter to My Father on the Other Sidep. 27
Walking across Brooklyn Bridgep. 29
I Had Come to Hope for Somethingp. 31
Leaving the Hospitalp. 33
The Visitp. 37
Remainsp. 39
from Bits of Thirst
In Your Shoesp. 43
Smellp. 45
Some Questions of Distancep. 46
Bits of Thirstp. 47
The Therapy of Walkingp. 48
Uprising in Fallp. 49
The Friendsp. 50
Februaryp. 52
For Mandelstamp. 55
Hold, Open, Lookp. 56
Floatsp. 57
The Gardner's Note, Cliffside, Pt. Lomap. 63
from Arriving on the Playing Fields of Paradise
Gracep. 66
Alveolip. 68
Stillp. 73
Old Onesp. 76
Sickbed Poemsp. 82
Lazarusp. 88
Anton Webernp. 90
In Place of a Rain Dancep. 92
For Naomip. 94
Appalachia Suitep. 96
Workmen's Comp.p. 97
From the Big Brass Handbookp. 99
Savory Sultanas, Turkish Delightsp. 101
After Rajneeshp. 103
Whitening Linesp. 105
from Arabian Nights
Arabian Nightsp. 107
Thirty-Sevenp. 109
Dealp. 111
Leaving Edenp. 115
July Fourthp. 117
Undeprived Yet of Memoryp. 118
It Seemsp. 120
Glimmersp. 121
from Sesame
Coiled Springsp. 140
Canneryp. 143
Cranep. 145
Voyagesp. 146
Greenp. 147
What Took Place Therep. 149
Sesamep. 154
Gravesendp. 167
G-Dp. 170
A Giftp. 174
For Joe Ceravolop. 175
Shades of Grayp. 177
Radio Tehranp. 181
The Home-Frontp. 182
Under a Cloud as Big as a Statep. 184
from Millennium Fever
Wing and Prayerp. 190
Her Flagp. 194
Field and Wave, Body and Bookp. 195
Of Jeffers, 1961p. 200
Limbp. 202
From the Big Brass Handbook: Chapter 3p. 204
Climbing Vinep. 208
The Lie of Healthp. 213
From an Archeology of Flightp. 219
In Midlifep. 223
Of Osp. 227
New Poems
Territoryp. 232
Panthersp. 235
Place in the Realp. 237
The Black Handp. 240
Cake after Chemop. 242
A Threadp. 243
Re-entryp. 247
Angelsp. 249
Angels IIp. 252
Spinp. 254
Sixty-Onep. 258
A Glancep. 260
Lost Before Arrivingp. 263
Lastingp. 267