Writing & News

Letter from Marjon Mossammaparast to her readers

Upswell Subscriber letters 2022

 March 2022 

I knew Marjon’s name (it is very distinctively long!) from her first book of poems from 2018 when I received an email from her offering this manuscript to me during a flight to Sydney in April 2021. I was travelling to visit a beloved friend after dramatic surgery and was full of dread. I responded very swiftly; I always trust myself when I take a plunge like that. No second thoughts. I wrote this: 

The short answer is that I would love to publish this very special, often skin-tingling manuscript. I completely ‘get’ what you say you were setting up to do in these three sections. You achieve all of this beautifully. 

And one of the things I love about this manuscript is the way it reveals new aspects on each reading: what you are doing with the language; how you animate bodies in space and time; the power of naming. 

I’m so delighted you have approached me, and I accept with gratitude. 

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I do. 

Terri-ann White, Publisher 

Marjon Mossammaparast writes: 

I conceived this volume at a Ludovico Einaudi concert at the Myer Music Bowl in January 2020. What had been snippets of travelogue when Einaudi took the stage became a sequence already entitled There – Here – Field by the time Einaudi took his final call, and by which point I was levitating with violins over mountains. I listened to his Seven Days Walking whilst writing much of the manuscript, gently lifted, the “flat map becoming sphere” – perhaps some kind of magic creative transference. I was determined from the outset that this volume be uplifting, that it transport. 

This irony was not lost on me when COVID-19 began to ravage the world; I was writing from the dark heart of the world’s longest lockdown, and felt keenly its cage. When Here indeed became here – and only here – I would set out from my apartment to walk my 5km radius, awaiting a beam of illumination. That it came – and often – attests for me to a cardinal (though admittedly uncomfortable) truth: constraint necessitates clarity – in poetry, as in many things besides. 

Three voices circled in my head as I was writing this work, which I’d like to note. The first, Clive James in his excellent (and characteristically wry) essay, “Letter to a Young Poet”. As serendipity would have it, I encountered this essay in Edinburgh on a rainy afternoon when I shared the sympathetic gloom of the city, wondering when I would write anything of quality again. James plucked me out of my wallowing and returned me squarely to the matter at hand: 

“Thus committed by a burning, Miltonic compulsion to your lifetime’s destiny, you will have already noticed that your work attracts more blame than praise, and more indifference than either. Train yourself to care less about the praise. You should work your new poem to perfection not because it will please more people that way – it might please fewer – but because in its finished state it will prove itself an independent artefact invulnerable even to your own doubts. If the poem has its own confidence, the day will come when you can look back on it and wonder how you did it… 

If you start thinking about your reputation, or even about your career as a poet, you are in the wrong frame of mind. What matters most is the poem, not the poet. A poet who worries because he hasn’t been in any of the ritzier 

periodicals often enough lately would be better off busking his latest poem in the town square and seeing how it goes over…A poem is something that never stops telling you to be careful until it’s done: you get it started, go on developing it, and keep watching its tone until the whole thing sings…” 

The second voice was of Gerald Murnane, whose The Plains remains a fuzzy and dizzyingly spellbinding book of inexplicable beauty. Hearing him speak in Carlton in February 2019, I took his injunction (paraphrased here) to heart: that we must each write what only we can write. 

The third voice came to me through a paper I read in 2019, Poetry in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Writings and Utterances (Julio Savi and Faezeh Mardani, Lights of ‘Irfán Book 18, 2017), which outlined seven aspects of poetry deemed of importance — and to which I subsequently attempted to humbly pay heed: inspiration, beauty, eloquence, versification, novelty, expressivity and depth of meaning. 

I hope you experience at least one liberating movement towards ekstasis (Gk: standing outside oneself) in reading these poems. 

M.Mossammaparast, December 2021