Q&A with Poet Daniel Paul Marshall, Part One

I hope to offer monthly Q&A sessions with some of my favorite poets. Daniel Paul Marshall is the first of these.


Daniel lives on the island of Jeju, a self governing province of Korea, where he lives with his wife and dog and runs a guesthouse and cafe. When he isn’t cooking omelets or pasta you’ll find him by the sea searching for mermaids, fishermen or something peculiar, or just waiting for Jeju to come to him with poetry.

RO: Daniel, please tell us how or why you turned to writing poetry?

DPM: i wrote poems in school when puberty hit. i was your typical awkward teenager, overrun with puppy fat & a face full of zits. i wrote poems about the pretty girls, & in as cliché a mode as is conceivable, pined for their affections. All very silly. i sent one to some poetry website, which you could enter a poem into the database of, which automatically became placed in a competition. i got some letter months later from said website saying my poem was picked as a semi-finalist & that i was to go to Washington for a ceremony & what not. My parents were more naïve than me (this was the early days of the internet) heaping praise on me & wondering where this poetry ability came from. i was dubious about it. My poem wasn’t that good, even i knew that. So i sent another, but this time i wrote it to be terrible on purpose. Lo & behold i got a letter in the post a couple weeks later with the same invitation but for this new more terrible poem. This was my inception into poetry writing. From the beginning i was critical of myself to stop me from any delusion & to make me improve.

There was then a yawning gap, as school life in small town England wasn’t exactly a burgeoning environment of sensitive poetic sorts. i carried my sensitivity, knowing i’d one day be able to do something with it when i got older.

It was when i started the independent student life at university, living away from home that i began to seriously study & the desire to be a good poet took hold. i knew i was no good, but i was in for the long haul. i had made a decision with myself.

When i started reading poetry every day in my early twenties, what struck me about it was how poetry had this capacity to express what no other medium can express, that there is something inherent in the presentation of emotion & reality in the poem, which can only be expressed with poetry’s parameters. That expressiveness is multi-tiered, multi-dimensional & i base entirely on speculation reinforced by my trust in my sensibilities & i am sure anyone dedicated to an art will have something similar to say- & i wouldn’t quarrel with them.

i first began writing imitations in university & practicing using metrical forms. i read the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics avidly, learning new techniques & then putting them into practice; this taught me the modalities, the nuances & methods of poetry. i figured out sound, form & function. i also cut my teeth on new words i learned whilst reading poetry & yes, the dictionary, developing a sense for the various or sometimes, limited contexts they can be used in.

Poetry took on an importance for me, an importance attributed not just to the acoustics of words, but to the potential expression in metrical style, scansion, grammar, punctuation, the whole lark of the poetic act became a complex system, which i could wrap my head around. i am not a smart person, everything i do is achieved through trial & error, until it gets done. i have this method of doing things because my memory is poor, a problem i share with Michael Hoffman, which makes me feel much better about it. So poetry was the first complex system that i could grasp. Systems fascinate me, especially poetic, religious or philosophical systems. This undertaking to get at the nuts & bolts of poetry was due to my lecturer, Nikolai Duffy, who told me a poet can only break with established forms & develop a voice when they fully understand poetic technique. i am still learning, but i am past the shaky knees, quivering lips stage of no-confidence.

RO: Would you offer up some of your influences – poetic and otherwise. What about their work intrigues you?

DPM: During university i just read as widely as possible & took advantage of a library crammed with potential influences. During this time, experience never had any say in poetry: i was fascinated by the long narrative poems of Blake, Shelley & their inspiration, Milton. i also read a lot of Robert Browning & Gerard Manley Hopkins. My early poetic projects were ambitious epics i didn’t have the poetic resource of mind to complete, i’d get maybe 100 lines in & hit a brick wall.

The expansion of the interior spiritual mood was an experience i wanted to conduct in myself; so i read a lot of religious literature: the Upanishads, Bodhidharma, Lao Tzu, Jung, in hope of giving the poets i read a spiritual context beyond the time span of their generation. i was very uncomfortable with reading a writer just in relation to the zeitgeist: everything seemed like just another way of expressing something hidden within every person, which if understood could alter mankind’s problem with itself. i believed poetry could completely overhaul the world for the better if we only figure out that literature is one whole expression of this in disparate parts.

i don’t believe this now. Perhaps some other time could be used for why my mind changed as it is a long & not that interesting story.

It was reading the Modernists & (for want of a better word) the Confessionalists such as Berryman, Lowell & Roethke who first gave me reason to see experiential poetry as containing some value. My first almost successful, ambitious project was a parody of Berryman’s Dream Songs, called the Lucid Sutras, in which a proganist, Candlewick was flanked by a Blakean spectre whose name changed depending on Candlewick’s mood & another inner voice called Subhuti. Candlewick had numerous mis-adventures ever tugged between his Id, Ego & Super Ego personas. i wrote them in what i called fractured terza rima, rather than Berryman’s broken sonnets. i think i got 50 poems in before i’d used up all i’d learned ever & ran out of steam, abandoning the project. i’d done nothing yet, to stoke the embers.

i have never really been inspired directly by a poet, not consciously. i tend to borrow their forms.

What influences me these days is my environment. i am very fortunate to live in a place very remote from British or Western culture. & it is the similarities to Western cultures against the backdrop of so much difference, which in itself can spawn more difference. i don’t know if that just makes sense in my head. It often feels analogous to coming across the latest issue of Cosmopolitan in the Vatican library, it just becomes so odd that it provokes a questioning response & this has somehow honed my visual stimuli, which has become converted into poetry.


This was the hardest question to answer. i realize that anything that once influenced me has now been rebelled against or brushed aside. i want to write the song of myself for once. i have only been writing myself for about a year. i have been writing poetry for ten years almost & i am only 30 so a long time in the making.

RO: Who are some of your favorite contemporary creatives?

DPM: i am very new to reading or looking at contemporary poetry or art. So i can’t really give as good an answer as i would like, but i’ll give it a shot. Since using the internet better, i have discovered a variety of exceptional writers. Michael Symmons Robert’s last book of poems Drysalter has been a read i refer back to, as his vocabulary & capacity to focus on something expansive in just 15 lines is astonishing. The book is a series of 150 poems each 15 lines each & what he achieves with those constraints is the sign of a master at work. Some very relevant meditations & his ability to distance himself from what seem like fictionalized accounts, but may be his own experiences, we just aren’t sure, but he staggers, whatever his mode. His use of simple lines packed full of sentiment & emotion that leaves you offering your heart to him is monumental; in one poem O song, there is a verse that if i can write a verse half as good in my entire life i’ll hop off the mortal coil finally proud of myself, it goes

O man of sorrows, I missed you
as you passed me in the street last night.
The wind funneled between buildings,
blew grit into my eyes, fine sand
miles from the sea. I am so sorry.

 I still haven’t landed on exactly what the apology is for at the end, but it breaks my heart into sea lace.

Will Self is two novels into a trilogy, he has written Umbrella & Shark, both of which are mind bending novels exploring the depths & potential of stream of consciousness. Though i don’t read much prose, Self’s novels are works i anticipate as his language & style is inimical. When i first dived (under?) into Umbrella the shock of the style gave me a feeling of vertigo. You sort of spiral into, as if on a helix-slide, but when you get your second wind, it is a joy & becomes really very palatable.

i have been fortunate enough to meet, through blogging, some poets who have helped me modernize, to be a writer in a contemporary sense rather than palely imitating a bygone era, which really has no relevance; just by reading them & getting out of the asinine opinion that only previous generations wrote good poetry has been a major, important reversal for me; you wouldn’t be reading this, i am sure of that without this awakening.

Jose Angel Araguz was really the first when i read his poetry published in The Inflectionist Review perhaps my favorite poetry journal & i am now fortunate enough to talk with him about his work, which is a pleasure. The tenderness with which he writes is astonishing, his Book of Flight is a triumph- aphoristic, taut poems which just make you want to pick up a pen & respond in some way, by annexing something to humanity’s literary oeuvre.

i recently read Tim Miller’s To the House of the Sun, which is something i could hardly believe exists in this day & age; a civil war epic constructed from a vast accumulation of literature that Miller has mined over a ten year period to write an original piece of literature; he even went & lived in different parts of the country to learn more about the places he wanted to include in his protagonist’s journey. i was surprised by it as the epic poem is not a form people go for, for writing or reading. i think to attempt a renaissance of that form is admirable. In his own words, he says it is more a document for posterity. A behemoth of a text that just leaves you with mouth agape at his dedication to inspired literature from across all cultures. What i took from Miller was a reason to write: a hope that some future writer with Miller’s love of history & literature, who may mine the Millenials & write an entire text that tackles so many humane themes.

Our Bob here, he must be mentioned, not just because he has threatened his reputation by featuring me here, but we’ve all read his work & try to wrap our heads around his wonderful ability to juxtapose & poeticize what seem impossible to juxtapose & poeticize & in doing so brings so much joy to our ears & hearts.

i am not much of an art fan but i quite like the British artist Robert Nicol & Vladimir Kush; also Andrea Kowch is an immensely talented painter. Steve McCurry’s photography is tremendous. The abstract Berlin based artist Matt Kofflan, a friend & very talented chap is someone i never understood for a long time, till i opened my mind up to the contemporary world. His dye pieces look like nebulae bursting into form. You can check him out at mtkofflan.com. If i keep going it will start to get tedious i like so many things.

RO: Would you mind sharing a bit about your background? How did you come to run a guesthouse and cafe on Jeju Island?

DPM: i was a teacher for a few years in different parts of the country. i disliked it. It wasn’t shall we say, my cup of tea. My wife has always been a business minded person & owing to my dislike of my job, she bought some land & managed to formulate this plan. i should add that i gave half of my wages for a year toward the building & the land was bought with an investor’s money.

i was working in a mountainous region, teaching through the week & going to visit a monk on the weekend, where i would enjoy the quiet, learn a bit about building stuff, help the monk build paths & do renovations of his old property; practiced Korean too. During this time my wife worked in Seoul & started planning. i had actually told her i was going to return to England as the thought of teaching my whole life in Korea, was just something i couldn’t do; we weren’t married at the time. Sounds cruel doesn’t it, but Korea had taken its toll on me & the idea of staying for a woman seemed naïve, especially if i would be stuck doing something i don’t need to do that makes me unhappy; i didn’t want to pass my depression on, i thought it best to return to England, but…

i was prepared to work hard building something though as i had been interested in Jung’s Bollingen tower & also Gary Snyder & even Kenneth Burke, who all built things, whether paths, houses or meditation rooms. i could only do this because of being open to a rough lifestyle; the comfort of classrooms & city life makes me tense up.

The only experience i’d had was helping the monk, but that was a wholly other kind of construction, pretty basic stuff, metal sheeting & just drilling; next thing i know i’m mixing concrete, chopping wood, hauling 40kg bags of cement, tying iron strips, carrying bricks in a backpack up a scaffold- really hoving into the teeth of it. i grumbled, it was bloody hard, but i felt proud of myself for once; because i was doing something hard & i’d only ever done things that made me bored before, work wise at least.

My wife decided to build a café too as i impressed her with how quickly i learned to cook things & how popular western food is with Koreans. It is a novelty thing, no different to how we see other cuisines in the West. It was a no brainer for her. i don’t cook too badly, but to Koreans it is very impressive if only because it feels like an authentic, Western culinary experience. You can find some fine roasteries on the island too, so serving coffee is always a good idea. i serve hand dripped coffee only & the beans are superb. We have nothing of this sort of quality in Britain: coffee is terrible in England.

i often feel i fall into things, i just never say no to an opportunity, as long as when i gauge it in relation to something ordinary it seems like something unique & grand, i’ll hop on board.

We’ll continue this Q&A in a few days, but let’s end today’s portion with one of Daniel’s poems.

the heron

look here see the heron, stiff as a quill, as elegant,
its slow footing, sostenuto, its flight, encumbered almost,

heavy, a bit awkward (if you’ve ever handled a quill
you’ll know exactly what i mean) & yet it maneuvers a

turbulent wind, shifts it even, at will with the steady
beat of its wing. avoids all obstacles with gazelle ease,

ripples the ghyll like a feathery Christ – still as taxidermy
in their unrivalled Bodhidharmic mood & teach

us how with disapproving nods of non-essential flow.
i see them flanked by sewage on all sides; their evolution

ransacked, yet a healthy colony teems the shallow waters
of Hallim,-& i’d heard they’d rather wade pristine environments.

i’m more like a dog: restless & sweaty, agitated for next;
give a brief sniff to things; uncompromising in my forwardness;

lash out from a leash invisible if concentrated on my anger;
communicate with excrement & whines; scratch myself incessantly

– but i’m looking into how i might become more like the heron
: evoke a clear response to noise with wet feet soft as ear lobes.


50 thoughts on “Q&A with Poet Daniel Paul Marshall, Part One

  1. Pingback: a Q&A with Robert Okaji about my poetry – Daniel Paul Marshall

  2. I’m new to this world of blogs. It seems there’s so much good content out there… What a great story. Reminds me that I’m not the only creative who’s walking their own path.

    And the heron poem painted an accurate picture. I saw a heron yesterday and thought it was stuffed:)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Let me welcome you to the blogging world. i can tell you from just a couple of years experience that if you rummage around you can find some staggeringly talented people pouring their minds out.
      There are sieges n’ sieges of herons around me, i see them when i am walking my dog. i have been trying to get a good photo, but my dog won’t allow it. Even when she isn’t with me, i am sure they have a sixth sense: i can’t get get a shot of them where they are bigger than a bowling pin, before i can get even 10 meters from them they scarper. & yet the one day i didn’t take my camera out i was walking along the road, where they don’t usually go, & one was right beside me, & it was so still my dog didn’t seem to see it, she didn’t go for it at all, but, no camera, i’d have had a full close up of one. Can’t forgive myself.
      Cheers for your interest.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh I’ve been there…Sounds like you’re going to have to buy yourself a crazy long lens:)

        I’ll follow your blog… Have you been out of the UK long? I traveled the world for many years and have had some really crazy adventures. I ended up back in the UK and am enjoying some things that I never thought I’d miss.

        About the blogs again. I really appreciate the welcome. Aren’t you just overwhelmed? There’s too much isnt ther… too much to read, too much music to listen to, too many countries to visit, too many birds to photograph. How do you handle it all?

        Liked by 1 person

        • i quite like the challenging of having to creep up on one. a long lens would do the job, but the capture wouldn’t be quite as satisfying. i’ve been out of England 6 years now. i miss a lot of things, but i feel progress gets made here & i worry it wouldn’t in England.
          i never had aspirations to travel the world, it wasn’t within my pecuniary bounds but i hope to do more. it was always attractive to me to become acquainted with a culture, to learn as much about it as possible, so when any opportunity came along i took it, the first was Korea & here i am 6 years later. it could have been anywhere that would have taken me in at a time of joblessness.
          as for trying to get through everything, i used to think that, but i am trying to narrow my focus these days: reading is maybe suffering, which was an easy option: there are no book stores on this small island of Jeju, a no brainer. it has led me to look online for the first time in my life & i really am astounded with the vast amount of brilliant writing tackling experience & modern life & all things in between & outside. it is proving a rich mine for making new relationships & gettin to talk about what i love, which has not been possible with even people i have known most my life (people go their own ways.)

          Liked by 2 people

          • Oh that makes sense:) We all need a tribe of people who are on the same wave length. I’m still looking for mine. I just wrote a quick poem about my father and put it on the blog. Let me know what you think.I’m trying to be brave:)

            Liked by 1 person

          • People do indeed go their own ways. Most of my friends and acquaintances are only peripherally aware that I write, and of those who are aware, only a very few read poetry. The online community has been vital to my growth.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you too. i think that poetry is a method for saying things that otherwise cannot be said, you just have to listen, well listen, but also study poetry & read, & look, well…it isn’t just listening at all, but it is a good chunk of it anyhow.
      i hope something epic dawns in you.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Poetry is my way to artistically express myself, sometimes in a darker mood,usually for adventure,sometimes from my strange dreams,and yes, from reading,watching others,and listening to older people talk of family before them. Thank you,my husband is always encouraging me to write my poem then continue on writing with a story. Be inspired 🙂 Jen

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh to live in Jeju cooking eggs and pasta for strangers…and write! Well done on a beautiful life and a lovely interview.
    I can relate to your publishing experience out of Washington DC. I’m in some anthology called Reflections of Light. Bring that we had no money and I too realize it was some of kind scam, never went to the hotel reception but my mother did buy the huge book of poems which succumbed to mold in one of our basements. I ripped out my poem before that, enjoying seeing my words typed up on a page.
    Have you published anything since? We’re all motivated by love in some way or another, puppy day and all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • i am from small town England, a nowhere place, so escaping was always a dream. Which makes the Washington scam all the more laughable: this school boy full of zits going to Washington, it was inconceivable.
      i have had some other publications on blogs, great blogs in fact, & at FourTiesLitReview. i am trying to build a reputation & get my work out there. it is slow going, but i am in no rush & still quite young, only 30. actually this is my most exciting publication yet i think, i have been reading Robert some time now & really admire his work & respect his taste, so i am over the moon.
      Thanks for your interest.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for the introduction to DPM. “the heron” is very powerful.

    In your follow-up, please press him on this assertion;

    “i believed poetry could completely overhaul the world for the better if we only figure out that literature is one whole expression of this in disparate parts.

    i don’t believe this now. Perhaps some other time could be used for why my mind changed as it is a long & not that interesting story.”

    This may not interest him, but it may be revalatory for the rest of us!

    Liked by 2 people

    • it is quite simple, i don’t think there is any way we can wriggle out of the dichotomy we seem stuck with. moreover, it is naive to believe a system can be bridge every culture from every angle so that it switches their conditioning to accept, no, believe the newly rationalized system. i used to believe a system (a poetic system built on emotion & sense) if adhered to could as i said “overhaul the world for the better” but don’t think there are options out of our complicity, conscious or otherwise, from what is a system of chaos, not chaos in the Hollywood sense, but in the sense of altering the imbalance that we are trenched into.
      you can blame this on Dr(?) David Hawkins whose New Age teaching leaned on something called a calibration test, which was a simple test to determine the truth or falsehood of something. these calibrations go from zero to 10,000 & chart all the spiritual levels of everything from anger to Godhead. Hawkins shoots himself in the foot as he tells us that you can only determine a calibration if you are that level, so Hawkins gives us Godhead, suggesting he is of the same level as God. this may seem mutually exclusive but for me it was a wake up call to my naivety of systems of any sort giving hope of ubiquitous alteration of all problems to solutions & thus a “overhaul”.
      this showed me that everything had its opposite & we are essentially left with no options but to trust in what is before us, what is tangible & ever present to our sense. Phenomenology is perhaps the only system that instructs because it tells us to use our senses.
      just look at anything you think is just right: climate change is a great example. everyone sees it. but there are scientists & academics who say it isn’t happening. now i am not a scientist, i just have to trust them, but which one?
      people can even disagree just to annoy people. they may eb wrong but as long as they think they are right, how can we counter it, reason doesn’t work. the only chance is to let it be, try to work with what you have. do your best to talk sense but know when you are wasting your breath.
      this is a cop out philosophy, i know that, but i just don’t know what else to do anymore in the face of so many lies & misinformed sophists. that is the only real philosophy that has flourished & monstrously so, since the Greeks: Sophistry.
      i think i said at the beginning it was simple, maybe i am just as big a liar. in short: just be. ,

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the speedy reply to my question. It’s a lot to chew on, and I grew up in the Sixties (to include the parts of the Sixties that happened in the Seventies).

        But I get it and respect it. We are thrust upon by dichotomies, and dilemmas, and trilemmas, and we have to judge ourselves for our reactions. And you are there, the spiritual journalist documenting it for us in truth and good will.

        Liked by 2 people

        • only speedy as it is constantly at my heel each day. i have believed & followed so much in my 30 year encounter with life, & this seems to me right now the only truth, which is ironic in the face of a sophistic, diachronic world. i think Kenneth Burke has the best way of looking: make life a comedy: everything turns up good in comedy.

          Liked by 2 people

  5. An excellent and interesting interview Daniel. I love reading about the background of poets, what influenced them, what makes them tick. Looking forward to reading part 2.

    Liked by 1 person

    • i’m happy that it has chimed with some people. having little to zero sway in the poetry world, i was concerned that i could appear out of my depths. you never know until you try something though, i guess. i am glad it has paid off & i don’t look like an utter twonk.
      i did it because i have thought a lot about how i would articulate process, which is something i seldom read about, as if it is a guarded secret, but that process is how anything gets done whatsoever, so i wanted to bring that up.
      much obliged to you pal.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Cheers Daniel. I think anyone who has the courage to sit down and write a piece of poetry has a sway in the poetry world. Social media has taken away the power from mainstream publishers. Everyday I read wonderful poetry on blogs that would never make a publishing house. Keep the flag flying and good to have met you.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: Q&A with Robert Okaji – Daniel Paul Marshall

  7. Pingback: Daniel Paul Marshall (6 Poems) – word and silence

  8. HI,



    • Thanks for your suggestion, Syed. I’m not planning any guest posts in the near future, but will certainly think of you if I do. My apologies for the delayed reply – I just found your comment in my spam folder. I’m not sure why it was there, but thought you should know.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Q&A with Robert Okaji – Daniel Paul Marshall

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