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On Beyond

  1. I began to write my novel Two Augusts In a Row In a Row in 2003. I found my difficulty with pronouns for gender-non-conforming Phillip/Philomena was eradicated with first person POV. 

    The new book,  The Wind Blew Through Like a Chorus of Ghosts, I write mainly in third person, except for the section that is my protagonist's past life, which is written in second person. When I workshopped excerpts from this new book recently, I got a variety of responses that included: your work would be more accessible to a broad audience without the use of "they." One reader was concerned because my protagonist who is gender-non-conforming, while in their past life, they were a female witch. This reader had always assumed that the soul is gendered. They said they'd been thinking about whether a soul has a gender for hours. I told that reader that my understanding is that the soul is beyond gender.

  2. On my way back from a visit with a friend north of Valencia, California, I stopped for gas and went to pay in the little booth.

A guy came in to pay behind me and said, "What are you, a man or a girl?"

I said, "What does that matter right here at this gas station?"

I left to go pump my gas outside. I lifted the gas pump and the same guy came running after me.

He said, "Tell me or I will punch you in the face. Are you a girl or a man??"

I lifted the gas pump in front of my face as his fist flew up.

A woman stuck her head out his car window and yelled, "She's a girl, you can't hit a girl." He backed away. I pumped my gas.

  1. I use poetry in my novels the way filmmakers use animation in their live action films: to take the reader into other dimensions.

Here is a poem from Two Augusts In a Row In a Row from the chapter Astral Rubulad, after Phillip has met the Swedish witch, Freesia.

I see Faye the cat's spirit float by. The room is full of people in outer space costumes. The emcee
calls my name. I breathe deep and climb up onto the stage and say, "Here is a new song, an
offering to the fairy realm," then sing:
"Optimism reigns and rains from a technological heaven
above silver and crystal bonsai, a charmed and mushroom cosmology.
Spores travel intact through outer space.
Electric light angels drawn on the wall.
Scientists found another part of the brain is activated when one experiences communication with
'god' equals believing in angels and fairies utilizes more of your brain.
Transparent silk, beads, crystal and blue raindrops,
dollhouse lights in a dainty world, teardrop mirrors,
happy time: Embrace nano scale, embrace your grief, absorb techno blessings, ceiling to floor,
embrace optimistic disco glitter pins, in fairy measurements,
embrace her-story, embrace "gods of small things" spins.
The charm ecstatically lingers a subtle effect outside,
a drug-like transformation over McCarren Park,
a square of multiple floodlights float silver against golden dusk clouds.
Oh my goddess, Joseph Cornell would die.

  1. I made these drawings in 2018. The printed words on the paper is from my piece about traveling to Siberia in 2005. I traveled to Siberia after a fellowship with the Summer Literary Seminars, in St. Petersburg. I traveled to the edge of the familiar, then went beyond that edge to Siberia. I often draw as a self-inquiry, to get somewhere beyond words. 


Shelley Marlow


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2019

All Issues