Spiral Trace

Poetry by Jack Marshall

May 28, 2013 • 5.5 x 8.25 • 240 pages • 978-1-56689-327-5

With one eye unflinchingly trained on his own mortality, a soulful philosopher-poet laments a ravaged planet.

A treatise on aging provokes a searing examination of a modern world defined by an eroding environment and hawkish, endless war. Offering a tribute to the insights gained in the dénouement of his life, this is beautifully minimalist poetry that shines a light on the possibilities of renewal by calling on art to provide “a wake-up to being.”

About the Author

Born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents who emigrated from Iraq and Syria, Jack Marshall now lives in California. He is the author of the memoir From Baghdad to Brooklyn and several poetry collections that have received the PEN Center USA Award, two Northern California Book Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a nomination from the National Book Critics Circle.


“Jack Marshall’s Spiral Trace is a late-life (“Having reached an age/ closing in/ on the limits of change”) masterpiece of great wisdom and large aperture. Spiral Trace, published in the poet’s seventy-eighth year . . . enables Marshall to catch an extremely varied range of incoming perceptions. Haunted by historical drama, Marshall goes zero to sixty from lyrical riffs of gorgeous sweetness . . . to straight-talk the woes at large of the human condition.” —Northern California Book Awards

“[Marshall] understands that all worlds, the material and the spiritual, are one, and that the neighborhoods and cities that no longer exist can be conjured by memory and reanimated by art.” San Francisco Chronicle

“Marshall’s ability to move the astronomic to the microscopic in a matter of a few syllables presents the book’s most uncanny accomplishment: it reads brilliantly, like a mind at work, one as much at home invoking the ‘Kabbalah's magical / algebra’ as describing Arabic calligraphy as ‘writing / on the run, scimitar hooks on a wave, / fire leaping forward.’” Booklist

Spiral Trace explores the contemporary world in all its vainglory in a rush of language, sometimes somber or lyrical, more often racy, slangy, humorous. . . . A perfect poem for and of the times.” Berkeley Daily Planet

“Quickly moving from the greater issues of the day to personal events and insights and back again, with even quicker changes in mood and attack, from lament to slangy humor, Marshall employs a supple three-line stanza. . . . There’re jeremiads about the state of the world, war, ecological disaster, the strange distraction and indifference of whole endangered populations, side by side with tender eulogies for departed friends.” Berkeley Daily Planet 

“Jack Marshall is one of our unheralded masters, which Spiral Trace demonstrates on almost every page. Very few poets can combine statement and lyricism as well as he can. His fine ear is always evident in his packed three line stanzas—the sound of words finding and gracing sense, permitting the overtly political, and helping to color his broad sympathies. This is a terrific book, and Marshall is an American treasure.” —Stephen Dunn

“Jack Marshall’s poetry, which combines the personal and the political in a unique way, is both hard and beautiful. He has reached the age where memory comes flooding in but he refuses self-pity by virtue of his brilliant language, and his use of form. Most of all by a sheer love of life. An extraordinary poet.” —Gerald Stern