Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. (Hon.) in Drama and English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry has been published variously in Canada, the U.S., England, Greece, Romania, Israel, and India. www.brandonmarlon.com.
Geosi Gyasi: You’re a poet, playwright, screenwriter and novelist. Which of these genres do you feel closely attached to?
Brandon Marlon: I feel closest to drama (film and theatre) and poetry, while fiction is the most challenging for me.
Geosi Gyasi: Could you distinguish between poetry and fiction?
Brandon Marlon: With poetry, precision in diction and punctuation is key. With fiction, structure plays a more prominent role. Both demand thoughtfulness and emotional resonance.
Geosi Gyasi: Is it true that it is difficult to write poetry as compared to fiction?
Brandon Marlon: For some, I’m sure it is. Personally, I find the opposite to be true. The longest form, or writing genre, is the novel. The more you write, the more can go wrong, and it’s a challenge to sustain a satisfying narrative over the course of hundreds of pages. Whenever I encounter a book of, say, 900 pages or so, I always wonder what can be said in 900 pages that can’t be said in, say, 500 pages. There are only so many plot points in “genre fiction” and only so much introspection in “literary fiction” (both conventional terms are redundant) before the reader cries out for greater economy in language and storytelling.
Geosi Gyasi: What does it take to become a screenwriter?
Brandon Marlon: Strong material that meets with a Yes instead of a No.
Geosi Gyasi: You studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. What are your profound memories as a student of acting?
Brandon Marlon: The Meisner technique, being in the moment, focusing on the other person (your scene partner). The one and only teacher I’ve ever had who was an inspiration to me was there, Christopher Fairbanks. He was very hopeful, genuine, honest, and generous of spirit. He should teach other teachers! I’ll forever be grateful to him for his example.
Geosi Gyasi: Your script, “The Bleeding Season” won the 2007 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition. How did you come to write it?
Brandon Marlon: Like most things I write, it just poured out of me. It was written during the Second Intifada in Israel (2000-2005). Innocent civilians were being victimized by a deliberate, targeted campaign of violence, and exploring that dramatically was my response to the situation, a way of not feeling helpless or indifferent in the face of hatred and terrorism.
Geosi Gyasi: Is it not often time consuming writing a play?
Brandon Marlon: Everything consumes time. The more research-intensive your material, the more thorough you choose to be, the longer things take. I once wrote a play in less than two weeks, because it was a true story in which I was involved. Normally it takes months for me to complete a stage play, so I was surprised at the tempo of writing on that one.
Geosi Gyasi: How different is your play, “Knightlife” from “The Bleeding Season”?
Brandon Marlon: Totally different. Knightlife was written with an outdoor theatre company in Ottawa, Canada, and is about how love can help a person overcome past traumas. It was a drama that used fantasy and dream sequences, what some call magical realism. The Bleeding Season was based on real life events and was a graphic, visceral depiction of coping with and countering mass terrorism.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have any playwrights you look up to?
Brandon Marlon: Many! Shakespeare, Jonson, Moliere, Corneille, Racine, Eugene O’Neill, Lorraine Hansberry, Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, Wole Soyinka, August Wilson, Yasmina Reza…
Geosi Gyasi: How often do you participate in poetry readings?
Brandon Marlon: Occasionally. Would love to do more.
Geosi Gyasi: What did you hope to achieve with your book, “Inspirations of Israel: Poetry for a Land and People”?
Brandon Marlon: To share with a general audience my appreciation for everything that Israel is and stands for. To inspire others to want to learn more and see more for themselves.
Geosi Gyasi: At what stage in your life did you write, “Judean Dreams”?
Brandon Marlon: Judean Dreams resulted from my work during an artists’ residency program in Arad, Israel. Living in the Negev Desert was a truly stimulating experience.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a favorite among all the poems you’ve written?
Brandon Marlon: Favoritism for me is tied to focus, so it’s usually the piece I’m currently preoccupied with.
Geosi Gyasi: What is the inspiration behind your poem, “Stellar Observers”?
Brandon Marlon: This poem is written from the point of view of the stars, reversing the usual depiction of starlit skies from humankind’s perspective. I wanted to personify the stars and portray their possible response to the yearnings, prayers, and pleas of human beings fixated on the lofty heavens.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have any secret flaw as a writer?
Brandon Marlon: A writer’s flaws rarely remain secret (usually due to an editor’s and/or proofreader’s flaws).
Geosi Gyasi: What is the most appropriate time to write?
Brandon Marlon: Daily.
Geosi Gyasi: What are your future literary ambitions?
Brandon Marlon: To always improve, expand my horizons, and remain curious about human nature and life. The race is with yourself, so I only ever hope to be able to grow and outdo myself going forward.
Geosi Gyasi: Could you spend sometime talking about your play, “Found”?
Brandon Marlon: Found was the play I wrote in 2 weeks, based on a true story of a family friend, a respected university professor who late in life revealed he had been in the Waffen SS. He asked me to write his story, which I declined to do. That was his story to tell; Found, the story of our unlikely relationship, was mine.