Toronto based poet and novelist Sharon
Marcus has written
nine books of poetry, four novels, a collection of short stories, three
works of nonfiction and a scattering of miscellaneous pieces, book
reviews and the like. For the most part, the poetry is lyrical,
ecstatic, searching for revelation, always with a passionate obligation
to guard the gates of language, to protect rhythm and preserve
substance; each of the four novels investigates a different form, all
very lyrical, all incorporating extensive use of verse one way or
another, the fourth novel in alternating sections of verse and prose;
the nonfiction works, whether political or personal, describe events too
odd for fiction.http://www.sufipress.com
Books-and-Authors.net: Where did you
grow up and who were your earliest influences?
Sharon Marcus: Growing
up in the downtown Toronto of a largely working, soon to be middle class
neighborhood, I found myself surrounded by young, fiercely intellectual friends,
most of whom grew up to be doctors, lawyers and accountants. Everyone read
everything, which for myself at that time meant
nineteenth and twentieth-century Russian
and French novelists, contemporary American and English fiction and poetry,
surrealist poetry from any source, and the occasional smattering of philosophy.,
I have always looked upon Shakespeare and James Joyce as my singing masters, my
original and ultimate teachers in the art of writing, for their flawless
conjunction of form with the exploration of the human condition. In poetry, the
Eliot/Pound axis was amplified by Apollinaire, Po Chu I, and a few Canadian
poets with whom the language, the practice of the writing process was examined.
As a student of Northrop Frye I learned the aesthetic or literary language of
Books-and-Authors.net: Why do you write?
Sharon Marcus: Who
was it who first said, "Ich schreibe weil ich muss." The need to express
verbally what it's all about seems to be inherent, part of the package, what
amounts to a genetic insistence. That seems to be the beginning which, in my
case, was followed by the interminable silence while I search for the great
theme, the story I knew I had to tell. Then once I had finally discovered
the subject and developed the voice to speak the right words in the right
way, there was an inescapable obligation to give back what had been given to
Books-and-Authors.net: Discuss your book new book "The
Next Step - A Sufi Primer".
Sharon Marcus: The
Next Step, A Sufi Primer represents
my own best understanding bestowed upon me by the great twentieth-century
Sufi master, M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. As I have written in my book, My Years
With The Qutb: A Walk In Paradise, after many years of struggle and search
to find meaningful answers to the who am I, why am I here range of
self-examining questions, I had the immeasurable grace to be connected to
this luminous teacher of wisdom. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen teaches the consciousness
and the qualities necessary to satisfy the mystical hunger of the soul, the
longing to return to the divine source we call God, the cause who is both
the origin and the end. The
Next Step is
addressed primarily to aspirants who have already accepted their challenge
to know themselves and to know God, who have at least accepted a first step,
the need to change the unacceptable within their own hearts. Now they are
undertaking the acts, words and prayers of transformation to learn the
wisdom and qualities of purity. All this is the preparation to acknowledge
not just the one God, but the Oneness of God, to become the prayer with
every breath which establishes His unique omnipresence, His totality. The
surrender of everything which attaches us to the outer and blinds us to the
inner culminates in the annihilation of ego, individuation, the eclipse of
selfhood in the great totality of Oneness. In addition to looking at the
steps in wisdom or consciousness identified for us by Bawa Muhaiyaddeen,
what we can see and know as we proceed to work on the uphill climb, this
book also contemplates the great obstacles we encounter within ourselves as
we try to balance living with God and the world at the same time. There is
no retreat from worldly responsibility, the obligations of family and
society, but there is the urgent need to live appropriately for the divine
presence and the divine kingdom while we encounter and deal with the world.
We must satisfy the soul with the food it requires, even as we satisfy the
body with the food it requires. The
Next Step is
sprinkled with a little lighthearted anecdotal input to clarify and
illuminate the exposition of such solemn and weighty concerns.
Books-and-Authors.net: What is your personal
explanation/definition of the 'Soul'?
Sharon Marcus: To
understand the soul, that ray of light from God within each human heart, we
need to recognize both our corporeal, elemental aspects, as well as the not
corporeal, the nonmaterial. We have a body which is controlled by mind and
desire, by the intellect which reigns supreme over the elements, the
thoughts, emotions and desires the physical gives rise to. But the intellect
can neither recognize nor make sense of what lies beyond the mental or
physical, in fact, it has a hard time acknowledging anything beyond its own
sphere of competence. To learn something about this essentially human gift,
the soul, we need the wisdom of the heart, levels of consciousness with the
divine attributes such as love, mercy, compassion, patience, forgiveness,
justice, humility, generosity, kindness, the existent seeds of the divine
waiting for the nourishment which will bring them to life in flowers of
radiant grace. Wisdom feeds these qualities, these qualities grant access to
the wisdom inseparable from divine consciousness. The interplay of
intention, wisdom and God's qualities allows His divine permission to know
this light we call the soul.
Books-and-Authors.net: How much
research went into writing "The
Next Step - A Sufi Primer"?
Sharon Marcus: In one
sense, my whole life has been the research for this book, this Sufi
explanation of the relations between God and the human being, yet in the
more academic sense of research my bibliography has been nothing other than
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. This meant sitting at his feet when he still had a
physical presence; the books of his I was given to edit, to prepare for a
western audience; the continuing study of his discourses; the immersion in
the prayers and practices he grafted upon my life.
Books-and-Authors.net: Explain the title
Next Step - A Sufi Primer"
as it relates to the book.".
Next Step refers
to the next step, the successive next steps we are to take as we follow the
path of mystery and revelation. The subtitle, A
Sufi Primer, means
this is a beginner's book, we must always be a student, a beginner on the
path to truth, we must live the humility of knowing there is always more to
learn, farther to travel. A primer is a book of ABCs, learning God's
language of truth and wisdom like a child learning how to read and write.
The book offers a description of how to proceed, how to contemplate and
carry out the inner investigation which ends in knowing God, fulfilling the
ancient Sufi maxim, to know God you must first know yourself. There is also
a pun implicit in the word primer, how we prime the pump to make the waters
of grace and wisdom flow within the heart.
Books-and-Authors.net: What are
readers saying about "The
Next Step - A Sufi Primer" ?
Sharon Marcus: Here
are a few comments: "The Next Step is a difficult but valuable book. Sharon
Marcus must be the best proponent of mysticism in Toronto."
The Next Step Sharon
Marcus illuminates the mystical world of the Sufi path. Her insights are
both instructive and revealing. A must read for anyone interested in
Books-and-Authors.net: What do you hope to achieve with "The
Next Step - A Sufi Primer"?
Sharon Marcus: My
hope for The
Next Step and
my other books of Sufi commentary is to pass along to a western audience a
version, at my level of understanding, of the towering wisdom offered by
My hope is also that readers will use this book as an
invitation to turn directly to his books and videos where much more exalted
and much more complete explanations have been given.
Books-and-Authors.net: You are a multi published author
- What advice do you have for authors working on their first book?
Sharon Marcus: To
anyone laboring on his or her first book, I would only say all you have to
do to do it is do it. Keep writing, not just as a moment, an idea or an
emotion inspires you, but as part of what you do every day. Make writing the
next paragraph, the next page essential, in the same way that the next meal
is if you are really hungry.
Books-and-Authors.net: What was the last book you read?
Sharon Marcus: Just
finished reading again The Triple Flame by M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen.
Sharon Marcus: A
book of early poems called The
Sound Of Darkness will
be published later this year. Working now on rewriting a novel, A Toronto
Story, and a book of no recognizable genre, Last
Year In Amman.