Marshall was born in 1947, in Ħ’Attard. At the University of Malta he specialized in Italian, History and Latin. He continued his studies at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and completed his M.A. in Communication Studies at Victoria University, Melbourne, where he then also lectured. After fifteen years spent working in Australian radio, theatre and television he returned to Malta and lectured at the University of Malta. He led the Distance Learning Programme on Campus FM. Marshall also worked as a translator for the European Commission’s Language Directorate in Luxembourg.
His first publication, Dħaħen fl-Imħuħ (Smoke in the Minds, 1967), an anthology of poetry, was co-authored with Oliver Friġġieri and Ġorg Borg. One can identify common threads running through Marshall’s work: the states of being in childhood, from innocence to playfulness, and how these continue to be reflected throughout one’s life; experimenting with language and projective verse; his vagabond nature which nurtures the need to move on, challenge the status quo, explore cultural hybridity and question the different elements of identity; and death, the way it creeps into one’s mind as one grows older, in its sense of departure and also how it affects ways of looking at life.
The works which are closest to Marshall’s heart include ‘Jaqaw’ (‘Could it be?’ in the collection Diaspora, 1997), ‘Disgħa Lvant’ (‘Nine to the East’, in Diaspora), and ‘Beltna qed taqbad’ (‘Our City is on Fire’, 2018). ‘Jaqaw’ deals with the notion of national and cultural identity, of finding belonging in one community whilst also feeling the need to move on. This poem tackles the inevitable questions that come up when making life-changing decisions. ‘Disgħa Lvant’ is a very personal poem, dedicated to a friend of the family going through a painful and fatal illness. It talks about destiny, the cruelty of life and the irony of it too. Here we also start to find remarks on death, faith and perhaps the loss of it. ‘Beltna qed taqbad’ is a three-part reaction to our capital city being the European Capital of Culture. Here Marshall is grappling with his cultural frustrations, triggered by how his country celebrated this event. The poet conjures a Valletta that has practically become Nero’s burning Rome – a jab at how we “do” culture.
Theatre and writing itself, have always been a very important communicative platform for Marshall, enabling him to re-imagine, reinterpret and reinvent meaning. This is why he merges the two in his work Teatru, Teatrin, Buzzetti u Skizzi Oħra Teatrali (Theatre Sketches, 2021), a collection of pieces written for the theatre. It is a reminder that Marshall does not shy away from the opportunity to be of influence, to be influenced and remain open to new ways of being, always welcoming the unknown.
Biography written by Ruth Bezzina
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul