About Roman Payne

Roman Payne (b. 1977) coined the famous word “wanderess” and is the author of the world-renowned novel, “The Wanderess.”  He is best known for his poetry, although critics consider his five novels his greatest achievement.  Payne is a controversial novelist in that he is currently living in exile in Africa, in Muslim Morocco, where the government has seized his passports and forbids him to leave the country.

 

Roman Payne’s novels and poems are the favorites of wanderers and vagabonds.  He himself wandered the world for half of his life (the forty year-old Payne spent his first twenty years in America [mostly in Seattle where he was born and raised], and the second twenty years of his life wandering in Europe).  He lived in Paris for fifteen years in the neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.  He also lived in Greece, Spain, Turkey, and travelled through all of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe.  He moved to Marrakech, Morocco in February of 2016 and is not yet permitted to leave.  The US State Department is currently fighting with the Moroccan government for his release.

Although Payne writes in English, his 15 years living in Paris where he spoke entirely in French, has greatly influenced his work, giving it a unique Latinate quality and inimitable voice. Payne’s literary quotes have inspired the lives and works of many artists and famous people, from pop-singers to world leaders. The themes of his quotes and prose explore travel, devoting one’s life to wandering, love and sexuality, femininity and self-empowerment for both women and men (the rise of the individual to live the “heroic life”). He is heavily influenced by Homeric Epic, as well as 18th and 19th Century French and European literature.

Payne achieved literary success in 2013 with the publication of his famous novel, “The Wanderess.” In 2015, “The Wanderess” served as the inspiration for India’s Fashion Week when Payne’s fan, the Bollywood designer, Masaba Gupta, was inspired by the book to create her collection which opened Fashion Week.  One year later, the pop star, Halsey (who was still an unknown artist at that point) used poetry from “The Wanderess” to compose her song, “Hurricane” (a song that helped propel her to overnight fame).  Halsey wrote this to her fans:

 

“I stumbled upon this book when I was a teenager and its words helped to shape my will to be unapologetic, to be unbound by the perimeters of a single place. To write a song like Hurricane. To be like, ‘The Wanderess’” – Halsey (Feb, 2016)

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“Poem to Soukaïna”

“Poem to Soukaïna”


To tell of my new Moroccan Love,

Ô, I court her everyday.

But just as a pearl in the mud is a pearl,

So is my Love just an Arab girl…

in that I offer her constant, loving woos,

but she’ll ask me in return that I give her flooze*.

That’s when I kiss her and shrug, and I say, “Someday.”

And she gives me her love free anyway.

 

Ô, my Love is a child of the souks.

In Casablanca born.

A gypsy thief, “Soukaïna” named.

We met in the souks of Marrakech,

It was here my heart she tamed.

Ô, she came at nineteen to Marrakech,

In search of wild fun.

And she lived in Marrakech seven years,

Before my heart she won.

 

*Flooze: (Arabic slang word for “money.”)

 

Not to waste the spring… (a poem)

Roman Payne Quote Image Ode to Spring
Not to waste the spring
I threw down everything,
And ran into the open world
To sing what I could sing…
To dance what I could dance!
And join with everyone!
I wandered with a reckless heart
beneath the newborn sun.
First stepping through the blushing dawn,
I crossed beneath a garden bower,
counting every hermit thrush,
counting every hour.
When morning’s light was ripe at last,
I stumbled on with reckless feet;
and found two nymphs engaged in play,
approaching them stirred no retreat.
With naked skin, their weaving hands,
in form akin to Calliope’s maids,
shook winter currents from their hair
to weave within them vernal braids.
I grabbed the first, who seemed the stronger
by her soft and dewy leg,
and swore blind eyes,
Lest I find I,
before Diana, a hunted stag.
But the nymphs they laughed,
and shook their heads.
and begged I drop beseeching hands.
For one was no goddess, the other no huntress,
merely two girls at play in the early day.
“Please come to us, with unblinded eyes,
and raise your ready lips.
We will wash your mouth with watery sighs,
weave you springtime with our fingertips.”
So the nymphs they spoke,
we kissed and laid,
by noontime’s hour,
our love was made,
Like braided chains of crocus stems,
We lay entwined, I laid with them,
Our breath, one glassy, tideless sea,
Our bodies draping wearily.
We slept, I slept so lucidly,
with hopes to stay this memory.
I woke in dusty afternoon,
Alone, the nymphs had left too soon,
I searched where perched upon my knees
Heard only larks’ songs in the trees.
“Be you, the larks, my far-flung maids?
With lilac feet and branchlike braids…
Who sing sweet odes to my elation,
in your larking exaltation!”
With these, my clumsy, carefree words,
The birds they stirred and flew away,
“Be I, poor Actaeon,” I cried, “Be dead…
Before they, like Hippodamia, be gone astray!”
Yet these words, too late, remained unheard,
By lark, that parting, morning bird.
I looked upon its parting flight,
and smelled the coming of the night;
desirous, I gazed upon its jaunt,
as Leander gazes Hellespont.
Now the hour was ripe and dark,
sensuous memories of sunlight past,
I stood alone in garden bowers
and asked the value of my hours.
Time was spent or time was tossed,
Life was loved and life was lost.
I kissed the flesh of tender girls,
I heard the songs of vernal birds.
I gazed upon the blushing light,
aware of day before the night.
So let me ask and hear a thought:
Did I live the spring I’d sought?
It’s true in joy, I walked along,
took part in dance,
and sang the song.
and never tried to bind an hour
to my borrowed garden bower;
nor did I once entreat
a day to slumber at my feet.
Yet days aren’t lulled by lyric song,
like morning birds they pass along,
o’er crests of trees, to none belong;
o’er crests of trees of drying dew,
their larking flight, my hands, eschew
Thus I’ll say it once and true…
From all that I saw,
and everywhere I wandered,
I learned that time cannot be spent,
It only can be squandered.”
Roman Payne, Rooftop Soliloquy

CONTROVERSIAL AMERICAN WRITER CURRENTLY DETAINED IN ISLAMIC COUNTRY REFUSED SUPPORT FROM US GOVERNMENT

The US Consulate has put the burden of helping American novelist captive in Muslim, Morocco on the Catholic Church

 

A perfect example of how “life imitates art”:  The writer Roman Payne first became known internationally with the publication of “The Wanderess” in 2013.  The hero of the book, a traveler and adventurer named Saul, has a price on his head in Libya.  Incidentally, the author of “The Wanderess” has also just become a “wanted man” in North Africa.

Roman Payne—an American by birth—is being detained indefinitely by the government in Morocco where his US passport has been confiscated by their authorities.

The event happened after a civil dispute in court that was dismissed. Following the dispute, Payne was invited (convoqué) to visit the Préfacture of Police of Marrakech for three different interviews where the police inquired, during the first two, about his activities in the country.  The reason for the third interview was unclear to Payne. Some words in Arabic were exchanged between the police and then Payne was escorted on the back of a motorbike by one of the officers to the “Cour d’Appel” (appellate court). There, he was interrogated for 15 minutes in a small room by two men in business attire. Payne did not learn the roles of these officials since he reported having not understood half of what was said in the room (Payne is fluent in French but does not speak Arabic and the conversations in the room were reportedly half in Arabic).  Following the interrogation, one of the officials said that Payne’s passport was to be taken so that he could not leave the kingdom; and that “his case would be reviewed” in the coming months. They did not encourage him to seek an attorney.

One would expect the US to immediately intervene on behalf of their citizen held captive abroad, but instead, the US Consulate is refusing support, stating that such intervention should be handled by the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church responded to this insistence with outrage and denied any responsibility whatsoever with helping Payne with his political situation in North Africa.  The Colombian-born official of the Catholic Church stationed in Morocco told Payne that “Affairs regarding American-citizens held captive in Muslim countries are politics that concern the American government only, and not the Catholic Church.”

The US did not respond to this statement but proposed that the Moroccan government and Payne should work together to resolve his forced-exile in their country.  The single gesture they made to help Payne was to supply him with a list of “Suggested Attorneys in Morocco to assist Americans with foreign affairs.”  Payne interviewed all of the Marrakech-based attorneys recommended to him by his consulate and was disappointed by the United States’ apparently haphazard methods of selecting council for Americans abroad, especially in Muslim countries where international relations with the US range from tedious to utterly chaotic.  “These lawyers were inept and confused,” he said.  One attorney did not even know why he was on their list.  “They put me on that list a long time ago.  I am not sure why,” he told Payne.

While the US government had washed their hands of the affair, the writer continued his struggle with the Moroccan government.  This week he met with Samir Merzouki, a Moroccan official working in foreign relations, who received him cordially and was sympathetic to his situation.  Merzouki invited the writer to discuss the matter personally over coffee.  He was shocked by the United States’ lack of involvement in a matter such as this. He said that he had great respect for America and was impressed by their tremendous global power, wealth, and influence.  “Why they do not use their influence to help their citizens in peril abroad is dumbfounding,” he said.

 

As the matter stands today, Payne is still without representation or council, and his government is making no further attempts to remedy this.  His passport is still in the possession of the Moroccan authorities and he is forbidden to leave the kingdom.  He is now living in asylum on the outskirts of Marrakech.

 

For all press inquiries, please email:  contact@wanderess.com or call:  (212) 6.90.29.83.80

 

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Wanderess Tour: Only Four Places Left to Sail the Adriatic Sea and Learn to Write with Roman Payne

A message to all Wanderers and Wanderesses from Roman Payne:

I am very excited to say the this summer’s Wanderess Tour is on!  Our luxury sailboat will be leaving from the city of Split, Croatia, at the end of August; and we will  be at sea for seven days.

This will be an intimate tour limited to six participants only!  (In addition to the six participants, there will be myself, as well as a skipper aboard.)

The Wanderess Tour will be a great adventure.  It includes daily intensive writing workshops where I will help you start a new novel or finish the one you are working on.  We will see some wonderful places that figure in my novel, The Wanderess, (such as Malta and Italy).

On of our participants will be celebrating her birthday during the tour, so we will through a great party for her.

The cuisine will be of the highest quality at the lowest possible price.  Each day we will dock in the harbor of a different city or village where we can buy the freshest local ingredients: fish, vegetables, spices like saffron, truffles, and all kinds of delicious wines, red, rosé, white and sparkling.  As you know, these farmers’ markets are very inexpensive and the food sold is as authentic to the locale and as fresh as can be.  After shopping, our group will set sail again and all participants will be invited to cook their purchases to their hearts’ delight in the boats gourmet kitchen.

My goal with this tour is four-fold:

  1. Share with you the world of The Wanderess and the secrets of how and why I wrote the book.
  2. Give you an amazing Mediterranean sailing experience (including kite surfing and swimming), a vacation you will never forget.
  3. Introduce you to new cultures as we explore the port cities of different countries.
  4. MOST IMPORTANTLY:  I vow in these seven days to make you a better writer.  Not just a better writer, but an accomplished writer, with goals to work towards and the courage, discipline, and skill to do it.

Total cost for the tour is between 1,000 and 1,300 euros for seven nights, seven days.

The Origins of Payne’s Most Famous Wanderess Quote

My most famous quote talks about a woman who is a “Wanderess” :

She is free in her wildness

“She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city.

The composition of the quote was simple.  I’d decided to write a book about a young woman whom I called the “wanderess.”  I named her “Saskia” and imagined her life and her position in life and the kind of character and personality that her unique position would give her.  She is a European who grew up in various countries, being transplanted by circumstances—so travel comes naturally to her. She has no more family left, despite the fact that she is very young; and she has no real friends, so there is no reason for her to settle in one city or country rather than any another.  She earns a kind of pension, which—although she is not rich by any means—allows her to eat and live without being rooted to one spot, to one geographical location, where she would have to work a regular job.

I tried to imagine the life of such a person—which was easy, since in my line of work, I also am not dependent on one geographical location.  I tried to imagine someone with, quote, “no reason to be anywhere.”  …No family to keep her in one country, no friends to keep her in another; she has no real entrepreneurial ambitions so she has no reason to choose a destination based on a particular university she wishes to attend or a field of expertise that a city offers.  Thus, she is free (or condemned) to drift and drift, while searching for reason.  What separates her from members of the idle rich class who have no reason to remain fixed in any one spot is that, as mentioned, she has no business interests tied into any location; and she doesn’t have idle companions that the rich so often do, whose caprices guide their friends to follow them from city to city, from festival to casino to tournament.  Saskia is, as I write elsewhere in the book, “not an adventuress, but a wanderess.”  It is in that phrase that we understand why she “has no reason to be anywhere.”

And so, while writing a 334-page book about her, I had many opportunities to describe her character.  Many of my descriptions didn’t particularly stand-out for any reason.  Yet for some reason, these 24 words I wrote about her (in the quote above) profoundly resonated with people around the world and became a part of popular culture when everyone from pop musicians to clothing and product designers adopted the words to make the message their own.

— Roman Payne, May 2017 (on writing The Wanderess)