Magdalena Ball’s most recent — her fourth — poetry collection is what anyone would call acutely political, both boldly and at different times subtly. And such a collection, these days, has become a ‘sort of necessity’ because as Joe Kennedy writes in his essay ‘Protest and Stupor’ “[t]hat the personal is always political, a notion with clear poetic implications, is something far fewer would dispute now” than they did earlier. We are all observing changes today, both wished for and unexpected ones, no matter where we are, as a result of a political scenario that is spread further than merely a particular nation’s boundaries; we hear of corruption and bravery, honesty and scams almost as often as we sit at a table with people, dear people. So much, that it’s tough to not get involved; and anyway, how can we not be involved in something that relates to us, almost as specifically as it does to anyone else by the end of the day.
So, this is what Ball’s collection is about this time —
“I can see it in the tilt of your head, the taste of salt, bodies don’t lie, the heart pierced, shattered, reconstituted.”
— The Waves
Her humour has stayed, or let’s say developed and not disappeared, beginning just from the contents page, where there are titles like ‘If the phone rings don’t answer it’ and ‘breaking sticks with my ghost’ and through to such lines — “what will you lose / not much / just another species / my wingspan / your life”; and then, there’s her scientific exploration. Her approach to Science, which was present in Unmaking Atoms, her previous collection of poems, and also there in Repulsion Thrust, which I reviewed in 2018 (here!)
Now, many of us propose that Science and Arts cannot go hand-in-hand, and writing poems in the Sci-fi genre and even on ecological awareness is a wonderful way to disown the common theory. And Ball does it so nicely, because also as Wordsworth said, “If the time should ever come when what is now called science, thus familiarized to men, shall be ready to put on, as it were, a form of flesh and blood, the Poet will lend his divine spirit to aid the transfiguration, and will welcome the Being thus produced, as a dear and genuine inmate of the household of man.”
“I left them all my money in the DIY will kit
free in the Crackerjack box
I hope it will be upheld”
— kindly note
Ball’s poetry is a strong example of poems in perpetual motion. Her lines do not tend to capture standby positions but movements, however personal it be; for example: “The house next door was the same house / no one knew where they lived anymore. // The city was moving in and these pink / houses could no longer keep us safe.” Though she uses humorous notes to keep it gentle, Ball’s collection this time is dystopian, or we can say ‘reflective’ of what our world is today — sometimes rashful, unnecessarily loud and such…
Then, in ‘dreams for sale’, she writes that she “wanted the world to be real / no matter the stark logic of spin”, and the poems are a lot about identity and questioning the surroundings. A sensible collection discussing a number of matters. And as it is, she doesn’t get afraid of experimenting.
“transformation, in this case
is letting go of aggression
even when warranted”
So to say, writing about conventions, unusual politics, uncanny changes and the (ab)normal ways of life, Magdalena Ball, a now-established writer with a number of published books of both poetry and prose, is an author to be kept an eye upon.
“and all this time I thought
my habit was bad.”
— Cold Brew
High Wire Step (Flying Island Books), by Magdalena Ball