Posts filed under ‘Poetry Reviews




The Thrust of It

Repulsion Thrust by Magdalena Ball, paperback, pp 112, BeWrite Books, £5.99,

Reviewed by Sarah James

This debut full-length poetry collection by Australian poet Magdalena Ball is full of poetic thrust, propelling the reader through thought-provoking and beautifully crafted considerations of love, illness, identity, genetics, the environment, planet – and more! Indeed, the quality of the poetry is inherent even in a simple listing of some of the intriguing poem titles: pale club of wind, Silicone Womb, Rock Talking, Pie in the Sky, Heebeejeebees…

The ‘Black Dog and Other Enigmas’ poems of the first of three sections show us:

“amnesia a fist
replacing memory with a thud” (Black Dog Two).

And then the hospital ward as a chess board where:

“two knight nurses can’t force checkmate
against lone king
you hold your knees
rock and wail
stalemate” (Black Dog Three).

In the second section, ‘The Crucible’, we see love as a relationship of maths where “I fell back/to integers” as “I watched you trip/into the transcendental” (10 digits of e). We are infected by the “skunkweed” of the Idea Virus and the “hailstorm of greed” where “the illusion of freedom/moths at your cashmere” (Hailstorm). This section also presents us with “entomologists in black leather” as insects out-evolve man in his doomed clichéd “corridors of history”(Evolving Insects) and Repulsion Thrust, which neatly encapsulates the purpose and momentum of the whole collection:

“thrust through the repulsion
turn it to love

what else is there?”

That this is not just a collection of dark moods, illness and bleak futures is evident too in the third section, ‘Only Rock and Roll’. This opens with De-evolution and prefers “the old way” in Virtually Enhanced but there is still freshness and hope. “When the explosion comes/spring rushes out” in Equinox and in Love in the 21st Century , “The world greened up.”

As may already be obvious, science, physics and maths pervade this collection. This is not surprising, as physics is everywhere. Though I am not a scientist and may not always understand the full complexity of physics, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate its beauty. The same is true of this compelling collection. Fractals, quantum physics and quark are something I have limited knowledge of but the poetry in the language and images Ball uses are well within grasp. More than this she turns them into something not just poetically palatable but tangibly delicious, as in Six flavours of Quark:

“The sweet reds; sticky greens; cooling blues.
Like Italian ices I would lick
quick
as a kid
tongue stained to match.”

In fact, this collection invites us as readers, like the lover in Echo of The Big Bang, to:

“Meet me at the singularity
where unknown physics
gropes us
ordinary matter
stretches to a spaghetti of longing
and trillions of neutrinos
tickle us without a trace.”

Many of Ball’s poems in this collection are enhanced by this kind of appealing conversational touch and sense of character, as in False Alarm’s “Dallying at the edge of big stupid/gravity” or Quantum Crucible, where “in the gallery of mirrors/you pissed on the laws of physics”. As in the final poem of the collection, Blackout, where “for all our fancy footwork/here in the 21st Century…it only takes the flick of the switch/and we’re stuffed”, this seemingly light-hearted tone only gives a sharper edge to the wider implications: “the whole damn show/is over”. But, of course, the best thing about this highly re-readable collection is that it is one show which is never over!

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Add comment December 3, 2009

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