Exploring a new voice is at first alienating. A reader looks for clues. In poetry
the difficulties are greater than prose, not because poetry is harder, but because
it uses modes of explication that are individual, sometimes idiosyncratic. Magdalena
Ball here appears at full length, no longer the figure behind a beguiling chapbook
or the collaborator with other poets. The result is explosive.
The voice is the same but it is more insistent and the reader responds to what
was already known but never before shown to such advantage. In poetry the thin
line that divides the hermetic from the obvious is dangerous ground and not
all poets can tread there without destruction. Maggie is comfortable here and
not only treads but dances.
There is everywhere a kernel of hard reality at work. It often works deep below
the surface but it is always there - a relationship that has slipped from the
ideal, a scientific fact that is a capsule for experience, an event of intense
resonance. Although she is a skilled writer of prose, her poems show a different
sensibility. Her concern is with the details that support our experience but
which we pass over. To bring these to our attention is an act of originality
and it requires an obliquity of approach. What marvelous events are these that
we never see and how clever she is to bring them before us.
In certain backward areas and circles uninformed bullies have put forward stupid
legislation in an effort to coerce the general population. Here is the opening
of her poem on recent events in Texas and the efforts to impose creationism
on the Texas schools.
Pollyanna wants good intentions
calls separation of church and state
there's an irony
down the sugar chute.
How she avoids the journalistic! She has lifted the acts of fools to a level
of art that enhances effectiveness. She finds unexpected centers and from them
can be just as deadly and accurate as the most Swiftian satire.
To talk about poetry is as hard as - meaningfully - to talk about music. There
is no substitute for the thing itself. Here is a sample, THE VISIBLE SPECTRUM:
A waving giant of flotsam
ducking and bowing
white light broken to spectral colours
my hand opens, grasps, and opens through you
fingers wide, then closes again