Review

336. Alternative READ:Quark Soup ~ Magdalena Ball ~ Picaro Press ~ Chapbook, Poetry

Title: Quark Soup
Author: Magdalena Ball
Website of Author: http://www.compulsivereader.com/html
Publisher: Picaro Press
Website of Publisher: (not available) P.O. Box 853, Warners Bay, NSW, 2282 Australia
Genre: Chapbook, Poetry
Publication Date: 2006
ISBN: 1-920957-23-5
Length: 32 pages
Format: eBook/chapbook

Quark Soup ~ Magdalena Ball

Quark Soup ~ Magdalena Ball ~ Picaro Press ~ Chapbook, Poetry

Book Content:
This book of poems is about the cosmos in terms of an electron, or a human being, or a universe. The movement between these universes is as smooth or as sudden as quantum leaps, energized by the big bang, by gravity, or by love. The theme of this movement between the macrocosm and the microcosm is in evidence throughout, and each of the twenty-eight poems is a necessary tessera within the mosaic. The subject matter of this book puts it solidly into a context of the present, into the twenty-first century.

Book Review:
Magdalena Ball is an impressive poet and personality. Among her books is one entitled The Art of Assessment: How to Review Anything (Mountain Mist Productions), which means that she is an expert on reviewing. I have not read this book, and had no idea what I was getting into when I took on the role of critic. I am about to criticize someone who is a better poet than I am, and a master critic to boot!

In the description of the book the claim is made that Magdalena Ball’s poetry is accessible to the common reader and to those who feel that poetry is too highbrow or inaccessible for their tastes. This statement is only conditionally true. The poetry is indeed accessible to any common reader who is willing to work hard enough to understand what he is reading. If you have a mind like mine it can happen that you read ten lines of a poem and suddenly the meaning vanishes like a rug pulled out from under your feet. You must go back again and again to grasp what she is trying to convey. This is none of Magdalena Ball’s concern, because she is giving voice to something that has inspired her, and there can never be any compromise on that. I am also not sure that she has broken linguistic conventions, a further claim in the description of her book. I do think that her mind is a fountain of original ideas, expressed in conventional poetic format, and that she has found her own voice. That can only happen after years of struggle and hard work, when finally one has arrived at maturity.

Now that I have read Whorl and Quantum Quirk, I know what this poet is capable of.

your cut hurts my finger
your failure breaks my heart

immediately brings up the famous meditation by John Donne and a host of reminders from Eastern philosophy, that we are all one.

…the melting edges of the present

somehow puts you at the edge of a black hole where time vanishes altogether. Bergson tried his whole life to understand time, and he wasn’t even close.

These lines should give you a hint of what is to be discovered in this book. There are many more like it, and I could go on and on praising the poet, feeling good and making her feel good, and leave it at that. And I would have failed being a critic. Because those lines were written at the top of the poet’s form. They required a kind of mental ferocity that knows no compromise, a reaching for the very top, comparable in spirit to the early works of Picasso. But in a later period Gertrude Stein suddenly dropped him, when in her eyes he had become complaisant. I shall now address the lacunae in Magdalena Ball’s poems.

Firstly, it is disconcerting to me when I read lines in a poem that do not end with a strong word. I am on very unstable ground here, because though I have been reading and writing poetry all my life, I have never taken formal instruction. Perhaps this is a willful methodology in post-modernism, meant to throw you off balance? These are my examples:

leaving only the
taut masks

and again:

the life you’re leading no
more or less

I could never have written these lines, but would have placed the end words into the next line. Perhaps I’m being too conventional.

Secondly, a poem must have a strong ending. Note my concern with strong endings to lines and to poems.

which fills me now
with a longing as tender
as any green day

Had she written,

which fills me now
with longing

I might have missed it. Don’t get me wrong, those three lines are good poetry. They fit the paradigm of middle-range literary journals and would be considered good enough by many critics. But I want something better for Magdalena Ball. Not even my modification is good enough for me. I want this poem to end with a bang, and I want her to struggle to the very top, to be mentally where it is impossible to be, where you surprise everyone, because you yourself are surprised. I want her to be where all of us should be: beyond our limits! Anything else is death!

Egon H.E. Lass

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