Sunday, January 3, 2010

Meet Magdalena Ball

Today I am honored to have as my guest Magdalena Ball or Maggie to her friends. Maggie recently published a new book, Repulsion Thrust, just released last month. First, let's get to know Maggie a bit better.

Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. Her short stories, editorials, poetry, reviews and articles have appeared in a wide number of printed anthologies and journals. She is also the author of the newly released poetry book Repulsion Thrust, as well as the novel Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment: How to Review Anything, and three other poetry chapbooks: Quark Soup, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Cherished Pulse and She Wore Emerald Then.

Let's learn more about her newly released poetry book Repulsion Thrust.

Title: Repulsion Thrust
Author: Magdalena Ball
ISBN: 978-1906609306
Page count: 110
Format: paperback
Release Date: 2 December 2009
Category: Poetry
Distributors: Bertram Books, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, Ingrams

Publisher contact: Neil Marr at BeWrite Books
Author: Magdalena Ball

Award-winning poet Magdalena Ball has released a new book of poetry that moves across a terrain not often the fodder of poetry. Following up on her chapbook Quark Soup, Ball combines her pursuit for scientific meaning with the steely-eyed observations of a poet, seeking answers to the human condition through Quantum Physics, and measuring human aging against technological singularity, or the loss of love against ecological destruction. Repulsion Thrust tackles big subjects not often the fodder of poetry: quantum physics, astronomy, time travel, ecological destruction, and technological singularity, all viewed through the lens of the human condition. It’s an extraordinary and original collection.

Now for a bit of Q & A:

Maggie, please tell us about Repulsion Thrust.

This is my latest book, released a month ago by BeWrite Books. It's a full-length poetry book which is in three sections. The first has an overall theme of "The Black Dog" (as in Churchill's - e.g. depression and pain), the second is environmentally and technologically/futuristically focused, and the third is an almost lighthearted (for me) synthesis of the first two -- a kind of answer to the clash of the first two notions. As always with my work, there's a fair amount of influence from the 'sciences', from quantum physics to psychology, geology, evolution, and astronomy. I think, in many ways, that Repulsion Thrust is much more intense and grander in design than anything I’ve written before. I’ve been able to cover a wide terrain, which forms almost a kind of philosophy for me – about the world we live in, the role of humanity, and my fears and hopes about the future. I’m particularly happy about the gorgeous cover, which is from a painting by Australian artist Scott Jackson called “Reaching for the Sun”. I feel that it really captures that simultaneous sense of bleakness and hope that the book has.

So what’s the connection between science and poetry?

I know (all too well) that there are forms of science which are rote, and systematic, but at the edges of science, and in some of the arenas we’re playing in now, there is so much that is new to us, and outside the scope of our existing knowledge, that a poetic leap has got to underpin the hypothesis. I’m thinking about nanotechnology and the pace at which it’s changing our perceptions. I’m thinking of quantum physics and how different things are the quantum level than they are in classical physics. I’m thinking of SETI and their scientific search for life (not UFO sightings!), or the first few minutes of the universe. I’m thinking of Large Haydron Colliders and particle smashing (how poetic is that? Or am I the only one who thinks the notion of smashed particles poetic?!). To get into those places that science is going, you need to make a kind of cosmic leap. The hard work and mathematics will surely follow (and might have preceded too), but without the imaginative leap and wonder, you wouldn’t even be thinking about things like the first few minutes of the universe or colliding galaxies. To me the poetic elements are very strong.

What draws you to poetry?

I’ve always loved writing poetry. Its medium I find most natural and always have –in fact there are times when my convoluted metaphors (in everyday conversations) can get a bit much for people! When I was doing a DPhil at Oxford, my supervisor was always telling me off for my overt use of the metaphor, and of course he was right – there’s a place for poetry and academic writing is probably not the place! I do love the way in which poetry can go one step further than a structured sentence – it forces you to push out the limits of language and say more – more about life, more about a moment, more about relationships, more about those things that matter. It isn’t always easy to find the right word, structure, or phrase, but when it happens, I feel like something entirely new is being created. You can do that in prose too, of course, but with poetry, it’s always what you’re aiming for. There’s never any space for simple connectors, or words that are there to just help the reader (other than footnotes). I love that immediacy.

How can we purchase your book?

Always my favourite question! You can drop by Amazon at: For a hard copy of the book.

A very inexpensive ebook (£1.00!) can be found at:

More information can also be found at:

The book can also be purchased at Barnes & Noble, Powells, and good bookstores everywhere. Just ask for it! The ISBN is: 978-1906609306

We can't leave without a sample of Magdalena Ball's poetry:

Repulsion Thrust

take any web
worldwide or otherwise
poke holes
break boundaries
make it new
that kind of thing

no silk is strong enough
for your anger
it isn’t yours really
its mine
my mother’s, your father’s
you get the idea
genetic instructions
writ in your
knit brows

use it
thrust through the repulsion
turn it to love

what else is there?

Here are just a few excerpts from the numerous highly favorable reviews Repulsion Thrust has reviewed thus far:

"Precise and exciting. Words sizzle on the page. Images steeped in the physical world work beautifully to illuminate complex emotions and states of mind. Magdalena Ball is an important poet." Joan Schweighardt, author of Gudrun's Tapestry, Virtual Silence and other novels.

"Magdalena Ball creates a stunning impression with her first full-length collection, Repulsion Thrust. Her poems speak of experience, wisdom, and curiosity and welcome the reader to embrace a voyeuristic ride. Beautiful, haunting, and honest, Repulsion Thrust is a powerful collection with a refreshing voice and an open heart." Lori A. May, author of stains

"Using physics and philosophy, phobias and facets of astronomy and math, the poems in Magdalena Ball’s new book, Repulsion Thrust, are manuals and kones to scientifically and whimsically imagined new worlds; they are forthright and experimental, they are futures you really hope are not true. Reading her book is like reading the poetic version of 1984 by George Orwell, where humans are really not human any more. And you might even feel like you are smarter, more hip to science." Nanette Rayman Rivera, writer and editor

"Ball’s poetry is wholesome, blending the rational and the irrational, the physical and the metaphysical, together with the real and the surreal. The result is a an unusual and compelling book. Repulsion Thrust is a poetry book to be read very slowly in order to savour every word, every metaphor, and to immerse oneself in the rich and colourful imagery, to be touched by despair but also by hope and love." Beatriz Copello author under the gums' long shade

"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" Sarah James, poet, blogger

There you have it, folks. All you need to know about Maggie Ball's newly released poetry book, Repulsion Thrust. If you aren't anxious to go immediately and buy a copy of her book, then all I have to say is you must not have been paying much attention.




kathy stemke said...

Thanks, Harry. As a poet myself, I'm intrigued by this extremely creative approach to poetry. You have aroused my curiosity.

Vivian Zabel said...

Hi, Maggie. It's good to meet you.

Good post, Harry, as usual.

Nancy Famolari said...

I agree there are so many elements of physics that call out for poetry. It makes you look at the world with different eyes.

Great interview, Harry

Anonymous said...

I don't read enough poetry and that may be because I don't write it, although I do write a little haiku from time to time.

I love Nanette Rayman Rivera's review of your work. Any writer that makes science more hip is doing the world a service.

Best wishes for your success.

Stephen Tremp

DarcĂ­a Helle said...

Great post, Harry!
Magdalena, the trailer for your book definitely sparks interest. And I loved your poem - beautifully written and thought-provoking.

Harry Gilleland said...

Thank you all for dropping by and for commenting. It is much appreciated!



Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Harry, you always do a bangup job. And, of course, I always love hearing more about Maggie. She is my writing partner for the Celebration Series of chapbooks, you know. (-: Can you imagine!? Two writers, two hemispheres apart. Collaborating on poetry. What an amazing world we live in.
Find the chapbook celebrating mothers at

Magdalena Ball said...

Thanks so much for giving me so much space to show off my work Harry, and to everyone for the lovely comments. It's been a pleasure dropping by!

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Great post, Harry.


Science and poetry are a beautiful combination. Your book sounds very interesting. And, wonderful reviews!


Heidiwriter said...

Congratulations, Maggie, on publishing your poetry. I know that's a hard road to travel and I wish you the best in 2010!

Dallas said...

What a beautiful poem. I loved reading about your life as a writer. Thanks for this, Harry and Magdalena!

-- Dallas

Harry Gilleland said...

Thanks to everyone who came by and especially to those kind enough to leave a comment. Maggie & I appreciate the attention given to poets. :-)



Martha said...

Great interview and I loved the trailer. Great work Maggie

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I really enjoyed reading about Magdalena and her accomplishments. The sample poem from Repulsion Thrust was wonderful. What an interesting concept for poetry.

Helena Harper said...

I'm sorry I'm late to this post, Harry, but hopefully better late than never! Very interesting post! I was privileged to read some of Maggie's poetry in the book 'She wore emerald then' and was struck by the cosmic imagery she was using. Her approach to combine science with poetry is a fascinating and novel one.

Maggie, do you by any chance have a science as well as a literary background?


kanishk said...

It makes you look at the world with different eyes.

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