Poetry Book Club – Magdalena Ball


hey there welcome to Girls on Key today’s
video is an interview I did with Magdalena ball about her poetry book Unmaking Atoms now Magdalena ball is a novelist she’s a poet she’s a reviewer
and an interviewer she’s been widely published in literary
journals and anthologies and she’s the author of several books of poetry and
fiction so today’s book club is magdalena ball with unmaking atoms hi
everyone so I’m here in Newcastle and she’s going to do a reading from her
book Unmaking Atoms which we talked about and you know I’m gonna ask her a
couple of questions about the book as well so that’s exciting
stick around let’s get into it I’ll start with this one
it’s called alien world and what a water simple old h2o clear liquid stuff you
drink every day most abundant compound on the Earth’s surface seawater water
vapor ice 70 percent of the human body you know all that yet licking moist lips
you also know the habitable zone depends on liquid water just enough water for
Goldilocks down here of course we take it for granted
slurp with abandon drip down the chin spray the car waste without a second
thought drink now slowly with knowledge that
throughout the universe aliens everywhere your Stardust relations
thirst. Okay I’ll read this one it has had a bit of air time but it’s called shallots and
garlic and it’s after an Indonesian fairy tale called Bawang Merah Bawang Putih. Every now and then when the moon is so full glows green the wind might
howl a lullaby from another atmosphere then you’ll take me by the hand tell me
I’m diligent show me what to do and I’ll do it with grace humility and well
you’ll tell me I’m garlic the good girl heading with the pleasure of service but
mostly the sky is moonless no breeze moves the air you’ll know me as shallots
lazy sloppy the ugly sister I know what I lost instead of cleaning I’ll howl my
dark side out like a pumpkin full of vipers my eyes won’t
touch the earth chin too high to kiss I think the world and spit it out
licking hungry chops leaving no bones. I’ll read this first. I’ll read the first poem
in the book the first three poems in the book the last report of the day
charitable crumb and Luminess air I could just read all three and finish with that
I was going to talk about those anyways yeah they’re kind of a series and I
wrote them in response to three poets who I kind of I think of almost as
poetry mothers and so we had a little chat about this beforehand a lot of the
book was written in response to my mother’s death but I also wanted I
wanted to explore this whole notion of inheritance and what remains I guess and
in a poetic context and almost a metapoetic context in this work I
treated these three parts as if they were sort of like spiritual mothers or
poetic mothers and I also have a sort of similar
I don’t it’s not a it’s not a smooth easy relationship with these three
poets either I don’t love everything they’ve done and sometimes I read
they’re work and I’m uneasy I feel like you know I have inherited something from
them but it’s not necessarily something good so I again I could guess I that’s
just a little introduction. So the first one the last report of the day is Adrienne Rich
and I did use little bits of her through the poem I saw you Adrienne Rich in my
dream you were walking like old friends conspicuously cool our map strong before
we took up pens, eyes searching for something deeper than the wrinkles on our skin I
felt your hand crooked with arthritis brush mine in the depths of my
consciousness like a stirring of memory you became every mother I had ever lost
to a bigger cause the world too hungry the lines too sharp for me to cross I
was a little girl then all my unspoken need pulsing like a lighthouse you’re
untranslatable language transmitted through my pores a scent you recognized
you didn’t need to say anything the battery of signals that battered you
like we’ve all been battered. I felt those signals in my shoulders hunched against
a rising wind gently but with reasonable force you pushed my scapular back told
me sternly like any mother would to stand up straight. And the next one
charitable crumb is a response to Elizabeth Bishop and it actually begins
with a line from Bishop epigraph the Sun set in the same sea the same odd
Sun rose from the sea and that’s from her pond Elizabeth Bishop’s poem Crusoe
in England and I do reference all of that as well. It is still dark the river ripples below us while we drink
coffee on that balcony together at last after so many years of entanglement
remote whisperers down the phone line and later whatever means we could find
to keep the conversation going now you lean in close like a confidante
talk about observation and longing all that you never had mother father
siblings lovers the loss that kept coming like water suspended over blue grey stones in the hard mouth of the world we find sudden softness released
into our fingers that intertwine and separate typing words breathlessly
against the rising steam of time our mutual loss holding us here with this
bottomless cup and the same odd sun. And the final poem of the series
Luminess air is what was written again in response to Edna st. Vincent Millay
my third poetry mother and it also begins with line from her a few figs
from thistles which is come and see my shining Palace built upon the sand. We
forgot the secret again lost on the island
you and your bare Beauty bringing up goose bumps in the audience while you
tilted your head whispering small small. The rain was full
of ghosts that night the air luminous with immortality. When I next
caught your eye it was already too late your heart broke over memory’s halls
marbled fingers tapping against my breath but dried figs in the early hour.
I crawled through indiscriminate dust looking for the missing light despite
the smooth departure you were not resigned not found in easy places even
by the silver knocking of silent fingers where death becomes being. Thank you so
much for your reading it was just divine I’m very lucky to be here in Newcastle and
so we’re gonna talk about the book now just for you guys to get bit up insight
insider knowledge and a little bit about before we came on camera a little
bit about the genesis of the book when your mum was passing away from cancer
and like that the threads of that come through in your poems in this
particular volume here and so I’ve talk to me about because you said that
you were working on a novel and then you just you felt that writing prose you thought
poetry right now this is the time to be doing that talk to me about that. Yes I
think it’s a timely question because you know poetry is kind of having its
another moment I mean poetry never goes away for those of us who love poetry
I’ve never stopped reading or writing poetry since I was six so it’s always
been a part of my life but you know I’m seeing a kind of almost global
response to poetry that I haven’t seen for a while it’s always been a little
bit of a marginalized art to work in and it seems now that you know people
are calling poets dangerous they’re reading poetry they’re talking about poetry it’s almost like
you know the the counter response to to politics which has never been the case
and not in years, poetry was always kind of an apolitical thing to do man not that
there wasn’t political poetry but it never seemed a big act it always seemed
kind of domestic thing and it doesn’t now and so I think it’s because I mean
we started talking about this a little bit this notion that poetry deals with
complexity in such a beautiful such a beautiful way that doesn’t you know
really doesn’t buy into sort of I a spin or the rhetoric.it’s almost the counter to that it tries, its whole purpose is to go somewhere deeper more intuitive more real richer
and to really reflect you know this this multifaceted nature of experience
which you can’t do when we try to catch something into a soundbite or as
politics often does to simplify to a point where you know things become very
black and white. Yes and in one of the reviews mentioned that
that Magdalena’s book is written in 17 dimensions and it absolutely is. Was that Ivy’s? I loved Ivy’s so much. Ivy Ireland and to to say that this is a book just about
processing that grief is not it doesn’t do it justice or it does it a disservice
because obviously you have a micro and macro kind of exploration of materiality
mmm and that’s not that’s not a grief book in my view and while you do that I mean that’s
like you know people are kind of quick to put books into categories and I think no not at all with this and also obviously you initially did that in
the way that you approach that the science and you bring in physics astronomy
you know science fiction so and it’s just it’s just a joy and a wonder to
delve into this book so just some of those looking for something to read on
the bu,s which is what I did for three days
look I think with grief too you know it it sad but it’s not just sad you know it’s so
much more than that especially if you lose somebody like a mother you know I
know father another parent it’s you know on the one hand it’s just it’s grief if
it’s loss but you know there’s so many more things going on about what does
this mean in a broader context everybody loses somebody you know grief is is
omnipresent death is is that all of us it’s a very key part of who we are and how we define who we are. So these big topics they’re never simple they’re never simple and there’s always
a whole range of complexity involved in it and that’s again why poetry is
such a good way to kind of move beyond the poison of the immediate pain into
saying how does this reflect Who I am how do i how I remake myself you know
how do I remake the world how do I really approach the world in a way that
makes sense to me now that now that I can’t
there’s no such thing as death which I think will do for a large proportion of
our lives until it hits us mm-hmm and the title Unmaking Atons obviously
we’ve talked a little bit before we came on camera about narrative using
narrative to reinterpret and to piece together and it’s almost like than
assembling and disassembling in a way isn’t it? mmm and so not that, I
know that you mentioned am I going to use it’s not specifically like catharsis or healing in that way but in terms of the remaking what what was the
journey that came out of it as we went through those poems. How did that help you specifically? yeah I think there’s a lot of
things, I mean it’s a complex collection you know it’s great but I think you know
this uh there’s a couple of things so for one I you know and I think this also
goes deep into meditative practice and how we define ourselves and for a sense but
this idea of you know what is it how do we how do we come to terms with the fact
that we’re not just individuals we’re part of a wider system and some of
the poems in the collection you know it’s not just about my mother of course
some of the parts of the collection are about ecological destruction, which is
you know a common theme for me I like to play around with that. Mainly because I think about it. familiar to people you know yeah because
I very conscious I guess what is effectively
crisis and and I you know I guess as I get older – I really feel more and more
connected and less and less like this kind of you know individual overlord of
the earth human and less and less enough if that were not sort of way odd sort of way of being you know kind
of seen myself as being part of the wider ecosystem as opposed to human and
you know just exploring that notion of how how does one fit in with other
people you know how do we how do we connect and how does that connection
connect with the earth and has the earth connect with the you know Tuscarora and
again just playing with these notions of physics anymore
what does physics tell us about who we are so all of these things you know
there’s my geeky interest but you know I’d like to play with the language and
then do you think that because if I was smarter I might be playing them in their language has always been a medium like I
feel like exploring miles decided I was actually just gonna say that it’s almost
like open the scientists observational either then you have and what’s your bet
chronic Cylons like tell me what happened industry they drive me and
something to your day job or I do have science in my day job so I work in
heavily research research an innovation group yeah so in a big company so yes
maybe there was a lot of science there and they work with a lot of scientists
I’m not actually scientifically trained I’ve got no degrees in English
literature primarily it’s business stuff you know just do you wish that you’d
studied science or some alternative career they’d be you know I this a part
of me that really does yeah and there’s a part of me that sometimes actually scoop but no actually washes like those
okay so I was complaining to my fabulously
some studying living by training yes he’s actually doing physics at heart you
know please fly over there yeah it’s a pretty brilliant when it comes to
physics I say that I say comes naturally to him and he gets mad at me and says no
no and it’s about walking and it’s really a lot of it is just about self
definition and you know I guess early on I wasn’t good at a certain type of math
and I just said it English I’m not gonna math I’m gonna fuck the truth guitar I
chose a half and that was a perfect my didn’t grow while I grew up in a very
you know very much an artsy sort of yeah you know that that kind of environment
we had nobody who could add so so it never really person except actually I
shouldn’t even say that cuz my dad actually was teaching there so my father
said yes there is that yeah and he did take me when I was very
little my parents start very early and my father used to take me and my brother
access visits we will go to the Hayden Planetarium and you watch all these
things these fabulous things at the Hayden Planetarium which is a big New
York City planetarium yeah and we go to these shows inside the dome and we watch
things like you know how the world that the origin of the Apocalypse was there
but I still it’s still with me it was such a big impact on me those shows of
this big you know I was gobsmacked I loved it you know stayed with me from
years and years came into my novels and Japan reflects on us
it’s astronomical interest yeah but some bees rates with some nutrients yeah I
mean and with your work and prize how do you feel like your practice influences
your practice now once your poetry kind of you’ve got so many threads to your
bar since nearby yeah I know this I do think that 90% of what I do both in
terms of my day job in terms of my writing is semantically so it’s again
it’s about playing around you move the words are you know relatively mundane
even on subject of my words in that cup spreadsheet format yeah and trying to
pull their points and you know powerpoints and stuff like that I still
feel like communication of things is always my underlying desire and even in
work environment where people really do want constant you’re in the right format
yeah use a metaphor for that but the truth is I think that I’m always trying
to communicate concepts learn and communicate and the communication
through this book I felt like it’s a hard thing because and I explain how you
do this it’s like you’re on this macro a little bit Venus this kind of underlying
I’ll impart phonetics you and I thought really like that better than that it’s
like you’re able to kind of bring it all back to this point and in it I think the
philosophical kind of thing you know yeah yeah even anthropomorphic because I
think that you know I will try and you know I’ll say okay you know this is this
pond there I’m running clear that yeah which is written really very very
concretely in response to happening it’s doing yeah I wrote it so I know already
pumped that map include office later oh yeah that’s right
and you know then I couldn’t just you know came back to death yeah I see you
know the whole notion of fluid always the god of death and you know this
logical thing and I just you know is playing around with every aspect that
people do I can think of you know but not just the plan yeah is there a grab a
suit you know what I’m saying comes back to those things sort of like gravity
that so you feel that when you’re writing it’s a climb there’s a bias back
to those those things when you’re writing it I think so yeah it was sort
of like the unemployed of all kind of needed to be proceeds I guess yeah I’m
not so these are these are the things that I do read sci-fi like what are you
read the compulsive read it’s a good time to talk about that just a little
yeah I swear I’ll read it and I was that Williams
bitch you ran an exact cause of freedom and it’s fantastic it’s got awesome
reviews got a podcast there’s some awesome books and names on the episode
I’ll put the link in the description below please check it out sign up to
their mailing list yes it’s compulsory to calm yeah and I’m sure there’s a lot
of you guys could go out compulsive readers out the end we’re watching this
so yes we don’t really ask yes so did two new units 20th year oh wow
yes Wow god I think that it’s been going for so long but it just it just started
in response to I was done I was at home you know maternity leave with my first
child and website of children’s works I’ve been I’ve kind of you know he
didn’t there’s early days I was kind of desperate to find out anything and they
asked if anybody wanted to do any reviewing I was like yeah I’ll do it and
they ended up sending this absolutely beautiful to volume Franklin court you
know said and it was lovely and there were interviews of money would you mind
if you yes yes and then I mean I was doing a few things for them and I could
these people volumes and so but this is what I you know is it was born today and
then they folded and I said I have to keep this girl you can’t lose out on
this yeah I want the perks so it looks at the box and also I just think you
know I love this idea I’ve been getting a mandate to go that things out that’s
to really go into it and and you know and slow myself down even are reading
and I noticed this you know you’ve not reading fees the internet and everything
is kind of you know you always distracted by stuff it’s fast everything
is fast and guys probably like 20 minutes is a long videos get through but
if you’ve made it this far congratulations man a great attention
span so well done everything is quick and and everything is you know we are
always encouraged by things to do things a little bit more superficially to gain
time and and I totally understand that I feel that all the time but reading you
know as a reader and I always think of myself as a reader first you know the
first thing my baby you know the first way I’ve ever defined my son is through
the books so originally as a child but I ultimately started leading myself and
you know those stories while things are bare you know these these are books that
I I feel almost part of my kind of nobody yeah you know they’re part of
myself and how I define myself and how many especially and yeah and and so I
really love the idea being you know giving myself a particular need to go
back and revisit that book and say you know what is what is it that worked for
me in this book what is it done that’s beautiful what doesn’t what
is bothering me worked in quite jail here and to really take it to the next
level and explore some of the things contests so out just wondering have you
ever had anyone a reader of yours kind of give a different speak to where
you’ve totally yeah absolutely I mean I you know you’ve got that good good
reviewers of my books they’ve been a couple of that because I threw them so
at least provide balanced doesn’t look like only my friends we’d you know and
my books there was a couple of people who pointed out the f-bombs if it gives
you any consolation that Amazon reviews of the classics Hillary I know it’s
difficult even with you like classic books and the way that they do it oh no
oh my favorite I think my favorite somebody wrote a review of them was
black Karen said something like I couldn’t read past the first page and
here’s my detail this is wonderful thing about I really wish the characters have not all been good I will just say though
that I have yet to have a bad poetry and poetry readers tend to be I don’t know
if I can generalize I’m sure there are poetry writers out there but my
experience has been the poetry readers tended to take more time that they’re in
it they’re not looking necessarily solely to be lost in a fictive dream you
know they really want to engage for the language or not looking for a story all
the time yeah so I mean yes I have had poetry with viewers who have told me
like show me things about right polish dungeon and all these
things are coming together when you put it down but a lot of this completely
intuitive it’s almost like this the act of creation is an ongoing thing mmm it’s
like the somatic relationship between the reader and the writer once it’s done
it’s still about still being recreated in the minds and hearts of the reading
tonight absolutely that’s fascinating and that coming to you special – yes and
that total it’s really one of the things that draws up such a public destination
launching point mm-hmm I think so I mean I think that’s that’s
what our poets would want – is this you know I don’t think poetry necessarily is
kind of you know finished thing when you hand over and say it’s done you know
it’s a constant renegotiation of this meaning between reader and writer and
that’s what I absolutely love about it I only need in this notion week you know
you put something down and you say you know I’m playing with these words now
but please bring yours and together and make it into something that’s but you
know that’s not necessarily 100% bad it’s also a rebuilding into a shared
experience and it’s you know it’s in many ways beautiful yeah sure thing yeah
shared meanings new meeting some of their creations and I feel that it’s
reader not justice yeah and there are some poetry books that I do go back to
again when I go back to them each time sometimes I just go back because I want
to write something I think just go back you know it’s in her books I think you
know Dorothy Porter always I find something in there that sparks something
in me but also it seems like there’s enough of an openness about the work to
allow me to be aged in it really family each time we’re gonna have to leave it
here but thank you so much Riesling and it was a awesome conversation thank you
big cookies are really really apprec– listen to this this has been Monday when
you guys are watching it for the Monday book club I’ll put link to all of
maintenance books all of your work and please check those out if you have any
comments or you want to join in the discussion about what we’ve just talked
about please pop it in the comments below and I’m happy to check through
fuming ideas or people that you’d like me to interview and also pop those there
and we’ll do better to do that thank you so much and we’ll see you in the next
video you

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