Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Compulsive Reader newsletter is out

Hello everyone, the Compulsive Reader newsletter for Feb has now gone out and should arrive in your inbox soon if it’s not there already.  This month we have a set of 10 new reviews including So Much Smoke by Felix Calvino, To the Dogs by Roberta Gould, Ain’t U Got No Manners by Kristin Johnson, The Wrong Dog by David Elliot Cohen and a whole lot more, as well as a sweep of January’s literary news including the Australian Indies, Pen America literary and Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal (Yay Susan Howe) to name a few. There’s also another great giveaway for subscribers.  If you’ve missed it or can’t wait for the mail, just grab a copy here:
Compulsive Reader Newsletter Archive

If you aren’t a subscriber and want to subscribe for free, just drop by Compulsive Reader and sign up.  Oh, and don’t forget to enter my Goodreads Giveaway for an autographed copy of Unmaking Atoms. You can enter right here on the blog - just below “About Me” on the right hand side.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Poetry Monday: Unmaking Atoms!

Hi Everyone, I’m excited to report that my new poetry book Unmaking Atoms is now out and available at good bookstores everywhere including Amazon.

I’ve recorded one of the poems in the book titled "Mapping Pluto” which you can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/maggieball/mapping-pluto-by-magdalena-ball

Of the book, the fabulous Kristin J Johnson said: "However, matter cannot be created or destroyed, and this collection unmakes, and then reassembles, the words and images as well as emotions including the sense of joy that permeates Ball’s lyricism. That joy manifests in a “laugh that shakes the floor,” the line and curve that brings wholeness, a light “softer than the cut of love.”

Bob Rich said: "These are pearls in words; beautiful images in beautiful expressions. They force you to think. There is a kaleidoscope of different ways, all pointing to the same theme. You can immerse yourself in each of 96 offerings like this -- except that no two are alike. Each is a cryptic crossword in 17 dimensions, chasing each other out of sight, a carefully designed Rorschach blot.”

The book will be formally launched at this year’s Newcastle Writers Festival at the Press Book House by the magnificent poet Jan Dean.  Stay tuned for more upcoming events, videos, and giveaways.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

CR Newsletter for Jan now out

Happy New Year fellow book lovers.  Just a quick New Year’s posting to let you know that Compulsive Reader’s January newsletter has just gone out, chock full of new reviews and interviews including Cynthia Manick’s latest poetry book, Jen Karetnick, Wolfgang Carstens, Stefan Zweig, and many other , literary news, and two fantastic giveaways (including one containing Sue Duff’s entire Weir Chronicles series).

If you can’t wait for it to arrive or somehow missed your copy, you can pick it up in the archive here: http://www.compulsivereader.com/sendpress/email/?sid=MA&eid=NjcyOA&utm_medium=email&utm_source=sendpress&utm_campaign

If you’re not a subscriber already, just drop by compulsivereader.com and sign up gratis.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Poetry Monday: Women of Words

I have, on occasion, been called a literary activist. I have to admit I’ve never been entirely certain what that is, or whether I really deserve this moniker.  In so far as I feel that art can create a space for positive change, and in so far as I’m always excited about being involved in those efforts, perhaps the label does fit me. On the other hand, I  feel that polemic should remain separate from art, which has its own aesthetic, often far more subtle and complex than politics. That in itself is perhaps a kind of activism: the notion that art can open us up, allowing us to think more deeply, and see one another as utterly connected - so when someone in this world is hurt, we also are hurt.

People like Janette Hoppe and her Papatuanuku Press provide literary activism of the best kind.  The not-for-profit press exists to provide support for indigenous writers, for making silence and pain heard, and as a catalyst for healing.  The press has done all sorts of powerful activities this year including Poetry Bombs, Free Art Fridays, Books on the Rails, and the Women of Words poetry happenings to name a few.  I was lucky enough to participate in Women of Words, and I have to say that the five events were managed superbly, engaging a large number of local poets (boy do we have some talent in this area), and raising over $700 for the Hunter Women’s Centre and the White Ribbon Organisation, both great causes. But wait, there’s more.  One of the outputs from those events was a print book called Women of Words: eat, stray’d, love, a collection of poetry.  The cost of the book is $20, with the profits split equally (and entirely) between The Hunter Women’s Centre and the White Ribbon Organisation.  If you’re looking for a unique, ethical present for someone, this might well be it.  To order a copy, just Paypal $20 to Janette Hoppe at hoponin@bigpond.net.au, or visit her Facebook page and send a direct message if you have questions or special instructions for sending.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Compulsive Reader Newsletter for Dec is out

The December Compulsive Reader newsletter has now been full distributed and if you’re a subscriber, a copy should have already arrived in the inbox.  If for some reason you haven’t gotten it, or are still considering whether to subscribe, you can check it out in the  Compulsive Reader archive.

The newsletter features the usual round-up of literary news, ten fresh reviews, new author interviews, and another great book giveaway.  If you aren’t a subscriber and would like to be, just drop by http://www.compulsivereader.com and sign up - it’s easy!


photo credit: cseeman Kresge Library Collection Transfer - July 8, 2014 via photopin (license)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Poetry Monday: Squeezing language like honey - on Eileen Myles’ "The Honey Bear"

I’ve got Eileen Myles’ I Must be Living Twice by my bedside, and every night before I go to bed, I read a poem from it. This very slow reading allows me to take a bit more time than I usually would over each poem, really delving into them and sometimes giving me interesting dreams.  Someone asked me the other day if I was a speed reader or found myself reading faster the older (and presumably more experienced at reading) I got.  My answer was that I am a slow reader and am getting ever slower.  Slow is good, I think.  It’s not so much speed, but the amount of attention I give to what I read.  I want to really experience the things I read - not merely scan or skim over the surface.  That will often take time, and one reading is often not enough for me, especially with poetry.  I have to mull and then return.  I was particularly happy about the opportunity to go even deeper into one of the poems in Myles’ latest collection, which, by serendipity was on the list of essay topics for the ModPo course I’m doing.  The poem is called “The Honey Bear” and you can read the full text of it here: https://media.sas.upenn.edu/afilreis/ModPo/Writing-Assignments-PDFs/Myles_The-Honey-Bear.pdf

Following is my 500 or so (bit more...) essay.  If you have opinions about the poem, please feel free to comment.  I’d love to open a dialogue on this one.

Eileen Myles’ “The Honey Bear” presents what appears to be a straightforward narrative.  A twenty nine year old woman is standing in the kitchen on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, smoking her last cigarette before quitting, making a cup of herbal tea, and sweetening it with honey from a plastic bear dispenser.  On the radio, first we hear Ivy Anderson and then Billie Holiday – both torchy jazz singers.  The scene is suffused with a sense of time passing, both in terms of growing older and with the progression of the clock as the evening moves towards the next day.  The use of the continual present tense, and the prosaic and domestic activity depicted calls to mind the New York School of poetry.  It’s clear by the bathtub being in the kitchen that this is an older style New York City apartment, and the darkness of the music, the tea and the surroundings is offset by the brightness of the artificial lights.  
 It’s impossible to read a poem that follows this sort of progression and urban sensibility while referencing Billie Holiday, without thinking of Frank O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died”.  O’Hara’s seminal New York School poem becomes a touchstone for this one, evoking the slow sensual pleasure of immediate sensation, from the combination of the music, the scented tea, the honey, and the tactile grooves of the bear’s face.  We know that tomorrow is the speaker’s birthday, that the speaker is alone and using the sensual aspects of the scene to offset the melancholy.  These elements, and even in the little pun in the repetition of the letter O all provide a homage to O’Hara.
 The poem, however, is suffused with rhythm and repetitions that are more stylized, musical and less prosaic than you’d usually find in The New York School. The repeated use of the present participle of verbs like hanging, smoking, singing, squeezing, standing, dripping, starting combines with the assonance of the O sound in Holiday, radio, smoking, odd, suppose, older, and the O in “O it’s very quiet”, “O very sad and sweet”, and “O honey”. Though the poem is only one stanza, about mid-way through it turns at “I’m not a bad looking woman”, interrupting the voices of the jazz singers and changing the form.  Though the scene doesn’t change, there is a progression from the clipped line breaks in the first half of the poem, to the looser structure of the second.  The O sound creates a sense of longing that progresses to sexual desire, intensified by the noodle of honey dripping down the bear’s face.  From this point onward, the poem begins to flow, opening out with mid-sentence spaces that creates a more dramatic, breathless energy: “I suppose     O it’s very quiet” or “in my kitchen tonight      I’m squeezing”.  Other words also repeat: older, sweet, odd, honey, late, kitchen, as the words drop down the page like the honey into the tea.  This dissolution breaks the narrative quality of the first half, becoming more surreal as it zeros in on the nexus of desire, the room’s silence, and the intensity of the moment in which all of these separate senses come together to the final climax of “I’m staring at the honey bear’s face.”  

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Compulsive Reader Newsletter for November is out

The Compulsive Reader newsletter for November has now gone out to all subscribers.  This latest issue contains two new book giveaways, ten fresh reviews, and a lot of literary news.  If you haven’t received your copy, you can grab a copy from the archive here: Compulsive Reader Archive.  If you aren’t a subscriber and would like to be (it’s a very nice worldwide community of book lovers!), just drop by Compulsive Reader: http://www.compulsivereader.com and sign up.  It’s free - just one email a month and plenty of free books.  Enjoy!