The Tenth Day of Writemas

on the tenth day of Writemas my true love gave to me

a look ahead to January’s Speaking Crow!!!

This is Jonathan Ball and he is going to be featured – Tuesday January 4th, 7 pm, Aqua Books!!! – (pssst check his website too – lotsa cool things there, including an interview with Frank Black!! i heart Frank Black.)

And the vivacious Colin Smith is back at the Speaking Crow bio writing helm – he writes some gooders does he, and Ball’s is no exception …

JONATHAN BALL is the agent signifier attached to two full-length books of poetry: Ex Machina (BookThug, 2009) and Clockfire (Coach House Books, 2010). Both texts gift us with cool-hued, formal sentences that investigate many serious concerns, but in such an impertinent and thoughtful manner that the result is often mournful, uneasy, and volcanically funny.

If God existed, we would need to invent a Jonathan Ball to pester Him, and the outcome would be indistinguishable from a book called Ex Machina. It’s a book-length poem (mostly in numbered chapters), and is a puckish philosophical work about the intertwining of humans, language, and machines. As each line ends with a number that you’re theoretically encouraged to follow, this poem can function as a Choose Your Own Adventure or resemble a game of Snakes and Ladders. Here’s a quote (without the numbers):

If only I knew what you wanted. // If only I could fashion it. //

There would be singing and whirring in the streets. // These broken

hands moving, turning over. // The living metal, the riven flesh. //

The risen stone, the shriven God.


Citizens Darling, have you often been bored in the theatre? If your vote is Yes, Clockfire might be the book for you. It’s a collection of prose-poems that see Ball riffing off Antonin Artaud’s notion of a Theatre of Cruelty. Oedipus staggers off the stage into the aisle and commences handing out knives to audience members. A director destroys the sun, initiating an eight-minute-long play in which the audience waits, unaware, for the solar system to die. There’s a scenario involving cellphones so horrific and hilarious and heart-shaking that this blurb is speechless in contemplation of it. Here’s a fourth:

The curtain rises. A magician appears onstage. The audience disappears,

and is never seen again. Though arrested, imprisoned and tortured, our

magician reveals no secrets.

(“The Magic Show”)

By fantastically exploding the scripted behaviour and crimped decorum of theatrical convention, Clockfire makes wild hay out of the possibilities for everyday human sociality.

Jonathan Ball is back living in Winnipeg after earning a doctorate in English (with a focus on Creative Writing and Canadian Literature) at the University of Calgary. He is a former editor of Dandelion magazine. He’s currently teaching Creative Writing at both the universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba.

PS: don’t you want Colin to write your bio now?…  See y’all on the Fourth!

Katherena Vermette