ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Nicole Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Keiko Amano
   Veronica An
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Zack Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Lawrence Berger
   Kevin Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Catherine Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Adam Levon Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Tony Bush
   Zachary C. Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Dana Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Neil Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Terry Clark
   Phil Clark
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Karen E. Cole
   Merrill Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J de Salvo
   J. de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Marvin Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   t. joseph dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Ron Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amélie Frank
   Amelie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   William Harris
   Matt Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Jessica Healy
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   Nate Howard
   David Howard
   Eric Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor Infante
   Victor D. Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Lois P. Jones
   Tao Jones
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gene Justice
   Gary Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Raud Kennedy
   Bernard Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Robert S King
   Ashley King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Julia Knobloch
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Marie Lecrivain
   Anne Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   Emma Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Lee Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Hyatt Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   David McIntire
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Robert John Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Greggory Moore
   Carl Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Toti O'Brien
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Luke Prater
   Kristena Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
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   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
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   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
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   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
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   Rati Saxena
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   Ken Scott
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   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
   Sanjeev Sethi
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   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
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   June Shiitake
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   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
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   Knute Skinner
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   Lee Sloca
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   Clinton Smith
   Danielle Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
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   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Mani Suri
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   John Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Jonathan Taylor
   Mark Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Zev Torres
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   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
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   Sharieff Walters
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   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
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   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   Leigh White
   J.T. Whitehead
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   John Sibley Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
   Amye Wilson
   Jessica Wilson
   Robert D. Wilson
   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
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   Wayne Wolfson
   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
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   Julie Yi
   Gregory T. Young
   Britney Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
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Gene Justice
May 2006
   

 

Niche Work, If You Can Get It: The Music and Poetry of Norman Ball

Those writers who have embraced the Internets wider potential for alternative routes to publication may be familiar with the work of Norman Ball. In the past five years, he has published both poetry and essays in venues as diverse in focus as The Berkeley Poetry Review and Liberty Magazine, and his musical efforts recently netted him an appearance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a supporting act for Stephen Schwartz. His work, which is compelling in its own right, carries special interest to me for two reasons: first, it ranges widely, embracing the rhetorical turns of the Shakespearean sonnet and the machine-gun delivery of Primus with apparently equal levels of comfort, and second, a large proportion of his work is available via the Internet. His range, if not readily apparent in the sheer number of forms he embraces, is demonstrated in comparing two of his CDs: his 2001 collaboration with actor Edward Gero, Return to One: A Sonnet Odyssey, and his more recent efforts as Vocalist and Lyricist for the band Razorwire N Voodoo, whose 2005 album, Desert Run, is the electric guitars response to the classical strings floating behind those earlier poems. To take in these two offerings is to treat oneself to an exhilarating sense of having stumbled upon a voice that is well-developed, yet still clearly engaged in the quest.


Norman Balls standard biography claims, in a clearly tongue-in-cheek tone, that he has carved for himself (with a spoon stolen from the prison canteen) a fragile niche as a Renaissance Man in a post-post-modern world. As initially jarring as the image might be, Balls work offers a fairly convincing case for the Elizabethan doublet being quite appropriate garb for a trip down to your local Internet caf. The Renaissance Man is, of course, a person who excels in multiple fields. In an era that has come to be typified by both specialization and disdain for the masculine generic, this figure has come under considerable attack in recent times, but if we turn to the alternative offered by post or post-post-modernism, we are confronted with the image of the bricoleur, or tinkerer, who is at one and the same moment both the closest modern equivalent we have to the Renaissance Man, in pursuance of multiple fields of expertise, and the Renaissance Mans dark shadow Leonardo da Vinci as the jack-of-all-trades par excellance. As tongue-in-cheek as Balls biography clearly is, it gets to the heart of the matter, as is clear from the introductory essay he provides for Return to One: I admire the sonnet, much as I do the cockroach, for its obliviousness to the vagaries of style, fashion, and modern sensibility. In both his thoughts on the form and the sonnets that result, there is a sense of a voice that has clearly done significant groundwork, but has not yet settled, with a further sense that, were that voice to settle, the work might well suffer for it.


True to Balls introductory remarks, Return to One: A Sonnet Odyssey is highly unlikely to be a featured selection in the EMI catalogue at any point in the near future. Its a cycle of forty-eight sonnets, recited by actor and four time recipient of the Helen Hayes Award, Edward Gero, whose voice may be familiar to viewers of the Discovery Channel, and backed, musically, with selections from Gabriel Yareds score for the film Camille Claudel. With credentials like these, one expects a relatively highbrow affair, and in terms of production values, Return to One certainly delivers on this front. In form, the sonnets land firmly in the Shakespearean camp, and Ball is clearly aware of the dangers of embracing this form too closely. The sonneteer, he writes, is the wedding singer of modern poetry: a member of the brides party by way of technicality, he is never embraced and rarely photographed. Thus, for an inveterate reader of liner notes such as myself, one enters this collection with the somewhat disconcerting image of Adam Sandler cast in the role of Sir Philip Sidney. This combination has real potential to play very badly indeed, but Balls self-depreciating approach proves a central element of the grace with which he moves within the form at hand. In terms of content, the poems are primarily concerned with a re-reading of a number of key mythological referents, drawing heavily upon Gnostic traditions and taking the figure of the tail-devouring serpent, or ouroboros, as a source of inspiration and departure. In the context of a sonnet cycle, use of the ouroboros is hardly surprising, though Ball does make significant efforts to express the relevance this symbol has in the context of our times. The individual poems, which one can take either in their full, recorded glory, or, should one wish to remain pure to modernist notions of the text alone, as text within the liner notes, provide a clear study into one poets exploration of form. The various traditions and elements associated with the sonnet love both sacred and venal, meditations on mythology, the often comical recursive sonnet are well represented here, and poets interested in this form could do far worse than to take a few cues from this collection. And thats really the point. If Balls notes are taken under consideration, its clear that this collection is primarily concerned with exploring the form, rather than landing a lucrative contract with EMI. This keeps the focus on the work itself, and the collection that results pays a quiet sort of homage to a tradition that has suffered somewhat from our tendency to feel contempt for what is familiar. Balls awareness of this contempt is just the thing to put the collection over the top.


The cycle itself is twelve sections, containing between six to three sonnets each. Ball makes some efforts to engage classical fare with a time range encompassing both Biblical mythology and Becketts Waiting for Godot. In more practiced hands, such a project might be effectively presented, but in practice, Balls work is most uneven when it attempts to be too serious. Balls penchant for wordplay gets the better of him, for example, in the opening lines of Sonnet 22, from the section entitled Aspects of a Woman:



The backward glance that froze a womans soul

and chained her to this sublimating place

consigns her to an endless rabbit-hole

of uncast lots; her life cant fill this space.



This is a clear enough allusion to the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which Lots wife looks back upon her destroyed home and is turned into a pillar of salt, and the pun in line four proves incapable of carrying the weight of the story it references. In this and other points, Balls work demonstrates that his talents as word-spinner are considerably stronger when he chooses lighter fare as his subject. Compare the rather jarring presence of a pun in the above lines to similar groaners in Sonnet 26, a sonnet that appears in the section entitled The Detrimental Meter, where they prove much more effective as self-referential wordplay aimed at commenting on the form itself:



Sometimes a pent-up-tameter must run

a giddy-up of gallop on the meter.

I think, therefore I-am-bic is no fun.

Worse still, gratuitous rhyming like Demeter.



Sonnet 26 also contains a closing line that closely mirrors Balls stated purpose in the comments that bookend this sonnet cycle within the liner notes: The fun is in the run and not the steer. Return to One is not always graceful in its execution, and it seems unlikely to unseat Edna St. Vincent Millays offerings as exemplarary, but there is real joy in witnessing Balls engagement of the form.


In stark contrast with Return to One is Balls more recent collaboration with Australian musician Paul Millington, with whom he forms the band Razorwire N Voodoo. Their 2005 album, Desert Run, credits Millington with the music. Millington lists, among his influences, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, but in reading Balls lyrics to the fifth track, Willie Lepers, one gets the sense that Ball must have augmented his study of Shakespeare with a review of the complete works of Anthony Kiedis at some point in his life.



I ate the blame to get it all worked out

prop me up like a deathrow inmate

deadweight banging on the pink house

hanging at the cathouse tappin at the outrage

prance it lance it dance it advance it

slip into a back page, pimpin for a new age.



His rapid delivery of those lyrics goes a long way to confirming these suspicions, though the result is a little more Primus than Peppers. Its a rocking track, certainly a much more viable contender for inclusion in any list made up of the likes of the Goo Goo Dolls than anything on Return to One, but much less likely to attract any attention that might be deemed positive from the stuffier set of poets to whom sonnets generally appeal. Rhetorical subtlety, while it might occasionally find a home in this environment, is not the rule of this land, and theres little that isnt venal about the love being described in this track. Its a jarring contrast that might suggest unevenness in the context of a full oeuvre, but one gets the sense that Balls just getting started, and thats where things start to get exciting. The fourth track, Spill My Wine, while again not, one suspects, aspiring to the attentions of the Academy, is a bit more subtle in its treatment of the theme of war, though not so subtle as to forego place names:



I am emptied, Father

stripped of armor, short of time.

There are waiting others

hungry for the savage sign.

Seal Fallujas borders,

tease the serpent from the crowd.

Raise our sacred heroes

let the verses scream out loud.



Though clearly enough making allusion to current events, theres an undercurrent to this one in the references to the Garden of Eden, and much of the tracks commentary is veiled in those terms:



In an effort to break the tension

someone began reciting a prayer

before the tank commander ordered him to stop.

Like trace-fire, the mans amen trailed off

into the bowels of the dark machine.



This last image, perhaps, serves as the clearest illustration of the shift one undergoes between these two CDs: Return to One is predominately a statement of faith, and if anything, Balls earnestness is what makes the project work. In spite of his closing essay, in which he spends some time discussing the concept of decadence as embodied in the mythological body of the Minotaur, there is a sense, in Balls straightforward statement of Gnostic principles, that one is dealing with someone who truly believes that there is a central truth, and that it is worth striving for. Desert Run offers something very different: while those principles may still hold sway for the speaker of these lyrics, the perspective is from within that machine, a perspective from which those principles can give the appearance of being truly and finally lost. The voice that results is both less hopeful and more in line with the times it seeks to engage. Taken together, these two CDs offer the listener an experience thats a bit like finding out that Iggy Pop reads John Donne between sets, or that Robert Pinsky thinks Henry Rollins is a damn fine writer. One is free to conclude that such libertine congress between high and low poetic forms is yet another in a long list of signs of the rapid decline of Western Civilization, but itd probably be a whole lot more interesting to ask how the two inform each other.


So what forces are at work behind Norman Balls meandering path through the peaks and valleys of artistic endeavor? Well for starters, if da Vinci had set himself the task of reading every book ever written, hed have a significantly easier time of it in the fifteenth century than he would in the twenty-first. A brute force reckoning of the ratio between information and average life expectency probably dooms anyone with ambitions in that direction to the compromise role of bricoleur, and thats before the Internet is taken into account. One suspects that the history of English letters might have turned out quite differently if the playwrights of Shakespeares time had busied themselves after hours by tending to their blogs. Wed probably have a whole lot less reverence for their work, and a whole lot more of it. Such are the conditions of modern publishing: in an era where anyone can publish, not much gets taken seriously, and knowing ones work wont be taken too seriously, before one even starts, can have a surprisingly liberating effect on what results. Even more liberating when one refuses to take their own work too seriously. I suspect thats of more than passing consequence in the work of Norman Ball, and Im just fortunate to be alive at a time when I can watch him at work.

You can, too. A lot of it is available at his website: http://www.normanball.com . If you like what you hear, take the time to buy something from him: I understand he needs a new spoon.

copyright 2006 Gene Justice