- Talking Pillow (2018)
- Night Clerk at the Hotel of Both Worlds (2006)
- The Museum of the Revolution Carnegie-Mellon Univ Press, 1999.
- Quartet. Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1995.
- Possession. Los Angeles: Red Hen Press, 1995.
- Kneeling Between Parked Cars. London: Owl Creek Press, 1990.
- Recombinant Lives (1987)
by Sarah Ward (SHS)
Angela Ball was born on July 6, 1952, in Athens, Ohio, to Emerson J. and Virginia Ball (Trusky 24). In high school she was a dedicated and hard-working Athens high school student and went on to college to get her B. A. from Ohio University, her M. F. A. from The University of Iowa, and her Ph.D. from the University of Denver. (Ball, Interview). She has now lived in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for thirty-nine years.
Writing has been one of her loves since childhood. She said in a 1997 telephone interview that she really enjoyed reading as a teenager and wanted to participate in communication through the written word. She saw literature as a “magical world” one could enter (Ball, Interview). “I think one important thing that made me a writer when I was growing up is that I was lonely a lot…I had trouble talking to people and had a real need to communicate that in a way forced me to become a writer.” Ball says she walked around in the woods with a pad and pencil trying to describe different things. She “wanted to be worthy of the world and learn its secrets” (Yazoo Herald).
Ball has published several works of poetry and more are forthcoming. Some works include Recombinant Lives (1987), Vixie (1988), Kneeling Between Parked Cars (1990), Quartet (1995), and Possession (1995). She has also published many poems in magazines throughout the United States, including Grand Street, Partisan Review Poetry, the Mississippi Review, Mademoiselle, and the Kenyon Review. (Hattiesburg American) She is presently working on a long poem collage called The Museum of the Revolution which will be published in approximately one year (See update below– Ball, Interview with Sarah Ward). Ball’s talent has been recognized as far away as London, England, and as close to home as Hattiesburg, Mississippi (Clarion Ledger). Recognition of her work includes such awards as the Mississippi Arts Commission Fellowship, NEA Fellowship, Sotheby’s International Poetry Award, and the Long Poem Prize from the Malahat Review (Shirley 14). The University of Southern Mississippi (in Hattiesburg) has also awarded her two grants for her work (Ball, Interview). In addition, in the summer of 1989, Ball, along with Pulitzer Prize-winning Rita Dove, was chosen to represent the U. S. in the 20th annual Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands. She was among the thirty poets invited (Yazoo Herald).
Ball is currently (2018) English professor and director of the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She is also an editor for the Mississippi Review at USM’s Center for Writers (Abbott 381). She has been the recipient of an NEA grant and has twice been named the winner of the Poetry Prize from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. She also captured the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. Her work has been included in Best American Poetry.
Angela Ball in 2005 traveled to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to receive the Arthur J. Schaible Memorial Cultural Enrichment Award for literary or artistic presentations on the campus. In 2006 Ball received the national Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ Donald Hall Prize in Poetry for 2006 for her collection of poems, Night Clerk at the Hotel of Both Worlds. The prize, named for poet laureate Donald Hall, is considered one of the most prestigious awards for poetry in the country. Ball has represented the U.S. at the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam and has been a writer in residence at the University of Richmond and at Chateau Lavigny near Lausanne, Switzerland. She also received a writer’s grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ball’s latest work, Talking Pillow, was published in 2018 and includes forty-two intimate poems. In an interview by Jana Hoops printed in the Clarion Ledger, August 19, 2018, Ball states that her new book “centers around the sudden death of my long-time partner and travels outward to events in the world at large. Imagining themselves into multiple times, places, and lives, the poems comically explore the possibilities of attachment between people and the absurdity of death’s sudden intrusion.”
Book Review of Possession (1997)
by Sarah Ward (SHS)
On the dedication page of Angela Ball’s book Possession, a quotation by Blaise Pascal states, “We are full of things that impel us outwards.” The comment summarizes the central theme of her entire book of poetry. “We are all possessed by things we want,” said Ball in a telephone interview with me in regard to her book, “whether it be a new car, new lover, etc. People try to solve their problems or recreate their identity by obtaining material things, temporary pleasure, or reputation.” In the poem Drive from the book, two love birds seem to be in an ideal situation: together, “riding off into the sunset”, , but the girl wonders why she feels so lonely. Running off with this guy will not make her truly happy.
The poem Possession especially illustrates the theme that we are all possessed by things we want. A teacher prizes his college degree. A grandmother feels she’s accomplished a lot by giving her grandson an expensive toy. A young girl feels that making love with her boyfriend has made her happy. There are others as well. Nevertheless, the poem shows that these people lack true contentment. The teacher doesn’t care about his students. The little boy puts the toy down shortly after receiving it and goes to play outside. After making love with her boyfriend some time later but while still in his arms, the girl “is thinking about the price of scallions” (Ball, Poss. 16).
Jamaica is yet another illustration of people searching for things to make them happy. A man frequents a bar not only for rest and relaxation but also because it serves as sort of his safe haven. He goes there to drink and socialize while pictures of sleazy women are plastered on the wall. However, the last line of the poem “There’s ice melting on the street: something glistening into something dark” (Ball, Poss. 23) denotes the overall empty feeling he has despite his temporary satisfaction.
A man in The Lady with the Pet Dog speaks of his mistress and their love affair. Though they are towns, possibly states, apart, he thinks of her often, the moments they’ve had together. His longing seems to be unbearable, so he travels to her, to the opera she is attending with her husband. During intermission, after her husband has stepped away from for her a minute, he approaches her. They find a secreted staircase and alleviate their sexual tension. Yet “we found ourselves in love with no escape, the end still far from our reac.” (Ball, Poss. 51). Their lust brings them dreadful unsatisfaction. They could not possibly be happy.
We are all, to some degree, possessed by things we want, whether it be good grades, a new dress, or a wonderful job. What we forget is that none of these things bring us genuine happiness; it comes from within. Yet, like the characters in Angela Ball’s poetry in her book Possession, we continually search. I personally recommend her book to those of us who are still searching.
- Faculty page for The Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi includes Angela Ball.
- Two poems by Angela Ball appear in Typo Magazine.
- List of Publications and Awards by Angela Ball.
- Abbott, Dorothy, ed. Mississippi Writers: Reflections of Childhood and Youth. University of Mississippi Press: Jackson. Vol 3: Poetry. 381.
- Ball, Angela. Possession. Red Hen Press. Los Angeles: 1995.
- _________. Telephone Interview by Sarah Ward. November 30, 1997.
- Center for Writers. http://sushi.st.usm.edu/mrw/center.html
- Clarion Ledger. “Sotheby’s honors USM poet.” March 20, 1983.
- Hattiesburg American. “Ball schedules autograph session at Jackson store for poetry volume.” August 26, 1990.
- The Mississippi Writer’s Page: Angela Ball. http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/ms- writhers/dir/ball_angela/
- Shirley, Aleda, et al., eds. “Angela Ball.” Mississippi Writers: Directory and Literary Guide. University, MS: The University of Mississippi, 1995: 14.
- Trusky, Susan M., ed. Contemporary Authors. Detroit: Gale Research Inc.: 1992. Vol 135. 24.
- Yazoo Herald Weekly. J. Syd Connor. “USM poet’s international reputation rowing.” September 27, 1988