Harambee Grey-Sun,
The Black Ball
(Mellen, 2003)

The Black Ball is a challenging book, a narrative poem or, if you prefer to consider it as something less formidable, a series of narrative poems covering 138 pages. It chronicles the thoughts and actions of students at a small college, discontented at the thought that they can no longer take advantage of the golden age, who seek to recreate that same perceived era within the present.

I wonder why Harambee Grey-Sun chose this as his prime subject for publication. While I enjoy poetry, am myself a poet and in general like reading all new or different forms of poetry, I found The Black Ball excessively hard-going. The poet has a wonderful command of the English language, educated, literary and profound. I regret that, despite the often scintillating phrases within the poems, the rather abstract nature and indeed erudite attitude quickly induced ennui. I found myself flicking from page to page, unable to school myself to the discipline demanded to sequentially follow the poems and the plot of this narrative poem.

It saddens me to find myself wondering not only why but indeed how such a work was printed in luxurious hardback -- the word "vanity" lurks unbidden at the back of my mind. The print is small, the layout reminiscent of a Shakespearean play, the concept akin to an exercise in English literature class that evolved beyond the limits of the instruction -- "write an essay in poetical form about..." -- and, Frankenstein-like, lurched in gargantuan strides from the mind of the creator to cover the pages of an entire book instead of a couple of sides of foolscap paper.

Neither the poetry of The Black Ball nor its subject remotely touch that part of my soul that is normally affected by poetry and gifted displays of language. I admire the intelligence inherent in the words; I admire the tenacity and lengths to which the poet has pursued his creative goal. But I am sorry to say that I am left utterly unmoved by the work and must therefore give this book the black ball.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 11 September 2004

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