Published by Puncher & Wattmann
Paperback, 154 pages
ISBN-13 : 978-1922571601
Though she was only fourteen years old, like many other Jews in Eastern Europe’s Pale of Settlement in 1907, Rebecca Lieberman gathered her few belongings and left for the United States. What follows is a unique and poetic story of history, war, mysticism, music, abuse, survival and transcendence against the backdrop of New York City in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.
Now available directly from the publisher Puncher & Wattmann: https://puncherandwattmann.com/product/bobish/
In the US, you can get a copy at Amazon or Barnes & Noble Do please ask for it in your local bookshop or from your local library. Most libraries will order books on request and they only need the ISBN.
I would be very happy to come and talk to your bookclub. Via zoom if you’re not local to me or in person if you are, so if you decide to read the book with a club, please contact me and I will happily come and read to you, do a Q&A or talk about poetry and memoir, or anything else you need.
New review by Pip Smith in the Sydney Morning Herald: “Ball writes with a similar sparseness to the great modernist biographical poet (also a one-time New Yorker) Lorine Niedecker. These are not exuberant poems, nor as experimental as Niedecker’s, but quietly tough and compelling, like a winter tree standing against the cold. Somehow, they say, she survived. https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/lives-reimagined-in-poetry-hurled-like-a-javelin-at-the-page-20230511-p5d7na.html
“Simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring, this beautifully written and immaculately researched verse memoir is accessible to readers of fiction and poetry alike. It will also hold a special resonance for anyone whose ancestors were forced to flee their homes and endure dangerous sea voyages to forge lives in new lands. I recommend it unreservedly.” Denise O’Hagan, Black Quill Press, author Anamnesis, The Beating Heart
“…her poetic images burn themselves into our memories, swirling and repeating in the mist of feelings that surround us as we read. This is not poetry to be analyzed and understood. It is a story to be experienced, to let the lines wash over you.” Gordon Long, The Renaissance Writer
“Bobish certainly succeeds in bringing Magdalena Ball’s great-grandmother vividly back to life. As she writes in “The Consequences of Silence,” she succeeds in her quest to “Unstitch the moment connecting her to me,” a lovely allusion to Rivka as a seamstress but also suggesting the fabric that is a family. Bobish is compelling and poignant, a true tour de force.” Charles Rammelkamp, North of Oxford
“It is so wonderful! I can still taste it in my mouth, feel it on my skin and throughout my body.” Emilie Collier
“This poetic tour de force by Magdalena Ball is more than an historical verse memoir of her great-grandmother Rebecca Lieberman; it is reverent, loving homage to a woman who, in fact, represents millions upon millions of Jewish men and women forced from their homes by their oppressors, eventually to wash up on the shores of America in the great emigration from Europe than began in the middle of the 19th century…” Theodore J Cohen
“Through fragmented archive and imagination, Magdalena Ball gives voice to the previously undocumented resilience of her Jewish great-grandmother, ‘Rivka to Rebecca/ Rebecca to Beckie’ ‘her name meant/ “bound”,/ she was unbound/ Even the name of her country changed/ denied/ but she survived’. To say she only had a samovar and tea leaves when she was forced to escape terror and persecution would be an understatement of her resilience. The tiny woman ‘(She was fourteen. Was she a girl or a woman?)’ who worked hard to shrink with downcast eyes and the view of ‘cracked linoleum’ in a body that withstood the grog defeated husband ‘his arms strengthened/ and drunk with loss/ he strikes’ and the pain of illness ‘as she/ leaned into the machine trying to forget…and she got used to it’. There is a soundscape that echoes through this collection like ‘a finger along the rim: ghost gum’ and the noise pollution of a sewing machine to stave off starvation, ‘cash cash cash cash, save save save save’ that is a technique that I found particularly grounding.” Lisa Collyer
“Bobish is quite an amazing accomplishment, so fine, calls to depth of feeling in coolly precise and beautifully balanced lines, tells so much it’s as if a vast hefty epic were distilled somehow (see what I mean, it’s hard to put the effect of reading it into words). Sometimes I’d gasp, sometimes I’d sigh, sometimes I’d pause and read something over and over:
>> …Ach, fish smoker, you cannot change the past.
It wends its way through the funhouse of time in antigenic drift and shift,
Viral particles infecting the future. << Inez Baranay
“Oh, my, what a lovely way to bring to life the sad story of the author’s grandmother when young and traveling to America alone….Ball is the very author to bring a life full of history alive with poetry that is profoundly moving and memorable.” Caroline Wilhelm, Midwest Book Review
“It is the most beautifully profound and riveting book of poetry told in her re-imaginings of her life from historical research…breathtakingly beautiful in its simple complexity.” Devina Bedford
“I was caught by the power of emotion in a few, carefully selected words, the spare imagery that took me into a young girl’s hell. Poetry or not, I had to keep reading, gem after gem, though with gaps in between so I could absorb each. Although the form of presentation is poetry, this is a genuine biography, bringing a life and its now near-forgotten setting to vivid reality.” Bob Rich, Bobs Writing
“Such a wonderful prosody of verse conveying tragedy in a beautiful way. Magdalena is such an expert at the juxtaposition of sadness with hope, terror with exquisiteness.” Geoff Nelder
“While sparse of word it is evocative. Bobish plumbs the depth of belonging, dislocation and longing. Ball brings sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch into focus – sometimes with a thud. Bobish is brilliant. A short life in six acts, sixty-four poems filling the void and not a single forced rhyme. Bobish is beautiful. A great achievement.” Kassia Klinger
“This book was wonderful! It’s a rich and poignant poetic look at Jewish immigration to the United States, and if that interests you I definitely think you’d enjoy it. Some of the poems were truly beautiful and they honestly surprised me; I don’t read poetry very often so I may be the wrong person to review it in that regard, but it balanced the history behind it and the art well. My favorite piece was “Guide to the United States for the Jewish Immigrant,” which may just be because I work in archives and have some Yiddish reprints of those kinds of immigrant info books :’) Anyways, this is a good modern artistic look at the beginning of Jewish-American identity from a female perspective and I can tell the author put a lot of love into it. If you’re a fan of Hester Street or Bread Givers, this is for you!” Eavans for Library Thing
“Everyone should have a great-granddaughter who will honour their life in this way: seeking the facts and filling the gaps with humility, empathy and grace.” Jonathan Shaw, Me Fail? I Fly!
“A stunning piece of work.” Ed McManis
‘I don’t usually read poetry but this book was a wonderful gift. Ball’s ability to make you feel you are with the protagonist throughout her life is amazing…It was a quick read but will stay with me for a long time.” Cheri Thies for Library Thing