Solace, the world, love and pain: Beatriz Copello reviews ‘The Density of Compact Bone’ by Magdalena Ball

The Density of Compact Bone by Magdalena Ball Ginnenderra Press 2021

I have great admiration for Magdalena Ball because of her work in the Journal The Compulsive Reader, she is part of the set that is keeping poetry alive. After reading The Density of Compact Bone my admiration for her grew. This enticing book will keep the reader enthralled in every poem. Ball is a well-known writer who has been widely published in many literary journals and anthologies, she is also the author of several books of poetry and fiction.

The Density of Compact Bone is divided into four sections, each opens a door to different worlds, different spaces, moving from the microcosm to the macrocosm, from the individual to the multitudes, all written with richness of language and impeccable penmanship, or should I say penwomanship?

In the first section of the book titled ‘The Age of Waste’ the poet, with vivid images reminds us of what we are losing and killing, about the accumulation of goods and the burning of forests. The following excerpt from “Signals in the Wild” gives the reader insights into of one of the poet’s preoccupation with nature and its destruction:

I was trying to listen
trained on the kikuyu, the ghost gums
creaking, cracking ominously
a sound they never want to hear.

It wasn’t just the trees
speaking non words
showing off thorns, vibrating

waiting for the roar of fire
a wall of it, moving closer
the air was smoky.

In the second section titled ‘The Stronger the Entanglement the More Warped Space Is’ appears to be more personal but it is not, we sense certain intimacy in some of the poems, but the intimacy is frail, hidden in perfect stanzas and lines.

Life sometimes takes us into obscure forests where we can get lost, but after struggling we find the way out. The following excerpt from the title poem ‘The Density of Compact Bone’ will reverberate with those who experienced similar situations and feelings:

There was nothing
I could have done differently
though I pretended to cry
all I wanted
in the end was nothing
the measure of existence
my body a bow
and then I was in the forest again
cheeks stained
with resin and gravel rash
rocks fragments

the trees I loved and hurt
casting a shadow as I
walked and walked

until there was no more walking
because my feet failed
beneath all that bluster
still bone.

Furthermore, in this section the reader will also find light humour married to sadness, connection with ancestors, aging, culture, the search for answers, images within images, stories within stories, all in beautiful poignant and profound lines like the following two lines from the poem titled ‘Tomorrow’s Box is Quantum’:

Every day is another chance to die of kindness
the infinite regression of immortality.

The third section in the book is titled ‘Chronon’, very appropriate as some of the poems have some association with ‘time’ but also with, ‘loss’ and ‘pain’. When reading about ‘loss’ think Quantum String Theory, losing someone or something is painful, but nothing is really lost because it exists in a different constitution and perhaps in a different place. Science is embedded in many of the poems, not only in this section but in the whole book

The following excerpt from the poem titled ‘Rainclouds are Capricious’ offers some profound thoughts:

Ice cubes popping make a watery song
I smell it from here
the rising heat, peat smoke phenols
and fruity esters have done their work.

Every catchment flows into you
every minute something new is lost
your cup full while the inland river empties
flow patterns in mud reveal salt
translucent crystals white against the cheek.

I’ve been believing against evidence
eyes misted by my own groundwater
after all the science
reason still gives way to sentiment.

No conversation out drums
the tin roof patter
but the sea still warm.

Not the kind of warmth
that slides down the throat
numb, forget, deny
giant kelp dies
at the edges of your dreams.

Who am I
to break that spell
just one more hominid
sick with desire and fear.

There is no other time.
The clock no longer ticks.
The water that wets your face
is the only ocean left.

The poems in last section of the book titled ‘The River will Wash Us All Down’ are just as impacting and captivating as the rest in the book. The writer understands human emotions very well, she writes about them but without sentimentality. The body, the mind, achieving the impossible, solace, the world, love and pain all are present in a collection that will leave the reader pondering about the I and the world.

I was sad when I finished reading the book, not because of its content it was because it had come to an end. I could not put the book down, I read it without breaks. Each poem impacted me in one way or another and I am embarrassed to say that a couple of times a few tears rolled down my face. The Density of Compact Bone will grab readers and take them like on a magic carpet to places known and unknown, it will lead them to thinking and imagining, to seeing themselves reflected in the poems. I am sure they will enjoy every poem, every sentence, every line …

– Beatriz Copello


Dr Beatriz Copello, is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. Her poetry books include: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations at the Edge of a Dream, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish), her other books are A Call to the Star and Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria.

Copello’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications. She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival.

The Density of Compact Bone is available from


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