Chewing Water by Nelson Ball

Update: My review of this book is submitted and I am waiting on a reply.

Congratulations are due to Nelson Ball for winning the 2016 bchewing-waterp nichol Chapbook Award on November 20th, 2016. As the announcement of the award on the Meet The Presses website reveals: 

A testament to the quality of Ball’s chapbook is the fact that Small Waterways completely sold out, long before it won this award. But readers eager to experience the prize-winning effort will find almost all its poems in Ball’s newest paperback collection, Chewing Water, from Mansfield Press.

The following is the script that I used for a Reading from Nelson Ball’s latest book from Mansfield Press: Chewing Water (2016). That reading took place on November 16th, 2016 at CADENCE in Sarnia, Ontario. I am including it here in lieu of a direct review (which I have also written and sent out to be published). My thought is that this is something of, though different from, a formal review.          Sharon Berg


Nelson Ball is a Minimalist poet. That means he uses very few words to describe a situation. It also means that he uses them widely in order to spark an engagement with the audience.

The Quest for Knowledge

Nelson brings you face to face with your own experiences, parallel to the ones he is describing. He is also a self-described nature poet. He enjoys his walks, and he brings all of his poetic awareness with him.

This Close To Being A Tree

He is astutely aware of the world around him. He has the ability to record close moments in a way that opens up ideas that relate to them and then step back and twist to offer you a view of the whole panorama.


Nelson can step back into his own childhood, with a self-deprecating editor sitting on his shoulder.

I Chased Birds

Or he can invite you to harken back to your own memories of a similar event, as a child or an adult.


Nelson frequently opens up to allow you into his home, as if you were one of his visitors, sharing moments of belly-rocking humour, and his sharp memories of childhood.

Affiliations and Afflictions

Nelson sometimes offers heart-wrenching views of the deep and affectionate relationship that he shared with his wife, Barbara Caruso, before she passed – through a brief glimpse of her tender but teasing nature.

Barbara and Me

He also offers portraits of his deep and affectionate friendship with the artist Catherine Stevenson, allowing us to see his struggle with the way that allowing Catherine to enter his life draws up memories of his time with his soulmate, Barbara.

My Friend Catherine

Sometimes, Nelson draws back from his acute awareness of people and motivations to intellectualize about words, as if considering them in their meaning and form allows him a brief respite.


But wherever he travels, whether walking or driving, he is always attuned to nature and his interactions with nature and wildlife.


Sometimes, he is unable to escape his sense of the human interacting with other humans – in this case friends – at the same time as we humans interact with nature in a way that we cannot control.

Friends And Flies

And always, Nelson is truthful, holding back little that he feels is important, even talking about the severity of his illness and his awareness of the special gift that friends bring to each other.

Living With Severe Emphysema

Nelson Ball is a poet who has shared his passion for books, which often offer us treasures – especially when they are Canadian, antique, or rare – through his bookstore in Paris, Ontario. Yet he is equally willing to share his gift for writing through more than 40 books that he has published with a variety of small presses in Canada.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s