Interview with Ray Ball

Rappahannock Review Poetry Editors: In “After My Doctor Suggests Putting Me on Ozempic the Moon Waxes Full,” we love the strong use of rhythmic alliteration with the letter O. What inspired you to use this repetition in the poem?

Ray Ball: I was thinking about the roundness of the letter O and that of the moon at its fullest phase. I also kept thinking about how the long o sound can be one of lamentation and the short o sound can be one of surprise or even love or a certain kind of wryness. Through repetition, I wanted to allow the mouth to embody those emotions and enclose all those tones into the poem.

RR: This piece reads as extremely personal and touches on issues of weight and health and body image. Can you talk about your relationship with these topics and how they may have influenced your writing?

RB: There is a lot of fatphobia in the medical industry. I appreciate my PCP in a number of ways, but, over the past couple of years I noticed myself beginning to feel anxious before an appointment, because I knew that she would comment on my weight every single time. I even started having higher blood pressure results, which was bizarre because I’ve had low blood pressure my whole life. I’m also a woman of a certain age. I’ve had decades to be bombarded by social pressure and media messages that have the power to distort my self-image. “After My Doctor Suggests Putting Me on Ozempic the Moon Waxes Full” is in conversation with those pressures and absurdities.

RR: How did your time in Alaska shape your poetry, especially in this poem?

RB: After more than a decade in Anchorage, Alaska (the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in my life), I have a heightened awareness of light or lack thereof. I first drafted the poem in the autumn as the days were starting to wane rapidly, but we didn’t yet have snow on the ground to reflect much light in the advancing dark. The full moon was a glorious exception to this.

RR: We understand you’re a historian focusing on the Renaissance; how has your scholarly work influenced your poetry?

RB: Yes, I am a historian, and the Renaissance/Early Modern era gives me lots of ideas for my poems. Sometimes I’ll have a shard of evidence—it’s not enough for an academic article or a full class period, but it can be enough to spark creativity, whether that’s subject matter, the hint of a persona, or something else. I’d also say that my work as a historian and reading a lot of early modern authors has given me a deep appreciation for the ability to write in form, which is sometimes shunned by poets (and editors) of the past century or so.

RR: What is your favorite phase of the moon?

RB: My favorite phase of the moon is the full moon in winter and the waxing crescent in the summer. I’m also partial to the Galilean moons of Jupiter, especially Io.

Read “After My Doctor Suggests Putting Me on Ozempic the Moon Waxes Full” by Ray Ball in Issue 11.2