The Profile

Jonathan Ball

Photo by Simeon Rusnak

Instructor, Department of English


Grunge music had a big impact on Dr. Jonathan Ball’s writing career. Before there was internet to look up song lyrics, he would write out the words to his favourite grunge songs. Because grunge-style singing can be hard to interpret, Ball found his lyrics to be completely different than that of the artists. 

“I remember liking my lyrics – what I thought they were saying – better than the actual lyrics, so I got into writing that way, by basically mishearing song lyrics,” he says. 

Dr. Ball completed his BA and MA at University of Manitoba and completed a PhD in English with a creative writing focus at the University of Calgary. He has taught for seven years in writing, literature, and film at the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. 

“My favourite courses to teach are my film courses, because I get to watch films,” he says. 

Aside from teaching, Dr. Ball is the author of a number of books and poetry. He also writes screenplays and humorous columns including “What Rappers are Saying,” where he interprets the meanings behind rappers’ lyrics. 

In 2014, Manitoba Book Awards awarded him the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. In recent years he also received the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award for his novel John Paizs’s Crime Wave, while his poetry book The Politics of Knives won the Aqua Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. 

Nowadays, Ball writes anywhere from half an hour to five hours a day, but wishes he could have picked up those habits earlier. 

“I wish I would have written more in high school and university when I had more free time. You always think you are going to have more time later in your life, but this is the most free time and opportunity you will ever have in your life,” Ball says. 

Dr. Ball has a website - jonathanball. com. It has everything from serious writing tips to interpretations of rap lyrics.


AGE: 36. 

AREA OF RESEARCH: Experimental Literature and Film with a Canadian focus. 

NUMBER OF PEER-REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS: I have one peer-reviewed book and two peer-reviewed essays and then 1,000-plus other things including many other essays and four other books. 

LOWEST GRADE IN UNIVERSITY: F in math. It was one of those things where I thought I was doing better than I was and it was all weighted at the end of the class. 


STUDENT PET PEEVE: Not taking university seriously. They often don’t realize that this is the time of their life where they have the most freedom and they should take it seriously. 

CELEBRITY CRUSH: I don’t even know who is a celebrity anymore! I guess if I had to pick, it would be Tina Fey.

Published in Volume 70, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 28, 2016)

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