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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 11: January 2022
Poem: 134 words
By William Heath

Banksy’s Prank

5 October 2018
Oh so poignant, so ironic, 
a spray-paint and acrylic image 
of a little girl’s out-spread hand 
reaching for a heart-shaped balloon 
eluding her grasp. No wonder 
Girl with a Red Balloon 
fetched a cool million pounds 
at Sotheby’s in London no less, 
but as the auctioneer announces 
“Going, going, gone”—poof, 
the canvas scrolls down, 
infiltrates the ornate gilt frame, 
exits below in shredded strips. 
The crowd collectively gasps. 
A few cognoscenti see history 
in the making, the shredding 
integral to the work of art, 
whose value had increased. 
“The urge to destroy is also 
a creative urge” posts Bansky, 
the incognito artiste known 
for subversive graffiti, 
his images at home in the street, 
not over some fat cat’s fireplace—
the check he does not shred. 



Publisher’s Note:

The quotation posted by Banksy, “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge,” originated with anarchist theorist Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876) in his 1842 essay “Reaction in Germany.” Banksy attributed the quotation to Pablo Picasso, who was born five years after Bakunin’s death. For more details, see:

1. ‘Urge to destroy is also a creative urge’: Banksy shares details of auction shredding prank (VIDEO) in RT News online (6 October 2018)

2. ‘We Just Got Banksy-ed’: Girl With Balloon Sells For $1.4M Before Self-Destructing by Emma Bowman at NPR online (6 October 2018)

William Heath
Issue 11, January 2022

is a poet, novelist, historian, and scholar. More than a hundred of his poems have appeared in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies; the finest are collected in The Walking Man (Icarcus Books, 1994) and in his chapbook Night Moves in Ohio (Finishing Line Press, 2019). His most recent chapbook, Leaving Seville (2020), comprises poems from his time in Seville and time he spent in Catalonia with his wife, Roser, a native of Barcelona.

Heath is also the author of three novels. His first, The Children Bob Moses Led (Milkweed Editions, 1995; paperback, 1997), about the civil rights movement in Mississippi, won the Hackney Literary Award for best novel, was nominated by the publisher for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, and was nominated by Joyce Carol Oates for the Ainsfield-Wolf Award. In 2002, Time magazine online judged it one of the eleven best novels of the African-American experience. In 2014, it was reissued as a twentieth-anniversary edition by NewSouth Books.

His second novel, Blacksnake’s Path: The True Adventures of William Wells (Heritage Books, 2008; ebook, Argo-Navis, 2013), which tells the story of an unsung hero of the American frontier, was nominated for the James Fennimore Cooper Award for the best historical novel and chosen by the History Book Club as an alternate selection in 2009. Devil Dancer (Somondoco Press, 2013), Heath’s third novel, is a neo-noir tale about the shooting of a stallion in Lexington, Kentucky.

In addition, he is the author of two nonfiction books: Conversations with Robert Stone (University Press of Mississippi, 2016; paperback, 2018); and a work of history, William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest (University of Oklahoma Press, 2015), the latter of which won two Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America for best Historical Nonfiction book and best first Nonfiction book, and was a finalist for the Ohioana Award for best book by an Ohioan and/or about Ohio as well as the Jon Gjerde Prize for Midwestern History.

Heath’s reviews and scholarly essays are published in The Massachusetts Review, The South Carolina Review, The Kenyon Review, The Texas Review, Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, The Journal of American Studies, The Indiana Magazine of History, and Northwest Ohio History, among others.

He taught American literature and creative writing at Kenyon, Transylvania, Vassar, and the University of Seville, where he was a Fulbright Professor for two years. In 1981, he began teaching at Mount Saint Mary’s University, where he served as faculty advisor for the college’s award-winning magazine, Lighted Corner; in addition, he edited a national literary magazine, The Monocacy Valley Review. He retired, in 2007, as a professor emeritus in the English Department.

Author’s website: www.williamheathbooks.com

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