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Poet Tarriona ‘Tank’ Ball is happy to be vulnerable

David Wilson For The Boston Globe

Tarriona Ball, who goes by Tank — a childhood nickname — grew up loving words and music. She was 11 when she first performed poetry. It started when her cousin gave her a poem to read in front of the crowd at their grandparents’ 50th anniversary party. The poem was “A Great Somebody” by Adrienne Sealy Hardesty.

“I mangled that poem,” Ball laughed. “But my grandmother said she saw something in me, that I was talented.” Soon after, the pastor at her church told Ball she was special, and “after he told me that I just truly began to walk in my gift,” she added. Now, she said, “I like to tell kids, and adults as well, that they’re special just in case somebody forgot to tell them. Hopefully it’ll get their fire started like it did me.”


Ball grew up to become a noted slam poet and today is lead singer in the Grammy-nominated band Tank and the Bangas, winners of the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk contest. She’s recently released a book of poems, “Vulnerable AF,” which chronicles a painful love affair. But she won’t call the relationship a failure. “Everybody will deem a relationship to be unsuccessful if it didn’t turn out that you’re still together,” she said. “But everything is truly about perspective. I was able to literally build a career off being honest about my own feelings, and vulnerable and in touch. Then I can say that the relationship served its true purpose. I think that it did what it was supposed to do in my life.”

Ball hopes readers will glean from the book that “there’s strength in vulnerability, that it’s important to be honest, not only with the people that they love but definitely with themselves.” And, she added, “that it’s really important to document the feelings and where they are in their lives,” because, after all, “where would we be if we didn’t have poets talking about their experiences?”


Ball will be signing books beginning at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Porter Square Books. This in-person, ticketed event takes place before her performance that evening at City Winery.

Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.