the sunlit zone:
a shallow but complex layer of ocean in which vegetation
flourishes most prolifically, and which the deep sea
diver must keep in her sights
if she is to return to it
One of the great things about reading the Stella Prize Longlist is that you can be pretty sure that you are going to read some fantastic books, and all bar one that has been my experience so far. I knew that one of the books on the list was poetry but not which one until I opened the cover on this book.
Now poetry isn’t something I dislike so much as something I don’t take a lot of effort to seek out. I like some poetry but sometimes I find it hard to understand and to be honest I’m rarely motivated enough to make an effort.
Lucky for me reading this was effortless. A couple of lines in and I was hooked. This story would have worked well as prose but as poetry it was something else again. I don’t have the poetic language to describe this book so I’m not sure I’m doing it justice. This really is an epic work. Each mini poem could almost stand alone, some of them do I think, but they all carry the story along.
“Cello had a crush on Jack that year;
a lanky, loose-limbed boy too big
for his mother’s kitchen like most boys
his age. He was seventeen, but with
a quiet gait I mistook at first for a lack
of something other boys had, despite
their broken-voiced bullshit. Jack
was in his final year, with a maturity
that drew us in, as he served up
Snow Cones, Choc Coke, chips.
And Cello did what Cello did best:
giggled behind her charcoal curls
while boys gawked at the breasts
that pressed against her uniform,
ripe as fruit and ready to eat.
Jack was pensive, not Cello’s type
in his faded jeans and well-cut hair.
She usually went for cyber punks
with mirror tats and techno gear.
To keep that up for 163 pages is pretty astounding for mine, but in some ways too short. Once again I was left wanting more. Even if it is poetry.