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xanother-night-in-mullet-town.jpg.pagespeed.ic.B-hWqvFFJEAnother Night in Mullet Town by Steven Herrick (University of Queensland Press)

PB RRP $19.95 IBBN 9780702253959

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Here is a verse novel from award-winning Australian poet and author, Steven Herrick, which illuminates mateship, family relationships, and navigating life.

For typical Aussie teenagers, Jonah and Manx, life mainly encompasses fishing (for mullet) at the local Coraki lake, watching — and joining — school mates party on Friday nights and looking for courage to further develop their relationships with Ella and Rachel. There are other problems, of course, insofar as Jonah’s warring parents are ending their marriage, motherless  Manx has issues, too, and the boys’ lakeside town is about to be sold off to city outsiders for redevelopment. This creates tension in town, especially when someone scrawls graffiti against the Sydney interlopers on the local real estate office owned by newcomers, the Lloyd-Davies.

The story has strong messages which are magnified due to the format of verse with characters and scenes being conveyed in fewer words than that of a conventional novel. Herrick is a master at capturing so much in few words; his writing is crisp and succinct and evocative. There is a strong sense of place in the novel with tight but descriptive language that introduces the creek, the lake, the swamp near Lake Road (site of Manx’s house), the ocean, and the town with its large pensioner population.  Both boys were born in Turon where Jonah’s dad runs the petrol station with its mostly truckie customers and ‘goggle-eyed tourists’ on their way to Balarang Bay.

Herrick’s prose perfectly captures the book’s characters. Here’s a description of Manx as seen through Jonah’s eyes: ‘He walks like a draught-horse pulling a load/his head pushed forward, chin up/and muscular arms hanging by his side./His voice is a few octaves deeper and bass, hands the size of boxing gloves,/dark hair sprouting from each of his knuckles.’

In each verse, which has its own sub-title, one aspect of the town or its people, is described. For example, there are the consecutive sections called ‘Vodka Cruisers’ and ‘Broken Glass and Bravado’ where after drinking ‘the night always ends/with broken bottles/piled up on the sand/and all of year ten/wondering who’ll vomit first.’

If you are trying to get a teenager to read – especially a boy – this novel with its terse, and what have been described as ‘iridescent,’ verses, is a great book to encourage him to read. As usual, it’s likely that Another Night in Mullet Town will take out some literary awards.

 

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Poem of the Day

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This poem comes early in Goldie Alexander’s Young Adult verse novel In Hades (Celapene Press).

After stealing a car and driving recklessly, 17 year old street boy Kai and his young brother Rod, die. Here Kai is descending into the Underworld. The shape of the poem reflects his winding path.

 

13.   Really Dead.

As the fog starts to clear

the path twists turns weaves

like a mountain trail

and I pick up speed

 run like a ghost is chasing me.

 (that’s a joke when I’m the ghost).

 

The track hollows out

 stops at a swamp where mud bursts

  into unexpected pools

    bubbles up

hovers

  lets off noxious gas

 hurts my nostrils

stings my eyes

stinks like Dad’s farts

 then deflates like a punctured balloon.

 

Here only weed & horny toed

mangrove-roots grow.

  Sometimes I hear a faint

    plop like a fish or a frog

but see only bubbles.

 What’s the time? as if knowing

 the exact moment I died

will tell me this is real

not a nightmare

 

 guess this means I’ve kicked

the bucket am worm-food

‘a dear departed’ soul spirit

whatever…

 

know this means

  I’m well & truly dead.

But in a way nothing more

can happen to me

.                                                   What hurts is losing Rod.

Where is he?

http://www.goldiealexander.com/