Jeri Kroll,’ Vanishing Point’ in the Australian
Poetry from Ivy Ireland, Maria Zajkowski; verse novel by Jeri Kroll, Australian Poetry: Geoff Page, July 2015
...a verse novel with a linear story and a no-nonsense approach to language. Diana Warren, its protagonist, is an Adelaide-based 19-year-old suffering from anorexia nervosa. She has a problematic but well-loved brother with Down syndrome, Philip, and parents whose marriage is less than satisfactory.
The narrative is in three parts: the lead-up to Diana’s collapse, her stint in hospital and her subsequent recovery when a new boyfriend, Conor, and a love of horses extricate her from the downwards spiral of the first two parts. What adds to the complexity of this structure is that almost all the central characters serve as narrators. As if in line with this, Kroll uses a variety of poetic forms throughout — from free verse and prose poems, through to blank verse, rhymed quatrains and even a sonnet at one point.
These are nearly always expertly handled and their variety makes an important contribution to the book’s momentum. Only rarely is there a lapse — such as in the (seemingly inadvertent) awkward contrast between the iambic pentameter “She kisses us and shuffles up the stairs” and the line that follows it: “I wait half an hour and then follow” (from Pale Faces).
It’s interesting (and more than a little disappointing) that the term “verse novel” appears nowhere in the title (or in associated publicity), for that is assuredly what the book is. On the front cover, the publishers say it belongs to their fiction list and nowhere are the dreaded words “poetry” or “verse” to be found.
Across more than 30 years, Kroll has produced six substantial collections of poetry and one of short stories. Certainly, Vanishing Point provides a satisfyingly complex and well-organised narrative, together with memorable characters, but it is no less poetry than the other two collections discussed above.