21 March 2013

A Little Rain on VerseDay

by Matt Rubinstein at 1:00 am

Equinox x2500I’ve now been tweeting my verse Equinox for six months, which means it’s halfway through, and in honour of the actual equinox—autumnal where the book is set, vernal where I am now—I’m releasing the whole thing as an e-book through the Kindle Store (US UK CA DE FR ES IT JP BR). Naturally I’ll keep tweeting the rest of the book as normal, to secure the coveted prize of First Verse Novel Tweeted in its Entirety, but if you want to see how it ends now you can pick it up for the low introductory price of £0.79/€0.89/$0.99.

Equinox tells a story of Sydney over four seasons. The days lengthen and fortune shines, until the earth swings from the sun and into a long winter. The city-dwellers all draw the same curve with their lives: the bright spark whose job is killing him in any number of ways; the deckhand trying to shunt her father through his life; the beauty queen who finds the city a jealous rival; even the homeless man wandering like a frightened angel. They struggle through different parts of the city—though their paths may meet, and they may help each other back to the spring. 

Each day in the city’s year is told in a sonnet, capturing some of the patterns and rhythms of the story. Each sonnet is an impression, strung together into the moving image of a city and its many parts, its rivers and gardens, its towers and suburbs, its pubs and empty streets, and the people who cling to it as if to a ship in high seas.

The characters’ fortunes are mapped to the length of their days and nights; now, halfway through the story, early hopes have been disappointed and dreams complicated, with the sense that worse is to come. While a solstice suggests a slowing and a pause, an equinox is a time of rapid change, and the steepest part of the sine curve that describes the day’s length throughout the year. The point of equality is where the derivative, the change in the change, reverses its direction: an infinitesimal shift more sensed than observed:


The equinox, the height of autumn
if autumn ever had a height,
contains both post- and ante-mortem,
the morning after and the night.
Between its tallest and its deepest
the curve of day and night is steepest
here at the point of its inflection.
The city basks in its protection:
the rain has stopped; the air is balmy;
a sense of balance and of stasis
converts the flood to an oasis
and checks the gathering tsunami.
The city hides within its folds
and wonders what the future holds.

This launch is timed not only to coincide with the equinox, but also to tie in with VerseDay 2013, an initiative of the brilliant VerseNovels.com, your only source of verse novel news and reviews. When I first came to write Solstice in the early 1990s, Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate stood almost alone as a contemporary novel in verse; since then there has been a veritable explosion of them, most notably in the young adult arena. Any parent knows that kids love poetry, the energy and familiarity and surprise of language arranged according to its tones and its cadences as well as by its meaning, and there’s no reason this should stop with Dr Seuss and Hairy Maclary—there’s no reason it should ever stop. So it’s terrific to see so many verse novels doing so well and being discussed so widely, and writer Gabrielle Prendergast is doing a great job keeping track of it all. There’ll be at least one VerseDay blog every Thursday in 2013 and I’m delighted to be part of it.

To celebrate the launch, my other verse projects have been reduced to the same low price: that’s both the new edition and the original play of Solstice, and my play Fortinbrasse. 

Happy equinox, and happy VerseDay!