Cellnight: A verse novel


ISBN: 978-0-6484140-9-4 Format: PB (218 x 135mm), 208pp Rights: World Release / Publication Date: 01 /04 /2023
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A unique experience. A novel in ‘spindle’ sonnets. A drama. An impassioned cry for a beautiful and stolen world under threat. A ‘protester’ who has been living in a shallow cave in the limestone cliff in front of Bathers Beach under the colonial Round House prison in Fremantle is arrested for demonstrating against the mid-80’s visit of the nuclear-armed 7th Fleet.  In the cells the ‘protester’ witnesses police violence and threatens to tell what they have seen. An act of declaration becomes entangled with what is happening outside the cells. This haunting incantation looks back before and after these events, to the present day. The sea, the coast around Fremantle, the ‘Scarp’, all come into play in a work that attempts to decolonise the space, to contest nuclear, military and colonial power without claiming any rights over country.

‘In this verse-paced novel Kinsella never quite uses Auden’s phrase in The Fall of Rome – ‘altogether elsewhere’ – but we sense the priorities and judgement of the natural environment, and of an older world. Coastal birds and dolphins are among his observers, and we too feel the wind and ocean currents fall and rise so that, despite surveillance and silencing, we may also remember and join in bearing witness.’ 


 ‘A book against laughter and forgetting if ever there was one. Moving, incandescent, quietly devastating … Cellnight is contemplative, fiercely elegiac, and a panoramic ode to Whadjuk Noongar country and anti-ode to its settler colonial overlay. As Kendrick Lamar said: the judge make time. So does Kinsella.’  DECLAN FRY

‘To open Cellnight is to encounter John Kinsella’s cat’s cradle of a verse novel — intersecting threads pulled tight and tense between prison bars, protest signs, booze bottles and warships. Feathered visitors also flit among the narrative fibres, bearing witness to the fists raised over prone and vulnerable bodies in the carceral corners of a swelling port city.’ CASS LYNCH 

John Kinsella lives on Ballardong Noongar land at ‘Jam Tree Gully’ in the Western Australian wheatbelt and has also lived in USA, UK, Ireland and other zones. His recent publications include the poetry volumes The Argonautica Inlandica (Vagabond, 2023) and Spirals: Collected Poems Volume Three (2014-2023) (UWAP 2024). Previous story collections include the awards-listed Pushing Back (Transit Lounge 2021) and Old Growth (Transit Lounge, 2017). His verse novel Cellnight was published by Transit Lounge in 2023.