John Kinsella via Cellnight, A Verse Book returns to the tumultuous past of Fremantle in Western Australia, at the time of the protest rallies against American nuclear warships coming into the Port town. Kinsella jarringly opens the pages with the arrest and bashing in custody of a protestor by the Police at a time when no one cared; no one had heard of Police brutality.
The prose is lengthy and throughout the discourse there is beauty threaded amongst the anger and deep sadness; the beauty of the dolphins as they swim the waters of the Port into the mouth of the Swan River, the created vision of the red-tailed cockatoos as they sit in the pine trees pondering their future. Beautiful but disadvantaged; destroyed and destructive. The beauty has within it the bitter sting of the words.
Kinsella is well known for his environmental stand, his deep and loving concern for the environment which once again becomes very apparent as the pages turn, moving from the early days of Fremantle to modern times, each word precise, painting a picture of a past which showed little concern for the environment or the traditional people of the land.
For anyone who grew up in Fremantle during the halcyon days of protest marches, environmental rage, and a massive change in societies standards, Cellnight will resonate, will be confrontational and will also return to a past where so very much changed far too fast in the history of Fremantle; and by association, the history of Western Australia.
Back then nuclear warfare, logging of old forests, ending the Vietnam War, to name just a few issues of the times were considered so important, but looking down the lens of 50 something years, the modern generation have never heard of the Ports history, the deep, all-encompassing desire to protect, to save the land, for future generations.
Within Cellnight there is the very real truth which presents the fact that despite the furious cries of the people of the past, so little has in reality changed. The red-tailed black cockatoo no longer visits in flocks, the dolphins still come but not in great numbers and the trees are no longer along the shoreline. The history of the past, the protesting, the ill treatment of prisoners all carefully tucked away, considered of no real consequence.
History cannot be changed, it must be accepted, to be learned from, understood and used to change the basis of modern thinking, but is it? That is the question and, within that question, are so many of the aspects of the past presented within the multi-layered Cellnight. A Verse Book.