Racism is real.
“My name is Kasienka, I say / Mrs Warren stands up straight / and stretches her back. / She sighs / again / and ridges appear on her brow. / She looks at mama / then back at me. / Well…Cassie, welcome!”
…and that’s what you get from The Weight of Water: current issues presented in an implicit way.
That poem was aptly titled ‘First Day’. As you can imagine, it was not a great start for the novel’s protagonist, Kasienka. But it is one of many trials the young, polish immigrant is faced with in Sarah Crossan’s, free verse novel The Weight of Water.
Don’t let the words ‘free verse’ put you off. Crossan serves metaphors as a way to communicate issues such as poverty, immigration, and being different, in such a raw way she makes it relatable.
Across 126 poems, you gradually grow attached to Kasienka’s vulnerability, and warm to her naivety. As she leaves her home in Poland with her mother, together the two move to Coventry in search of Tata, Kasienka’s father. However, her new turbulent life involves being tormented by the school bully. Luckily, whilst her mother is busy searching for her husband – who does not want to be found – Kasienka finds solace in the shape of Kanoro, the neighbour “who is blacker than anyone I have ever met.” But it is young love that prevails and helps cure her suffering.
Love is a Large W
Love is watching
Love is waiting
Love is wanting
Love is worrying
Love is wishing
Love is willing
Love is whispers
Love is wet
Love is wordless
Love is him
Love is me
Love is we
Love is …
Sarah Crossan presents rich imagery in her poems. Each verse could easily stand alone but instead, each one is cleverly connected in order to tell the story. She uses alliteration to signal action, she places words in a specific structure to demonstrate hierarchy amongst the characters and she transforms that look mothers can give – to paper – by dishing out repetition. Sarah Crossan is not just a genius but an artist.
These poems are about survival. They are filled with heartbreak, determination and insecurities. But it’s Crossan’s intense, visual and honest portrayal of life that expands your resilience. Reading one of Sarah Crossan’s poems from the Weight of Water is like being a part of Tug ‘o’ War: its strength vs pain, laughter vs tears. Presented with an utterly naive, yet courageous and astute protagonist, this young teen novel appeals to all ages. Crossan, through delightful, purposely- structured verse drags you back to your youth to face the school bully.
Best for: Readers seeking a boost to their resilience and wishing to engage with poetry that transcends into art.
Buy for: A teenager, or the teenager in us all.
Buy it if: You enjoy thoughtful, political poetry which challenges the reader.
Reviewed by Yaz Dellicompagni ǀ @feastofverse
Based in Bimingham, England, Yaz is an infectious English teacher. Her mission: expose students to the poetic word. She marks poetry for an examination board and holds a masters qualification in teaching and learning. Yaz also facilitates our Feast of Verse Poetry Book Club. Find out more here.