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Reviewed by Oshadha Perera
Opening sentence
Poetic perspectives on our school days, reviewed by Oshadha Perera
December 20, 2022

Skinny Dip is a poetry collection revolving around the theme of school. Edited by Susan Paris and Kate De Goldi, there are 36 poems in this collection from a diverse range of poets. The poems vary from the more popular free verse and acrostic poems to rarer forms such as cinquains and villanelles.

When I picked up this book, I was interested in seeing how these poets, who have finished their years of schooling, would interpret the theme of school. With the book being aimed at children and teenagers, a successful poem needed to be relatable and accessible to young readers. Nina Mingya Powles explores the theme of identity, an issue that many young people grapple with in today’s society, while Victor Rodger looks at poverty and equality in his dialogue poem. YouTube, history lessons, principal’s offices, friends and meatball subs are all covered in different tones, from satirical to serious. The shortest poem is five lines long while some others span a few pages long. Oscar Upperton writes from the perspective of a fly, while Nick Ascroft takes the viewpoint of a grandparent skeptical about the internet. Many of the readers will be able to relate to the poems about new kids worrying about PE and school camp, or the ones about tired Year 13s and skipping school.

The poets show that that they know what children are going through; they’ve been there and had the same experiences. For this reason, reading this collection felt like a journey of remembering my memories as a new kid at primary school up through the years of going through timetabled classes, camps, school plays, sports days and exams.

There is a great balance of different forms of poems, which is something you don’t usually see in poetry anthologies. This definitely adds to the quality of the book, along with the explanations of each poetic form (such as tanka, villanelles, sonnets, sestinas, cinquains and so on) presented at the end of the book. To people wanting to have a go at writing poetry, this is an encouragement to try out these different poetic forms. I also appreciated the poets’ comments about their poems; this gives insight into how they interpret the theme of school and what their process of crafting a poem looks like. Again, most anthologies just have a short bio and don’t have this type of commentary, which makes Skinny Dip stand out from other poetry journals.

As with any anthology that has multiple contributors, there are certain poems I enjoyed more than others, due to a range of factors like personal taste and readability. But with so many different poets, forms, tones and perspectives, I am sure Skinny Dip will have something for everyone to enjoy. I would highly recommend this book to children and teenagers, and even adults wanting to reminisce their old days at school or get glimpse into the lives of young people.

- Oshadha lives in Invercargill.
Author & Illustrator: Susan Paris and Kate De Goldi
Publisher: Massey University Press