Let me be upfront: prose poetry isn't my favourite read. Although I certainly appreciate the skill required to craft an intense, often lyrical, piece of prose that tells an entire story, or conveys a certain mood, with limited words, I far prefer meatier novels with characters one can befriend and a storyline that gets you thinking. The problem with prose poetry, to my mind anyway, is that it's over too quickly for any of that. Plus I'm often left with a niggling feeling that there's something I just didn't get (although, admittedly, that's my problem rather than the author's).
So, when I started reading Liesl Jobson's 100 Papers: Prose Poems and Flash Fiction, it was with something akin to trepidation. I wasn't particularly expecting to enjoy it, but Jobson surprised me.
Yes, I felt that some of the pieces were obscure; but it was refreshing to read something that got me thinking and trying to delve through subtle nuances. And in most cases, the stories' beauty lay in their brevity; they were like tasty cocktail snacks that leave you wanting a little more. All told, I'm impressed with Jobson's economy with words: her ability to weave stories with just the bare essentials makes me think of knitting an intricate jersey with a single ball of wool. In 'The Organist', for example, Jobson says of her hero, a boy who loves collecting, "that boy has caramel fingers".
Jobson is also able to create an unerring sense of place – she flits with ease between dorp dominees and tannies gossiping on the stoep to bustling Sandton restaurants, each time uncannily evoking familiar feelings that have a 'remember when' tinge. When Jobson wants to be sensual, she's downright erotic; when she feels like having a tug on your heartstrings you'll be left with a haunting sadness; yet it can also feel like she's having a bit of a laugh at your expense.
Give 100 Papers a try – it might not be what you'd take to the beach, but the short prose pieces are great if you're in the mood for a bit of a think.