Peter Craven

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

When I edited Black Inc’s Aus­tralian Poems in the im­me­di­ate wake of 9/11 I was struck by how much our poets were alive to the im­pact of world-shat­ter­ing events and how ca­pa­ble they were of find­ing a voice for the be­wil­der­ment of a ter­ri­ble time. And no poet is more darkly in­formed than Jen­nifer Maiden. She can drama­tise how po­lit­i­cal in­sights and in­ti­ma­tions can twist and turn in a mind, and she can re­con­fig­ure worlds of feel­ing and ref­er­ence into a po­etic speech that is nim­ble, ornery, but in ev­ery way her own.

The play of the rhetoric of pol­i­tics and his­tory would scarcely mat­ter if Maiden could not put a po­etic shape, at once tra­di­tional and new, to her brood­ing. WH Au­den was right to say po­etry doesn’t make things hap­pen, WB Yeats was right to say a poet has no li­cence to set a politi­cian right — but the sat­is­fac­tion of read­ing Maiden is that her poems come from a mind that has stared into the pit of pol­i­tics and a heart that is trou­bled and full of feel­ing at what the mind be­holds.

And so we have this new vol­ume. The ti­tle is mu­si­cal. “Metronomes,” Maiden says, “tend to lean to the pat­tern of two beats.” But she uses The Metronome By Jen­nifer Maiden Gi­ra­mondo, 96pp, $24 this to cre­ate a set of poems that mea­sure what she calls “the blood at the heart of reason”. And they are full of the shadow of what for­mer Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Harold Macmil­lan, that thought­ful old Tory, called “events”. Of­ten they are dia­logues be­tween peo­ple from dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods, chat­ting about vi­sions and hap­pen­ings, fail­ures and po­ten­tial­i­ties.

So in The Gazelle, the blighted UK Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn (whom Maiden seems to

Jen­nifer Maiden’s strat­egy is one of en­coun­ters be­tween the liv­ing and the mighty dead

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