Giramondo, $22 pb, 89 pp
Jennifer Maiden is a great experimenter – in a specific sense. In a 2006 interview in The Age she said: ‘I have always found poetry a useful tool for tactical and ethical problem-solving … I suppose it’s a laboratory for testing out ideas.’ Maiden works from an ethical stance, but not, as some critics and readers have assumed, a facile leftist one (whatever ‘left’ means in the twenty-first century). The poems in this latest book are mainly discursive, and many address political situations, issues and, more specifically, public figures and personae.
Although Maiden resists easy partisanship, her poetry excites very different responses, negative and positive. The characters in her poems that were based on real political figures in past books (Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa and Princess Diana are featured in this book) have divided readers, as though these poetic figures are realistic characters rather than ways of examining how ideologies operate.