Giramondo, $24 pb, 86 pp, 9781920882990
Jennifer Maiden has for a long time been one of Australia’s most politically engaged poets, a commentator on the local scene and the international set alike. With her new volume, Liquid Nitrogen, Maiden continues on from her previous books Friendly Fire (2005) and Pirate Rain (2010), with more poems centred on the journalist George Jeffreys, and further poetic conversations between Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as new partnerships between Kevin Rudd and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Julia Gillard and Aneurin Bevan. These poems fold into a volume that also includes more of Maiden’s ‘diary poems’ and a number of smaller, non-sequential poems that nonetheless match the volume’s tone and may well contain the seeds of Maiden’s next book. The liquid nitrogen of the title appears first in George Jeffreys’s waking, and later in the poem ‘Diary Poem: Uses of Liquid Nitrogen’. Such echoes recur as Liquid Nitrogen conducts conversations not just within its probing poems, but also across the collection as a whole. The book is at once political and intimate, full of the real world and marked by the oneiric tone of conversations that cross the threshold of death.