Jennifer Maiden’s eighteenth book of poetry bears yet another title punning on war (remember Tactics, The Problem of Evil, The Occupying Forces, The Border Loss, Acoustic Shadow, Friendly Fire). Her umbrella themes – politics, power, evil, the public and private selves, war, and the role of art – are back. The title is a beautiful droning of her past work – ‘But the problem of evil drums: rhythm / and the drug of immediacy’ – and has a brutal currency, given US drones are coming and going from Middle Eastern airspace, silently yet violently, like phantoms. In ‘The live grey cell’, Obama asks Mandela: ‘You used capitalism over slaughter, but / with the drone that is my brain, whenever can / I relax into reconciliation?’
For the fifth individual collection in a row (starting with Mines in 1999), Maiden exploits the discursive, lyrical, essayistic, philosophical, political narrative mode that she has come to be recognised for, garnering major Australian literary awards.