Jack & Mollie (& Her)
University of Queensland Press $24.95 pb, 144 pp, 9780702254185
Although William Carlos Williams, with some accuracy, claimed that 'every' poem is an 'experiment', the number of successful experiments is relatively rare. Jordie Albiston's new 'long poem' or 'verse novel' (call it what you will) is triumphantly experimental in both technique and content.
In technique, Albiston has done several things which, in other hands, would almost certainly have not turned out well. The whole book is written in syllabic rather than accentual verse, a metre used with mixed success last century, by Marianne Moore (1887–1972) and a few others. Albiston here has deliberately flirted with the pentameter by ensuring every line across her 136 pages has exactly ten syllables. Her 'free verse' rather than iambic lines are arranged (as if by a related algorithm) into five-line stanzas. The result is unexpectedly convincing and agreeable to read.