Peter Kenneally reviews 'The Fox Petition' by Jennifer Maiden, 'Breaking the Days' by Jill Jones and 'Exhumed' by Cassandra Atherton

From the cover of Jennifer Maiden's latest book (The Fox Petition, Giramondo, $24 pb, 96 pp, 9781922146946), a wood-cut fox stares the reader down. This foreign, seditious animal is the perfect emblem for Maiden's examination of the xenophobia, conformity, and general moral diminution that she sees around her. Giramondo have given Maiden the liberty of an annual collection; as she says, this prospect 'encourages urgency wonderfully'.

The catalyst for urgency in this book was the NSW Biosecurity Unit's proscription, Border Force-style, of foxes, even as pets. Her poetry here has the freedom of improvisation, spiralling freely around any facts or notions in more or less the key of 'foxness'. When the poet comes across a real fox, for example, 'it stood its ground and looked so patrician', summoning both Charles Fox, that radical petitioner for liberty, and Nye Bevan, with 'the patrician tone of his Welsh miner's voice'. 'If I spoke to the fox without / killing it, I would be charged, but / we once had much in common. A quality / spare and wild with desperation / in its streetlamp eyes, its old headlight / eyes could still suggest a city / in shifting shapes, its identity / aristocratic in lost deceptions.'

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Published in April 2016, no. 380

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