Jennifer Maiden’s latest book, The Metronome, is essentially part of a series that could be dated to the appearance of Friendly Fire in 2005, if not further back. While it may not be a series in the sense of a life-poem, Maiden’s ongoing production of this sequence of books carries an impression of vocation or serious commitment, rather than simply poems-as-project.
There are continuing characters in Maiden’s work, recurring structures (the dialogue between characters of the past and the present being chief among these, such as the ongoing one between Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt), and a fearless interrogation of the moral complexities of our age, which allows the books to hinge on a dialectic of voicings, between dialogic/plural, and a more singular individual voice.
Of course, a reader, especially a reader new to Maiden’s work, might question the validity of her approach, especially with respect to the dialogue poems. We cannot know what any of these current or historical figures really think. Yet, our histories and thinking, and the current media, are full of presumptions, falsities, rushes to judgement, so it is more than simply refreshing to encounter another way of speaking about and through such personae. Maiden sets up a place for an ethical as well as aesthetic encounter; sets up a way of learning how to think about these issues. And that way is through poetry, through lines, stanzas, description, tropes, sonic effects, through dialogue and event.