By Jennifer MaidenPoetry Giramondo
The Metronome is the third annual poetry collection by award-winning poet Jennifer Maiden, addressing political and social issues of the moment, including here the recent US presidential election.
Like Drones and Phantoms and The Fox Petition before it, The Metronome features intimate conversations about power and policy between contemporary figures and their historical counterparts. The English Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Irish patriot Constance Markievicz discuss friendship, passive resistance and immigration on a walk in the Scottish Highlands. Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt counsel Hillary Clinton on compassion and responsibility during a stormy winter’s night in New Hampshire.
Throughout, we admire Maiden’s reading of public figures, the strength of her interest in the morality of conduct, the magical settings for her exploration of ideas, and the rhythmical beat of her poetry, offering reassurance and continuity in a period marked by austerity and fear.
In Maiden’s new political updates, many poems end lyrically in rhyming couplets, as superpowers choose sides in Syria with 'oily logic' while locally, metaphorically, a metronome ticks between Shorten and Turnbull, Nauru and Manus.
Sages from the past dramatically inform their modern counterparts: Jeremy Corbyn and Irish revolutionary Constance Markiewicz, Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt and Lincoln, Tanya Plibersek and Jane Austen, as Maiden subtly examines guilt, responsibility, and the conflict between private and public. These eternal concerns are tinted with restless erudition and acutely vivid details: 'The snow had stopped about them, noisily / like a choir turning pages'.
Listening to Vladimir Miller sing in
his bass huge as Lake Baikal the song
by Basner about the metronome
on the radio throughout the long
siege of Leningrad, it starts to seem
to me that metronomes tend to lean
to a pattern of two beats then some
small silence rather than a drum
of continuous ticking, even the one
copied with such deathly tones
in the song itself. Binary metre belongs
to life’s basic history, alone
reassuring continuity: the poem
or the electronic language on
the internetted brain, the same
tune remains although only one
and a city of ghosts can listen.
The pulse against austerity ticks home
through the blood at the heart of reason.
The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist