By Jennifer MaidenPoetryGiramondo

The Metronome

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.

Portrait of Jennifer Maiden

Jennifer Maiden

Jennifer Maiden’s collections have won the NSW and Victorian Premier’s Poetry Prizes and the Age Poetry Book of the Year. Liquid Nitrogen, published by Giramondo in 2012, was shortlisted for the international Griffin Poetry Prize, and won the Victorian Premier’s Award for Literature, the richest literary prize in Australia. Her previous books in this series have been Drones and Phantoms and The Fox Petition

Judges’ report

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'.

Extract

Metronome

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 Premier’s 21 Shortlist