Jennifer Maiden's Intimate Geography charts territory both personal and political, private and global. Just as ‘One needs the private voice / to balance a public terror,’ so the public focus sharpens the private perspective. Responding to international conflicts and crises, many of her poems probe moral dilemmas, confronting the existential, ethical problem of evil: why people commit inhuman acts. Watching the progress of a war, day by day, hour by hour, via satellite television, she experiences ‘that singular oddness of feeling’ of being always ‘at a tangent to it somehow albeit / with despair’s edgy wit’ and there is ‘too much passion in the evil’.
Two characters keep appearing in her books, George Jeffreys and his companion, Clare Collins. In her novel Play With Knives George was a probation officer and Clare a young girl released from prison after murdering her three younger siblings as a nine-year-old. When they reappear in her poems – now working as observers for human rights organisations – they are deeply involved in an ethical analysis which extends to 9/11, the Iraq War, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Hurricane Katrina and the World Financial Crisis.
Always pointedly serious, her poems can also be flamboyant or risqué, outrageously witty or daringly provocative. They blur, challenge and cross the boundaries between real and imagined, fact and fiction, inner lives and the world outside us. Politicians and world leaders appear as themselves, including Hillary Clinton (talking to Eleanor Roosevelt), George W. Bush and Madeleine Albright. But at the centre of all these satellite lives, mapping their intimate geography, is Jennifer Maiden herself: questioning, engaging, pouncing and processing to create defiantly humane poetry of impassioned moral witness.
Jennifer Maiden is one of Australia's leading poets. Intimate Geography is a selection from four collections: Acoustic Shadow (1993), Mines (1999), Friendly Fire (2005) and Pirate Rain (2010). Since appearing first in her novel Play with Knives and its eponymous sequel, and then in her poems, her characters George Jeffreys and Clare Collins have now crossed over into Play With Knives: Three: George and Clare and the Grey Hat Hacker, Jennifer Maiden's new verse and prose novel, available from Quemar Press [http://quemarpress.weebly.com/books.html] as a free download.
'Maiden's art is intelligent, controlled, questing, content with no comfortable place in the world of literary opinion’ – Sydney Morning Herald
'Maiden is a poet-philosopher or philosopher-poet. She is also a storyteller and a conversationalist with an abundance of ideas' – Nick Terrell, Cordite.
'Jennifer Maiden is a poet who refuses all labels’ – John Kinsella
'Maiden is an Australian poet whose work inhabits - without being confined to - a distinctively Australian milieu. Her poetry is replete with the sounds and smells of the bush, "decrepit currawongs, like breadmad nuns / devouring charity", and fire-fighters "black / from incandescent gum-smoke". Despite revelling in the sensory richness of place ("the woodsmoke smell has a dark / freezing mountain silence in it"), Maiden's poetry never descends to the parochial, managing to be both rooted and fluid. For Maiden is also vitally concerned with the human: Hers is an "intimate geography", an interconnectedness that sings in the veins, expressed as a poetics of involvement utterly foreign to the easy complacencies of globalisation... Like George and Clare, the characters from Maiden's novels who reappear here as wanderers, this is a collection searching for "the deeper real".' - Sarah Kennedy, Poetry Book Society, on Intimate Geography [Click here to read the full review]
Jennifer Maiden: George and Clare, Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt
Jennifer Maiden reads and discusses two of the highly distinctive sequences in Intimate Geography. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed her at her home in Penrith, New South Wales, in February 2010. In this extract from that filming session, she introduces her George Jeffreys and Clare Collins poems, and reads ‘George Jeffreys Woke Up in Kabul’, ‘Clare and Paris’ and ‘George Jeffreys Woke Up in New Orleans’, followed by ‘Hillary and Eleanor: The Companion’. This video is one of 50 included in the new Bloodaxe DVD-anthology, In Person: World Poets, released in May 2017.
Australia: Giramondo Publishing.