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.
"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."
Jennifer Maiden is one of Australia's leading poets. Intimate Geography is a selection from her four most recent collections, Acoustic Shadow (1993), Mines (1999), Friendly Fire (2005) and Pirate Rain (2010).