09 November 2010

Sonnet according to M

Jordie Albiston. Sonnet according to M, John Leonard Press, 2009.

Shortlisted for the 2010 Judith Wright Poetry Prize*.

The letter ‘m’ is emblematic of recurrence and precipitousness in these poems. They emerge with the wantonness of sensations in everyday life. In this case three lives: maternal grandmother, paternal great-great grandmother and the poet. Jordie Albiston, with characteristic delicacy and zest, limns these very different women as perspectives to each other.

Recurrence is intrinsic to sonnets. They are patterned internally, and are often paroxysmal: a perfect form and formation for poems which worry the distinction between the fatal and the banal.

The sequence tells what happens when you admit the existential into everyday life, in small or large doses. The results can be desolate, or sublime. And comedic as well: Albiston knows how to play between darkness and send-up, when it comes to an arduous and animating tension between body and mind.

Jordie Albiston lives in Melbourne, where she was born in 1961. She is a poet whose work frequently reflects historical research. Australian composer Andrée Greenwell has adapted two of her books (Botany Bay Document, 1996 - retitled Dreaming Transportation - and The Hanging of Jean Lee, 1998) for music-theatre: both enjoyed seasons at the Sydney Opera House. Nervous Arcs won the Mary Gilmore Award for a first book of Australian poetry in 1995, and was also shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Prize. Her fourth collection, The Fall, was shortlisted for Premier's Prizes in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. Her fifth, Vertigo: a cantata was published by John Leonard Press, in 2007. She holds a PhD in literature.

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*Judith Wright Prize for a published collection by an Australian writer is awarded annually. It is one of five ACT Poetry Prizes.

The ACT Government, through the ACT Arts Fund administered by artsACT, has offered ACT Poetry Prizes since 2003. The 2010 winner will be announced in November from the shortlist selected by a panel comprising comprising Ms Maureen Bettle, Mr John Jenkins, Ms Lesley Lebkowicz and Mr David Brooks.