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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, No. 1, March 1, 1976

The Occupying Forces. Jennifer Maiden

The Occupying Forces. Jennifer Maiden.

Jennifer Maiden's new book, 'The Occupying Forces' is essentially a mosaic of poetry, each piece vibrant, complete, the whole capable of evoking a surprising variety of sympathetic response from the reader.

Illuminated by vivid and intense images, scene and relationship are caught and held suspended. In 'Atmosphere' alternation of description:

"From the toby jug, cream
pocked thick, brims down
and silks our soup-strewn

with what appears to be the poetess's immediate personal insight:

"You wait. Your eyes
stop pretending direction
and drug
themselves on hazy colour."

infuses the reader with both physical and mental perceptions - one has the impression that the poetess is totally aware.

Yet moods evoked are not always extensive, universal. A poem like 'The Novelist' is able to pinpoint a particular feeling concisely, exactly, and 'Kriegspiel' is an outstanding poem, in that while it is controlled by a firm evocation of sensation, there is a separation of mood from consciousness - feeling is almost intellectualised, compacted until it becomes little more than just another form of colour, a part of the game itself.

Ultimately this is a vital book. Jennifer Maiden is able to maintain consistently the intense pulse of emotion necessary to valid lyrical poetry, and even more importantly to communicate this quality to her readers. The Occupying Forces' is a book which should be read.

Not so, however, with Rachel McAlpine's 'Lament for Ariadne.' Essential to this book's particular genre of poetry is the ability to contain impression by creating through a series of swift, vivid images the basis of a complete scene. Obviously these images should combine to present an harmonious whole, yet throughout much of the book connection between images is only tenuous. There is no sense of unity, and consequently an inability to evoke any responsive feeling of the type that makes poetry cogent.

In 'Incident at King Arthur's Court' particularly, words seem to be used as separate units, not as harmonious segments of the whole.

"I'm happy for you both
feel free
he stays
and leaves
and comes again to say
it all again."

The reader is not left with a communicated sensation of sparse barren reality, merely with an impression of empty verse. Even the initial off-hand mockery is not valid - to mock successfully one must mock more than cardboard characters, and the three protagonists are very flat and incomplete.

Technically also the poems are lacking. Without the veneer of efficacious imagery, the bare bones of the structure protrude to a form-marring degree.

"we rise
from a wrinkled sea
to a wrinkled sky
ripped from a friend

I do not cry" - Phrases like these annoy, and do not succeed in performing their office. On the whole, the book appears to be merely pretentious.