Shortlist year: 2022
Shortlist category: Poetry
Published by: Puncher & Wattmann
The sonnet is a classic lyric form that has beguiled and perplexed poets for over seven hundred years. In 'Fifteeners', award-winning poet Jordie Albiston re-invents the sonnet structure, trading meter for syllabics, and employing fifteen lines in lieu of the traditional fourteen. Themes of destruction and loss, hope and wonder, and the pressing fate of an unstable world, are coded like enduring questions into the machinery of these extraordinary poems. 'Fifteeners' is Albiston's thirteenth collection of poetry.
About the author
Jordie Albiston published thirteen poetry collections and a handbook on poetic form. Two of her books have been adapted for opera, both enjoying seasons at the Sydney Opera House. Albiston's poetry has been recognised by prizes including the Mary Gilmore Award, the NSW Premier's Prize, the John Bray Award and the Patrick White Literary Award. She has worked under Fellowships at the State Library of Victoria, the National Library (Canberra) and the Jamieson Library (Cornwall, UK).
Albiston works within formal boundaries: traditional, experimental, or self-imposed. She seeks the musical cadence while endeavouring to exact a mathematical sense of existence. (Since publication of 'Fifteeners', the author has passed away).
Jordie Albiston's 'Fifteeners' is an exceptionally accomplished series of mutated sonnets which are dextrous and formally elaborated to an exceptional degree with a marvellous intricacy of patterning and extraordinary feats of internal rhyme. To say the book is masterly in technique is, however, if left to stand alone, a distortion of the intensity Albiston gets from her virtuosity and the way in which a book that begins with very patterned and recursive quotations from the mystic Julian of Norwich manages to be a rigorous and meditative examination of selfhood and its transcendence. This is a poetry whose lyricism is so powerfully and elaborately patterned that it comes across with the blinding power of great devotional poetry, even though it encompasses motherhood and fears of a material apocalypse. This is a poetry of great cumulative force in which the self-possession of the poet would seem absolute were it not for the interventions of every encroaching opposite: bearing a child, mayhem and the mystery of the darkness beyond. But this is a poetry of tremendous sensuous embodiment which is haunted at every point by the yearnings of the spirit.