Jacinta Le Plastrier reviews 'The Weekly Poem' edited by Jordie Albiston
THE WEEKLY POEM: 52 EXERCISES IN CLOSED AND OPEN FORMS
edited by Jordie Albiston
Puncher & Wattman, $29.95 pb, 183 pp, 9781922186577
Discussing the genesis of a poem, W.H. Auden told Paris Review that at any given time he had two things on his mind: ‘a theme that interests me and a problem of verbal form, meter, diction, etc. The theme looks for the right form; the form looks for the right theme. When the two come together, I am able to start writing.’ Australian poet Jordie Albiston’s The Weekly Poem, comprising fifty-two one-poem-per-week exercises, is a guide designed around such a synthesis. Able to be used by individual poets or set by teachers for creative writing students, each exercise marries a theme with the task of adhering to Albiston’s instructions and the formal concerns for that week.
One theme of ‘a swim or dive’ is to be explored through blank verse (in iambic pentameter), written as a single stanza which is also ‘a sustained piece of poetic description’, to a maximum length of twenty-four lines. Alongside weeks devoted to subjects such as ‘Sonnet (Petrarchan)’ or ‘Sonnet (Shakespearean)’, there are looser, more ‘open’ investigations. Each exercise is supported by selections of existing poems for recommended reading; one or more of these are reproduced. This curating is a reflection of Albiston’s formidable command of poetic technique, both in her theoretical understanding of it, and in the way it can be employed in the actual creation of a poem, as attested to across her own oeuvre of eight poetry collections to date.
While the focus in these selections is on poems by Australian poets, there are also selections from overseas poets and seminal masters of poetry in English. In this regard, The Weekly Poem can also be enjoyed as a wonderful anthology, thrumming with poems that are alive to this diverse art. There is a highly useful glossary of essential poetic terms.