The subject of this work is the author’s maternal great grandmother. Born in 1872, in St Just, Cornwall, Ethel emigrated to Australia at the age of fifteen. Beginning married life in a one-room tin shack outside Mildura, she published articles and her own collection of short stories, moving house frequently and raising six children along the way. These poems are compact and precise micro-portraits in verse. With characteristic adherence to formal, almost claustrophobic strictures set against an animate sense of buoyancy and breath, Albiston explores the tension between high poetic artifice and the small moments of an ordinary life.
Praise for the sonnet according to ‘m’
It is tempting to describe this collection as flawless. The placement of each poem, and each syllable in each poem, is brilliantly orchestrated — Judges’ Report, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards
… full of brisk, innovative and dove-tailing sonnets, and each a model of concise verbal invention. — John Jenkins Southerly[These] poems boldly engage in a psychic wrestle with the world, pushing at the extremities of both orderliness and confusion. — Michelle Borzi Island
Jordie Albiston works within formal boundaries: traditional, experimental, or self-imposed. She seeks the musical cadence while endeavouring to exact a mathematical sense of existence. Often she utilises archival sources from which to wrest a kind of documentary cataloguing; other times she refers to an internal witness of experience. Her poetics are highly charged with vertigo, and doubt. Albiston has published six poetry collections. Her most recent book, the sonnet according to ‘m’, won the 2010 NSW Premier’s Prize.
“With each book Albiston extends her craft into new areas of formal and narrative interest to her. She conceives of her books as a whole rather than as a sum of parts. The Book of Ethel, about the life of her great Grandmother, would appear to have more in common with the historical research that was evident in Botany Bay Document (1996), its use of archival material particularly, as opposed to the more distinctly individual poems found in The Fall (2003).”
MARK O’FLYNN, Southerly
“Jordie Albiston’s seventh poetry collection—the Book of Ethel—is a woman’s life journey delicately and diligently distilled into a slim volume of verse.”
BRONWYN LOVELL, Lip Verse