anna jackson: pasture and flock

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Attention turns to the way in which, over successive volumes represented in Pasture and Flock, the poet generates worldly simulacra.[1]

§partii§

In her anthropomorphising of objects, events and relationships, Anna Jackson befuddles the very notion of arriving at meaningful coherence. As noted in parti in remake6, several poems poeticise her children Johnny and Elvira, and husband Simon (‘The long road to teatime’, ‘Catallus for children’, ‘Micky the fox terrier at the zoo’, ‘After the nit shampoo’, ’The cooking show’, ‘Late swim’, ‘Unspoken, at breakfast, ‘Bees, so many bees’, ‘Pasture and flock’). Others evoke friendships and acquaintances (titles alone mention Micky, Zina, Sarah, John, Margo (actually a car), Amanda, Saoirse, Sabina, Roland, Evelyn, Sylvia, Aline, Eleanor).[2] Still others revive long-dead or not-so-long-dead literary heavyweights (Dante, Catullus, Sappho, Horace, Jane Eyre, Dickinson, Myakovsky, D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Frank O’Hara, Robin Hyde, Curnow, Baxter, Susan Sontag). Through it all, the ever-sprightly persona comes across as tripping over images, irrepressible, quirky. Instead of emanating from consistency in thought and self-disclosure, from introspection, personal identity takes the form of a threading together of performative, often tumultuous utterances. The textual self comprises a Jackson-unJackson lookalike, concealing as it reveals and revealing as it conceals.[3] Meaning and commotion, if not one and the same, are at least inseparable.

As if in testimony, Pasture and Flock’s Endnotes—teasingly headed up “Guessed and host”[4]—advocate creative serendipity and time passing’s confluence. It turns out that 2018, when the selection appears, is the same year that Johnny, her eldest child, reaches the 23 years of age his mother was when she first began to write seriously for publication (‘retro-futurism’, it is tagged). And intriguingly, in her first published long sequence ‘My friendship with Mayakovsky’, included in AUP New Poets 1, Jackson similarly short-circuits literary history in paying homage to this outlandish avant-garde poet of the Bolshevik Revolution: ‘I persuaded him it would be futurist / to meet a girl [the aspiring kiwi poet!] in 1991’, announces the sun, her interlocutor in the poem. Insuperable geopolitical and human difference is condensed into happy coincidence, made all the more tantalising through its sheer improbability. In fact, the crucial thing that binds together the otherwise unrelated pair is a poetics of illogicality:

     Mayakovsky laps it up.
     Annoyed, I fling open the jewellery box
     of my skull – Mayakovsky,
     get a load of this!

The sequence’s proclaimed ‘depth of field! The suture! / The mise-en-scène!’ resides in Jackson’s insistence on accommodating the rambunctious bard initially at the Debretts hotel on High Street and, shortly thereafter, in her own flat at Moray Place, the Octogen, where Mayakovsky gets to associate with local street poet Dave Merritt, Gavin Shaw, and ‘Dunedin’s Arts Collective Super 8’. What better way to explore the peculiar wormholes through which diverse temperaments might meet: ‘”You mean Jackson Street?” the taxi driver / says, and I remember I am dead’?[5]

§

Except for section 7, the entire title sequence from The Long Road to Teatime (2000), Jackson’s first standalone volume, appears in Pasture and Flock. Baxter, Curnow, Mayakovsky, O’Hara, Dickinson, and most importantly Dante, join up as fellow travellers, extended poetic family.[6] Together they help guide our intrepid young kiwi poet as she and her real-life family, along with their friend Rose, embark on a day trip to an Auckland west coast beach. The outing starts, as did Dante’s, in medias res: ‘In the middle of the journey [to Karekare!] / we found ourselves lost’ (‘The road to Karekare’). They’ll all be home by teatime to be sure, but in the meantime the young poet-mother gets herself re-ensnared in time. These three Dante-like tercets indicate her willing upendedness as their extraordinary predicament is extrapolated:

    The moment stretches to include eternity
     like Emily Dickinson moments do.
     My heartbeat is an endless dash.

     Then time returns to the Inferno and races through dawn to dusk.
     Gravity turns inside out, our heads stand where our feet stood,
     and our feet are already walking down a hidden road.

     Dante moves on and I move on close behind
     till we see a seamless hole ahead of us,
     and through the hole I see the earth holding the sky. 
          (’Out the other side’)

The ‘endless dash’—co-opted from Dickinson’s work—signals the poet’s ability to achieve quick shifts, breathless suspensions, mouthings of sweet nothings that incorporate so much. Such defiant travelling through time amounts to a thorough ransacking of our usual predilections. Jackson nothings time-space (‘I see the earth holding the sky’). Thus, she and her family are free to accompany Dante on his singular trek into the dark knowledge of evil towards light, knowledge, and understanding. Poetic convention supervenes ordinary life’s demands. For all the malignity discoverable in Dante’s Hell, the family finds refuge there in the form of a simulacrum, an exceptional superposition of make-believe and everyday life.

This is what ‘seamless hole’ suggests, otherwise it is a literal nonsense. That hole (another version of ‘whole’, as ‘seamless’ suggests) might be an eye, or passed through by vision, or by an ‘I’ or a ‘we’, in order to reveal a skewwhiffy world of ‘earth holding the sky’ or ‘sky holding tight to the stars’. Any uneasiness that lingers (and it does) cannot be easily pinpointed or further explained. Because nothing in phantasia can be gripped to firmly or with a prospect of finality.

In the closing ‘Paradiso’ section, the family returns to normal life:

     On the long car ride home
     on the straight road to Auckland
     I sat on one side of Elvira
     and Rose sat on the other,
     and Johnny and Simon sat in front.
     We were a would of selves.
     We were a family.

The abstraction ‘would’ (like the preceding ‘I ran to catch us up’) is another captivating Jackson sleight-of-diction, intimating an open-ended fairy world, enticing, tender. Echoing ‘world’, it might be regarded as a further simile for the earlier-discussed title poem’s ‘flock’, simultaneously noun-verb, singular-plural, abstract-concrete.

§

Jackson’s co-option of literary sources continues in an impressive reworking of Catullus poems in the sequences ‘Catullus for children’ and ‘I, Clodia’, both substantially included in Pasture and Flock. Again, Jackson happily subverts her source materials to her own ends.[7] Whereas, in the original, Catullus capitalises on the close relationship and death of his lover Lesbia’s pet sparrow to inveigle a way back into her affections—

     Sparrow, my lady’s pet,
     with whom she often plays whilst she holds you in her lap,
     or gives you her finger-tip to peck and
     provokes you to bite sharply,
     whenever she, the bright-shining lady of my love,
     has a mind for some sweet pretty play—

—Jackson (aka Lesbia/Clodia), in her splendid ‘I, Clodia’ riposte, leaves him completely dangling—

     I’m grieving.
     Look at what was my little bird,
     yesterday – this was
     somebody, closer to me than…
     you had better be leaving.
          (‘Pipiabat [used to chirp…]’)[8]

In the earlier ‘Catullus for children’ sequence, Jackson, this time performing the role of sympathetic mother and watchful interlocutor, gives witness to the daily life events of her young son and daughter, Johnny and Elvira. In effect, she extends the caring shadow of an older Clodia over them as a kind of budding Catullus-Clodia constellation.[9] The same Catullus poem is responded to, this time from Elvira’s perspective, as she grapples with the loss of her own (imagined) pet sparrow –

     ‘I pretended
     it was a real bird. But we saw
     it was a pretend bird. It looked 
     like a real bird but it was a pretend 
     bird. So we put it in my breadbin.’ 
          (‘Sparrow (as told by Elvira)’)

Overlapping emotions of desire and intrigue in the original Catullus poems, and in the Jackson corollaries, reveal contrasting inner responses. Jackson’s Clodia remonstrates, unconvinced and indignant; Elvira naively wills alive a pair of lifeless feathers, concedes the bird is only ‘pretend’, and unceremoniously disposes of it. In the latitude Jackson grants herself in redeploying her materials, we see a considerable prowess is put on display. Lippy Jackson∝Clodia and naive-seeming Jackson∝Elvira∝Johnny show themselves every bit a match to the Catullus poet-persona, well-intentioned or not.

In a riveting tit-for-tat concoction, ‘I, Clodia’ doubles down on this strategy.[10] To Catullus’s beseeching ever more kisses (‘Then, when we have made up many thousands, / we will confuse our counting’ [5]), the retort comes ‘don’t let… my flighty ways, / make you break off from your kissations!’ In effect, Jackson’s Clodia girlishly trivialises his carnal hyperbolics. The ‘flighty ways’ and delightfully echoing kissing vocabulary with which the poem ends further discount his failure to sustain her amorous interest:

     there’s work
     to be done right here in our kissiary…
     only, how many will it be till you’re done? 
          (‘This business of kissing’)

In ‘Uncounted’, Clodia, in turn, laments her own displacement in Catullus’s affections by an interloping [mere] ‘slip of a girl’ (a deprecatory form of self-reference not uncommon in Jackson’s verse). Keen to press a way back into his consideration, Clodia delivers a grand gesture of her own: ‘I would give up all posterity for one uncounted kiss’. The ‘uncounted kiss’ (previously at issue was their tedious countability) suggests a playful yearning on her part for some genuine tenderness, rather than the rumble-tumble kissing that Catullus insists on and that she dismisses. Clodia, too, it seems, is pulled this way and that between irritation, uncertainty, and a desire for satisfying reciprocation.

While carefully matching the quick wit of the Catullus poems, Jackson is selective in those she chooses to respond to, primarily because her focus is on matters of romantic intrigue.[11] At the same time, references to key historical protagonists and political rivalries are retained.[12] For instance, she beautifully captures Alexander’s vainglory in his cruel defeat of Persian Darius, especially the hollowness of his promise of protection to the local women. In an interesting variation on Catullus that indicates a sense of present-day political consternation, Jackson’s Clodia depicts herself, on behalf of these women, slaughtering the haughty conqueror in his bath—

     where the blood
     could be neatly contained and not ruin
     the beautiful carpets of Darius! 
          (‘[To Caelius Rufus]’) 

Elsewhere, in another witty #Me-too rejoinder, Clodia outs Catullus’s commodifying hubris, dismissing his misdirected efforts to seduce her as a ‘sunk cost / in your accounting system…’ (‘Whom shall I kiss now?’).

On the other hand, Jackson’s own accounting system is beyond reproach. Of 32 poems included in the original I, Clodia sequence, half or 16 are reproduced in ‘I, Clodia’ (all but one associated with the Lesbia group, see endnote 11). While demonstrating her own scholarly nous, it is striking to see just how completely accessible and contemporary Jackson makes her own sequences.[13]

To give a further example of her dexterity, one significant small re-arrangement occurs in Pasture and Flock, whereby Jackson gives pole position to what had been, in I, Clodia, the closing poem in the sequence:

     I had a dream I was a ghost
     And only one man could see me… 
          (‘[fragment]’)[14]

Thus, a promising ‘dream’ of being ‘seen’ is relocated, establishing at the outset a tone of longing that now permeates the entire sequence. As well as revealing her predisposition to romantic yearning, as previously noted (from the Historical note: ‘Romantic… insistence… happy ending… reconciled… I am alone’), this choice highlights the fascination Jackson shows towards the interplay in life between convergence & incompleteness, shapeliness & disarray.

There’s another fortuitous outcome. The truncated ‘I, Clodia’ sequence, otherwise left essentially intact, now ends with the previously penultimate poem ‘[unheard]’, which has ‘Clodia, but a ghost once loved by a poet’, echo and return our attention to the spiritual bond announced in the (repositioned) opening poem, in what amounts to a clever chiming rhetorical coup. It seems that ends do serve as beginnings and beginnings as ends, advantageous outcomes secured by the mere shift of a pen.

Mostly, as is the averred intention in ‘Catullus for children’, Jackson sidesteps expressions of overt eroticism, inclining rather toward an intellectualisation of seduction and the esoteric.[15] With rare exception (‘the violent taking and retaking of each other’, ‘the loose disarray of my curls’, ‘can you see me, my hair whipping my cheekbones’), the tenor adopted is one of discretion, without the least hint of sexual subservience. As she explains in the Poetry Shelf interview (endnote 13):

     Yes, the Catullus for Children poems were a kind of translation game, domesticat-
     ing Catullus not just into a contemporary New Zealand setting but revisiting his
     poetry in terms of the preoccupations of a seven-year-old child. I liked how the
     excess and passion of his poetry translated into the different kinds of excesses of
     the playground, and also was interested to see what was left with the very adult
     themes of his poems taken away.

For all the dark themes and hints in the poems, it is this alchemical refining of mistrust into joy, manipulation into naivety, that marks both ‘I, Clodia’ and ‘Catullus for children’. The latter addresses the children as ‘you’, even as Jackson (as mum) does most of the talking. As we have seen thus far in our discussion, Jackson blithely shuffles off the expectations of others, including those she may have inadvertently placed on herself, as inhibiting, opting instead for confabulative forays that evade the heaviness of imposed societal demands, behavioural or otherwise. The rhetorical pendulum swings between savvy adult Jackson-remembering-Clodia and unwitting stand-ins in the form of Johnny and Elvira:

     Oh why do they have to ruin 
     everything, asking to
     go for a sail? Why turn 
     glory into dust? Have
     they no sense of occasion?
     They don’t deserve
     to come even on 
     your flights of fancy. 
         (‘Travellers’ tales’)

It is the mother, speaking on behalf of Johnny, who feels this outward threat (the poem recounts a visit to the Hamilton of the family’s past and its association with adventuring: voyaging yachts, temples, columns, exaggerated intrigues: ‘your flights of fancy’). The parallels are delightful. The ‘thousands more’ kisses that were formerly the onslaught of a haranguing Catullus are now those bestowed on mum’s cheeks by the school-attending son (‘Deer’).

Catullus’s poems concerning rival Rufus’s escape into muteness become, for Johnny’s young friend Rufus, those written in the refuge of his fantasy-world hiding place.[16] ‘As big a number as the Libyan sand-grains / that lie at asafoetida-bearing Cyrene’, in Catullus 7, serves as reference to ‘every grain of iron sand // on Karekare beach’ (‘Bomber Star’)—taking us straight back to the same beach celebrated by the family in ‘The Long Road to Teatime’.

§

Rosa-Loy painting ‘Ablage’ source of cover detail in The gas Leak

Only ‘The gas-fitter’s wife’, the fourth and final sequence in the book-length The gas leak (2006), is included in Pasture and Flock.[17] (And from this sequence the one piece excised is ‘At last the minor leak is traced and sealed’: ‘I wake up once again to a life / I can only continue…’, perhaps due to its uncharacteristic morbidity in tone.) Once again, the thematic emphasis is on wifeliness and motherly care—and again, this encourages a further incursion into the field of poetics/sexiotics. Notes (not reproduced in Pasture and Flock) states that the four-part sequence had started with the 14-sonnet ‘The gas-fitter’s wife’. From there, Jackson explains, it was extended to create a recognisable world of domestic relations developed out of the murky triangularity of sexual relationship implicit in the source, a translation by J. M. Coetzee’s of the Dutch poet Gerrit Achterberg’s ‘Ballade van de gasfitter’. The unannounced, shadowy marriage situation intimated in the original gets explored in tangential curiosity in The gas leak. As elsewhere, Jackson draws on her own growing up years and later household experience, creating a family dynamic with its own precocious teenage daughter, and dedicating the book to Simon.[18] To some extent, the real-life correlation is invited, with neither side of the equation determinative—in the poetic would, fact and fantasy are exchangeable, creation preeminent.

For example, the obscured Achterberg marriage of the source, and the explored The gas leak marriage, Notes declares, are ‘married to each other’, and the reader is tempted to speculatively add the that The gas leak marriage and the Jackson ‘marriage’ are also, in some inviting but elusive way, ‘married to each other’.[19]

Jackson, poet of the benign macabre, embeds a certain mischievous into every blade of her writing. Her use of simulacra conjures a multi-worlded space that at any moment might collapse into its composite parts or an altogether new amalgam. Tellingly, the not-included teenage daughter section 3 of The gas leak is without basis in the source text and provides Jackson an opportunity to further extrapolate some familiar concerns about growing up and family dynamics. Section 3, says Jackson, ‘follows her [adolescent daughter’s] life, back out of the house again and into the world, giving as well an extra perspective on her parents’ lives’.

In another deft disruption that forms part of Jackson’s thoroughgoing adaptation, the gasfitter’s male (read: aggressor’s) gaze is replaced by that of the female protagonist, reversing the conventional dichotomy of the ‘desiring’ male preying upon a ‘desired’ female (a recalibration of gender stereotyping that we see examined from different perspectives in Catullus for Children and I, Clodia). The female speaker becomes owner rather than owned of desire (‘the poet-I-desire, unknown and female’). The gasfitter is effectively side-lined, and the distant third figure, ‘God’ (a metaphysical figure of absence or ‘holes’ in Achterberg’s triangle), becomes, in this adaptation, God-the-burglar, the new ‘You’ (male?) who assumes the role of desiring but only from a marginalised position as ‘an absence or a hole’. Sufficiently confused? Suffice to say, Jackson relishes the ability to make new things out of nothings or somethings, allowing refashioned otherness to assume an autonomy or its own.

A closing delight occurs when it comes time to print out the completed sequence, only for Jackson to discover that the printer malfunctions and, instead of the expected letters and words and lines of the sonnets, all that appears are small line-by-line thumb-like smudges or ‘corpses’—‘cryptic signs’, as she describes them in Notes. Checking her computer, she discovers that the entire document reveals the same distortion, ‘squashed little heaps of letters’. And that is exactly how the final sonnet in the ‘The gas-fitter’s wife’ appears, 14 lines beginning and ending in smudge marks. Who is not to say that these smudges arguably carry the poetic message of the entire sequence? Again, the reader is ushered into the Jacksonian world of the uncanny, as she explains in the Poetry Shelf interview:

The research I have been doing recently on the gothic in children’s and young adult literature seems to have bled into this sequence [in relation to the teenage daughter, first mentioned in the preceding ‘Marriage’ sequence] in a way that actually, probably only picks up on the latent gothic qualities of my original response to Achterberg – whose own poetry, not to mention his life story, is pretty much as gothic as it gets’ (my italics).[20]

§tobecontinued§

Notes:

[1] AUP New Poets 1 (AUP, 1999); The Long Road to Teatime (Auckland UP, 2000); The Pastoral Kitchen (Auckland UP, 2001); Catullus for Children (Auckland UP, 2003); The gas leak (Auckland UP, 2006); Thicket (Auckland UP, 2011); I, Clodia (Auckland UP, 2014); Pasture and Flock: New and Selected Poems (Auckland UP, 2018).

[2] Just as family members are ‘poeticised’ in the poems, others mentioned may be either actual or fanciful: ‘The names in most of the poems are fictional, and the poems themselves mostly fictions’ (Anna Jackson, email to author, 4 October 2020).

[3] The exact relationships depicted in Pasture and Flock are often capricious. A mathematical analogy might be the formula y = f (x), where y = poetic persona ‘Anna Jackson’ and x = Anna Jackson in ‘real life’. This raises intriguing questions about whether a particular thing can be simultaneously itself and another thing, or several different things at once? Is existence unitary? Are literature and everyday existence reliably co-extensive? What is at risk in our existing? More often than not, the word dream (similarly ghost) in these poems serves as a go-to word intimating captivation or a granting of self-permission: spell-binding applies to both, as seen in ‘Salty hair’. To give one illustration, in ‘Unspoken, at breakfast’ the word ‘dream’ is used no less than six times.

[4] The phrase is lifted from the later poem ‘Poets know words, know routes, know ghosts’, which ends with this homophonic absurdity.

[5] Another serendipity: Jackson’s current Island Bay address is listed as ‘Jackson Street’ <http://www.annajackson.nz/about.html, accessed 1 November 2022>.

[6] Frank O’Hara, another Mayakovsky aficionado and Jackson hero, founder of Personism, is said by fellow New York School poet James Schuyler to have shared the Russian futurist’s extreme temperament. Connecting such flamboyant poets is what Schuyler dubs ‘the intimate yell’. Like Jackson, O’Hara wrote poems in praise of Mayakovsky (‘A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island’ and ‘Notes on Second Avenue’), elsewhere explaining the Russian’s influence on him: ‘Where Mayakovsky and de Kooning come in, is that they both have done works as big as cities where the life in the work is autonomous (not about actual city life) and yet similar’. <https://newyorkschoolpoets.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/mayakovsky-frank-ohara-and-the-intimate-yell/, accessed 20 December 2019>. Jackson’s own version of Personism, whereby verifiable biographical detail is rendered autonomous in the poem, is reflected in the words about its founder whispered in her ear by Dante: ‘Another poet will take you to the sun. // Frank O’Hara knows the sun well / and knows the way to Paradise’ (‘My Friendship with Dante’). The ‘I’ in poems, ‘Unknown unknowns’ posits, is ‘too privately pleasurable / really to be real’.

[7] In the same Endnotes mentioned, Jackson applies certain verbs to characterise her use of various source materials. ‘Catullus for children’ is termed a rework, ‘The gas leak’ responds to Achterberg, ‘I, Clodia’ offers imaginary responses, ‘Micky the fox terrier at the zoo’ and ‘Zina at the zoo’ borrow from children’s stories. Displays of homage aside, the dedicatory mode entails an element of matching—even out-matching—the chosen models. The psychological aspect of such contestation is familiar enough to us at least since the time of Harold Bloom’s ground-breaking Anxiety of Influence, 1973.

[8] Tellingly, Jackson adopts the real-life name of Catullus’s poetic Lesbia. I prefer this Perseus text (http://www.vroma.org/~hwalker/VRomaCatullus/002.html) to the literal translation found at wikisource: ‘Songbird – my sweetheart’s pet – / she likes to play with you / have you in her lap apply her fingertip / to your attack / tease you often into sharp nips / when it pleases her’ (https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Catullus_2), which misses the former’s feistiness. Catullus 3 deals with the actual death of the sparrow.

[9] Jackson explains: ‘Catullus for Children is written not from the point of view of a young Clodia but a young Catullus, and I had Johnny in mind rather than Elvira’ (Anna Jackson, email to author, 4 October 2020). At the time, the children were aged about 7 and 4.

[10] Jackson has acknowledged that her Clodia amply satisfies Catullus’s characterisation of her: ‘He claims to hate her and to love her, to desire her more as he respects her less, to be determined to give her up, to yearn for her return. He finds her heartless, faithless, fickle, passionate, lovely, witty, facetious, and, finally, possibly, against all expectation, willing to be true to him’ (Historical note, I, Clodia).

[11] Jackson’s I, Clodia excludes a majority of the Catullus carmina, in fact 90 of the total 116. Of the 116 poems and fragments attributed to Catullus (Wikipedia), Lesbia/Clodia is the subject of 26. Of these, 23 form part of the 32-poem sequence in I, Clodia (other topics are listed as Invective (3), Friends (2), Miscellaneous (3)).

[12] Without foregrounding them, Jackson alludes to hinted rivalries between Clodia and her lover, husband, brother and—hovering over the entire topography of personal intrigue—Cicero as Roman prosecutor and political antagonist. The Historical note in I, Clodia occupies three pages and maps the terrain, campaigns, key controversies, and various rivalries involving the main figures (Catullus and Lesbia, her husband Metellus Celer, her brother Clodius, her confidant Caelius Rufus, and her detractor Cicero). Accordingly, rather than reiterate the background in Pasture and Flock, Jackson simply refers readers to the original publication note. That substantial scholarship underpins the sequence is made clear in Jackson’s modestly attesting that ‘The “I, Clodia” sequence took an unusual amount of scholarship for a poetry collection and I couldn’t have completed it without the support I was given’ (Acknowledgements, I, Clodia). Among those acknowledged are reputable Latin scholars with their different lines of argument.

[13] In a Paula Green Poetry Shelf interview, Jackson comments: ‘I was drawn to the narrative possibilities that the Catullus poems suggest but do not resolve, and I was also drawn to the romantic intensity of the poetry, and wondered what it would be like to be on the receiving end of it, and perhaps to match it’ <https://nzpoetryshelf.com/2018/03/29/poetry-shelf-interviews-anna-jackson, accessed 10 January 2020>. Similarly, in the Catullus for Children Notes, the inspiration is traced: ‘I first heard Catullus through Karl Stead’s voice’ – though the immediate spur comes through reading Stevie Smith’s translation and hearing Catullus as a ‘Roman Frank O’Hara’. I, Clodia’s Acknowledgements reiterate the compliment paid Stead, ‘whose translations… into a New Zealand idiom first gave me a Catullus I could feel at home with’.

[14] In ending the original I, Clodia sequence with [fragment], in preference to the ‘broken-heart’ed denouement implied in poem 11, generally preferred by Latin scholars’, Jackson reveals her predilection: ‘This chronology for the poetry is my own and has no basis in Catullus scholarship’. ‘In my even more romantic insistence on a happy ending, or at least an ending in which Catullus and Clodia are reconciled’, Historical note explains, ‘it seems I am alone’.

[15] Catullus’s poetry, on the contrary, oftentimes is sexually coarse (online translations forewarn about ‘references to the digestive and reproductive systems that may give offense’). For example, ‘I will sodomize you and face-fuck you, / cocksucker Aurelius and bottom bitch Furius, / who think, from my little verses, / because they’re a little soft, that I have no shame’ <https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Catullus_16, accessed 10 February 2020>.

[16] ‘Catullus writes about a former friend [Marcus Caelius] Rufus who betrayed him in an unspecified way, perhaps referring to the affair with Clodia…, the alleged attempt of Caelius to poison her, or subsequent attacks on her through Cicero (see pro Caelio)’ <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Caelius_Rufus#, accessed 16 January 2020>. The Rufus in ‘Catullus for Children’ is a much less threatening, isolated figure: ‘There’s this boy Rufus / in your class and he is so cool, / everyone wants to play with him. / But half the time, he is writing poetry’ (‘Poet’).

[17] The cover image, which shows two similarly attired women dressed in white collar and red sweater against a grainy red background (remember the cover image of Pasture and Flock), is a detail taken from the work of Leipzig-based artist Rosa Loy, who has been introduced in the following terms: ‘Loy fills large canvases with mysterious and compelling all-female dream worlds. Brittle and thick, the casein [an ancient water-based paint derived from milk protein] imparts intensity to her paintings, which are both dark and lovely, abounding with references to fairytales, German and art history, Freudian eroticism, authoritarian rule, and death’ <https://www.artsy.net/artist/rosa-loy, accessed 1 January 2020>. I mention ‘detail’: omitted is the right half of the painting, which displays several shelves of antiquarian sea- or embryo-like creatures (like the small human-seeming body or placenta that floats within the laboratory beaker in the Loy work, counterbalancing the strange doppelganger effect of the woman-pair. Or are they to be viewed as yin yang symbols, as suggested by the slightly dissociated image that appears on the pages one of the women holds open?

[18] Erin Scudder has written perceptively about the use of personal acquaintance and pronouns in Jackson’s work: ‘In The Gas Leak, it is no longer clear whether we are in Jackson’s house with Jackson’s family and friends: familiar names are replaced with generic markers (sister, wife), the first section opens in uncharacteristic third person, and pronouns throughout lose their referential footing in reality’ (‘Dear Thief, Anna Jackson’s The Gas Leak’, JNZL, No. 35:2 (2017), 134).

[19] In a clarification, Jackson writes: ‘In The Gas Leak, for instance, the middle section from the daughter’s point of view is not from Elvira’s point of view. It is true I play on the idea of some connection with a “Jackson” in the Gas Leak section – but the sister is not my sister, my husband is not a gas-fitter, the daughter’s section reworks poems [originally] published in Sport as a series titled “My Life When I Had a Life”, and based in part on my own adolescent diaries’ (Anna Jackson, email to author, 3 October 2020).

[20] Jackson’s prevailing interest in children and the gothic is indicated in her involvement in three research books on the subject. The following is representative: ‘Like South Gondor, children’s Gothic today is a contested space, with horror and epic elements within a carnivalesque space of playfulness and experimentation; a space where allegorical and displaced versions of cultural debates and concerns are played out’ (New Directions in Children’s Gothic: Debatable Lands, ed. Anna Jackson (Routledge: NY, 2017). Again, this is effectively a childhood space co-inhabited by an adult woman, critic and poet.

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