Maiden, Jennifer 1949–

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Maiden, Jennifer 1949–


Born April 7, 1949, in Penrith, New South Wales, Australia; married David Toohey, 1984; children: one daughter. Education: Macquarie University, B.A., 1974.


Home—Penrith, New South Wales, Australia.


Writer. Tutor in creative writing for outreach, evening college, and community-sponsored classes in New South Wales, Australia, and for classes offered by Fellowship of Australian Writers and University of Western Sydney, 1976-91; writer in residence with Australian National University, New South Wales State Torture and Trauma Rehabilitation Unit, and University of Western Sydney, all 1989.


Multiple Australia Council grants or fellowships, between 1974 and 2002; New South Wales Premier's Prizes, 1991, 2000; Victorian Premier's Prize, 1991; Christopher Brennan Award for lifetime achievement, Fellowship of Australian Writers, 1999; book awards from Melbourne Age, 2006; Harri Jones Memorial Prize, University of Newcastle; Butterly/Earla Hooper Award, Southerly.



Tactics, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 1974.

The Occupying Forces, Makar Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 1975.

The Problem of Evil, Poetry Society of Australia (Sydney, Australia), 1975.

Birthstones, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, Australia), 1978.

The Border Loss, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, Australia), 1979.

For the Left Hand, South Head Press (Sydney, Australia), 1981.

The Trust, Black Lightning Press (Wentworth Falls, New South Wales, Australia), 1988.

The Winter Baby, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, Australia), 1990.

Bastille Day, National Library of Australia (Canberra, Australia), 1990.

Selected Poems of Jennifer Maiden, Penguin (New York, NY), 1990.

Acoustic Shadow, Penguin (New York, NY), 1993.

Mines, Paper Bark Press (North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia), 1999.

Friendly Fire, Giramondo Publishing (Artarmon, New South Wales, Australia), 2005.

Contributor of poetry to periodicals, including Southerly.


Mortal Details (short stories), Rigmarole (Melbourne, Australia), 1977.

The Terms (novel), Hale & Iremonger (Sydney, Australia), 1982.

Play with Knives (novel), Allen & Unwin (Sydney, Australia), 1990.

Contributor of essays, articles, and reviews to periodicals, including Heat, Australian Book Review, Australian, Age (Melbourne, Australia), and Australian Literary Studies.


Australian poet and novelist Jennifer Maiden often writes about violence and uncertainty within a suburban setting—sometimes Australian, but also American. "‘Ambivalent, ambidextrous, androgynous, amorous, ironic’—so Jennifer Maiden characterizes her poetry," explained Contemporary Poets contributor Nan Bowman Albinski. "‘Teasing, intellectual irony, too has always seemed to me a humane new channel toward pensive seduction for what otherwise, in more direct poetry, can be a jealous urge for power over the reader.’ Such poetic intent suggests demanding work, resistant to easy interpretation," Albinski concluded.

"Often, my fiction is not inspired by actual experience," Maiden revealed in an essay on her work published in Australian Literary Studies. "I was amazed, for example, that when my novel Play with Knives—about a suburban girl who has killed her younger siblings at the age of eleven, and also about her relationship with her male probation officer—was published in 1991, one intelligent female reviewer explained to her readership that I was a poet who had been so changed by my work as writer in residence at the New South Wales Torture and Trauma Rehabilitation Unit that I had written this novel! In fact, I took on the residency because of my pre-existing interest in the topic of political and other forms of violence…. The novel was written almost a decade before the residency." The concept of suburbia is one that Maiden finds especially enriching, in contrast to many other writers. "Cities are planned and tend to lack what Nye Began called ‘the gift of the unexpected,’" Maiden stated in Australian Literary Studies. "This is not true of the suburbs. Nowhere else can the essential, eternal and eternally reversing dialectic between icon and iconoclasm be observed and experienced so well."



Contemporary Poets, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Age (Melbourne, Australia), August 26, 2006, biographical sketch, pp. 26-27.

Australian Literary Studies, October, 1998, Jennifer Maiden, "The Suburban Problem of Evil," p. 115.