I, Clodia, and Other Portraits

Anna Jackson



I, Clodia Metelli, thank you, Valerius Catullus,
for the sweet memento you sent of our brief time
together . . .


 ‘I, Clodia’ is the story of Clodia Metelli – poet and lover – and her relations with her far-away paramour Catullus, with her husband Metellus Celer, her brother Publius Clodius and her accuser Cicero. By giving Clodia – the ‘Lesbia’ of Catullus’s famous love poetry – her own first-person narration, Anna Jackson upends and reinvigorates the beloved classical sequence with biting wit and tender attention. Who was Clodia and what did she think about the affair, the gossip, the scandal, the poems? Jackson honours and subverts her source material in lines that are a marvel of ventriloquism.


The book’s second section, ‘The photographer’s secret’, furthers this superb exploration of voice and portrayal. The photographer in this sequence reads, writes, gives presents and considers the art of portraiture. But who is examining, and who is being examined? Above all else, Anna Jackson takes us within and without a range of characters in her characteristically witty style – sometimes mock breathless, sometimes dryly pointed, and always clever, stylish and emotionally engaging. If a photograph is a ‘secret about a secret’, as Diane Arbus put it, these poems are also secrets – about lives; about portraiture; about those who have the power to record and betray.




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Anna Jackson has published 5 poetry collections with Auckland University Press, most recently Thicket (2011), shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Book Awards in 2012. She has a DPhil from Oxford, where she has also lectured, and now teaches English Literature at Victoria University of Wellington. Jackson is the author of Diary Poetics: Form and Style in Writers' Diaries 1915–1962 (2010) and, with Charles Ferrall, British Juvenile Fiction 1850–1950: The Age of Adolescence (2009).

November 2014, 210 x 135 mm, 76 pages
ISBN 978 1 86940 820 6, $24.99