Stone Mother Tongue by Annamaria Weldon UWAP 2018
Annamaria Weldon has produced an impressive collection with Stone Mother Tongue. Her imagery has some lovely naturalistic twists and turns with some breath-taking phrases. These are well crafted poems featuring lively, lithe lines, and gorgeous situations like in the ’16 Haiku for Lakelands Library Windows’, where Weldon mentions:
Five black swans fly home
at nightfall, singing their way
through the starless sky
Peppermint trees let
their Rapunzel foliage down,
grounding the sea-breeze
This engaging, inventive, romantic style can, at times appear somewhat ironic, producing a playful tension, since the work’s often based on observations from difficult climbing, and even, at times, stumbling . As fans of antiquities know, discoveries that can at first seem dusty, damaged, misshapen, or even wrong, may tease the imagination, until you know what you’re actually seeing, and Weldon’s poetry also reveals this kind of experience.
On the back cover Kevin Brophy explains that before much of this substantial volume, of 134 pages, was produced, Weldon depended on her dedicated and extensive “…experience of clambering over temples and monuments, built by her ancestors,” for notes and inspiration. Tracy Ryan also explains on the back of this subtly designed, quietly attractive book’s light-bright yellow and soft mid-green cover, that the work indeed presents, “…vivid realities…, And also how a migrant’s encounter with Australia provokes reinterpretation of ‘home’…,” reminding us, as excellent work like this often does, that the cultures of the world are linked in so many ways. Connections exist, for instance, when we notice how past cultures share style elements with our own. Humankind’s shared experience of aspects of motherhood also represents a profound link. Weldon’s poetry mentions various foods, such as wild rosemary, figs… and psychotropic chickpeas, or other substances which have affected our state of mind, and well being, providing a down-to-earth kind of resonance.
Those who relish examining museum collections will welcome this collection as the writing is packed with detail and ideas. A reader may gradually realise, where the hands of other people have altered something. We feel identified, we’re drawn to understand whatever it is we see, if a human touch is evident there.
In some ways the poems themselves resemble an archaeological dig, brushing away layers, trying to find clues to what people did before. At the end of ‘Initiation at the Meditation Seat Mnajdra’, Weldon writes, after crossing the threshold, examining the ruins, then resting on a worn stone meditation seat, that it feels as if she is becoming one with the human-made forms. She’s climbed a long way, then
After such a long climb
the idea of destination dissolves
gradually, old tethers loosening
with every breath, every breath
echoes the sounds of the sea, the sea
shining obsidian beyond my sight
as if it were the root of light
opening a thousand eyes inside me.
Weldon shows how, when exploring an ancient ruin, you may find yourself in the wondrous and perhaps frustrating situation, of having so many points of view that you could never explore them all. Or perhaps she is saying that she feels like the ancients are somehow observing her. The obvious beauty and lyricism of the verse, makes me feel this is a welcome feeling, to feel akin to those who’ve now long passed away. Also mentioning the sea as giving life (as “the root of light”), alludes perhaps to the beginning of life on this planet.
This book does seem to acknowledge spiritual matters and scientific theories together, which I appreciated as a difficult task but well shown. Weldon has meticulously yet beautifully fashioned every poem and each work offers more than you may think at first. Some verses stay in the mind a while, you could feel drawn to read and re-read many favourites. Ruminating further on this work we can feel rewarded if we develop our own insights.
Weldon takes us on ever a detailed examinations and hints at possible meanings for a great many varied sights, and experiences, as if we are experiencing these afresh. In, Part 3. Anthropocene Antipodes, a poem, ‘My Father’s Icons’, adeptly weaves together ideas about family and relationships, with the great freedom poetry offers us. This includes the weather, landscape, classical music, and other personalised details from a memory. The poet recreates a day when she found her father conducting, Ode to Joy, knee deep in rye grass, by a shed from where a radio played the song itself. Images float abound about technology, religion, trees re-sprouting, and Sirius the dog-star
…………………………………………………………….like Sirius, the dog-star who seems to vanish
absorbed by the greater light when it orbits into solar brilliance.
Such imagery beautifully leads to how her father is now gone, but a vivid memory remains, and the poet makes recollection seem so grand, kind and generous. Her love for her father does this magnifying trick which nevertheless seems more real than imagined. Some phrases are so beautiful,
sightings and oracles remind me who you are
…your mind soared to where there are no maps.
a path through terrain ripe with decay: follow the light all day…
I also love her idea of how,
…rye grass and white clover constellate the paddocks.
I appreciate how the book is printed on cream paper, much easier to read than a stark black-and-white page. Some fine monochrome photographs also offer much in the way of providing extra atmospheric effects, and visual references. Images are well labelled and you can easily do further research if you wish, using the photographs’ origins as a starting point.
You could say, the most aware travelers, moving around this world (surely a planet struggling to stay wholesome now), look especially for deeper connections with others, and nature. It could be helpful and wise to truly remember, people are also part of nature and this poetry seems to show this clearly. Weldon has shown human beings and nature joined in this collection, and each affecting the other, (an ancient philosophy from many cultures, humans akin to or extremely close to nature, but not so much a part of capitalism and its dire neo-liberalism, or neo-facism more recently).
Stone Mother Tongue – refreshing to see a poet use word play so adeptly in a title, is this a dismissive remark, as in talking about a frozen, dead language? Or is she admiring a statue of an ancient woman? Or is the title saying we endure like stone, because of language and our mother teaching us? Much more could also be made of this great, intriguing title.
So much in this book happily puts the case for more detailed study of ancient history, and then also seeing how this history impacts our lives today. The poems also encourage us to accept our humbleness when staying aware of the cosmos and nature with our own selves in a vast picture. Weldon’s work is full of hope for the future too, but also shows how easily what we have now could also fall into disrepair. Lost worlds of culture with only clues to what was exist all about us.
A yearning to explore is apparent, and appreciation of the resulting education, despite so many cultural differences. Annamarie Weldon offers work which succeeds with vivid, lyrical imagery and various depths of meaning, all generating interest and excitement while grounding and weighting the visuals, besides.
Displaying an admirable respect for others and what they may, or may not have left behind for us to try and make sense from, seems central to this lengthy, enchanting collection. A questing sense of things gone yet always mattering appears overall, seems to drive the poetry. Images and characters appear in various weather and many places, throughout a broad set of scenarios and on multifarious terrains.
What can we learn from the past to help us now? Or is it enough to love the world better and celebrate humankind as creative, inventive souls, finding new improved ways to live before it’s too late? My mind runs to this kind of thinking after reading this inspiring and hopeful book, so well ordered and illustrated.
The language appears always accessible and original, with strong narratives in many poems. Other, less narrative driven poems seem to flower, simply blooming from a moment with so much to offer in that instant. A minute in time is often shown packed with responses and ideas, feelings and images. ‘A Shoreline Scripted for Heartbreak’, beautifully brings to light a sense of how many intriguing, historical and personally important ideas and views may slide, flash, and break into our mind, when simply standing on an impressive shoreline.
An idea of a history which haunts or follows us, a sense of human habitation or life existing for tens of thousands of years, has to mean more than the bare facts of hard science. Recollections in the most dramatic or evocative surroundings can illuminate so much. We may turn raw experiences into powerful language and images, and in the process creating more accessible ideas and perhaps even becoming better problem-solvers. So much may pour refreshing into our mind, as if ideas and responses swelled and sprung directly from the important or intriguing place we stand in, coloured according to what we already know.
Many poems in this collection show Weldon’s sense of feeling immersed in memory while experiencing the actual physical, all woven altogether, then
expansively describing a delightful or sombre experience.
I admit I adore climbing around ruins and drawing for hours in museums, so this may have shaped my reaction to Stone Mother Tongue. If ancient wreckage and pottery shards are anathema to you, perhaps approach this book carefully. But you may find yourself pleasantly surprised when you give Weldon’s finely crafted poems a chance. Read at your leisure, over a few weeks, a month or two. So much appears vivid and well realised in every poem, rich mind food, indeed.
– Raewyn Alexander
Raewyn Alexander, novelist, poet, non-fiction writer and lately working on graphic poetry about her love for fiancé Chris Knox – Nowhere and Nothing (but Love). Hamiltron: City of the Future published her growing-up-in-the-Tron comic, 2015, and she has work in the Three Words comic anthology. Residing in Tamaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa NZ and descended from French, Irish, Scots, and English, she has published seventeen books including the Five star review third novel, Glam Rock Boyfriends, which is available on Amazon. Raewyn can be found at http://poeticjourneytoamerica.blogspot.co.nz/ and more information is available at – www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/alexanderraewyn.html
Stone Mother Tongue is available from https://uwap.uwa.edu.au/products/stone-mother-tongue