Familiars, Emilia Weber
Sad Press, 2nd ed. 2017 (Sold out but digital copies available from the publisher)
If you check online for the meaning of ‘familiar’ (noun) you’re offered two meanings: 1) a demon supposedly attending/obeying a witch, and 2) a close friend/associate. At times Weber seems to be combining both meanings in her complex and personal poems. Rooted in the physical world, they simultaneously convey a sense of otherness.
What they bring out is how private the ‘familiar’ is — and how unfamiliar that inner space inhabited by others. This separation is like our individual dream-world: totally real and visual to each of us but near-impossible to describe to anyone else.
‘Wolf’, the opening poem, invokes the first meaning of ‘familiar’ —
Echo in the shape of a wolf
the colour of memory
tastes soft and big as I eat seven oranges and let the juice
drip through my fingers, wipe them on my pillow
I walk around the corners of the hills looking for me
in you my fur was matted and wet
the sequence is not important
it’s stupid like that
The animal image hovers at the edge of sight. It’s the unfamiliarity that intrigues me, along with the strange landscape. What sort of hills are these, with their corners that Weber can walk ‘around’? She seems physically present in this poem but the strangeness poses a question: how far can we ever see with someone else’s eyes?
When she returns to the ‘wolf’ (in ‘Malin Head’) it’s within a text layered with the lighthouse, vowel sounds, archaeology, Icarus and what just might be a love poem —
If we were more animal, you say,
armed with pyres
of heel digging
no games of husbandry with silk lupine ears
we’d eat our parents’ scripts, their vowels.
The pamphlet’s cover taken is from a photograph of the German dancer Gret Palucca, who worked with Bauhaus artists. She doesn’t appear in the poems but perhaps she points to a way of reading. If we search for interpretations in poetry, are we approaching from the wrong direction? These poems are like Gret Palucca’s spectacular dance shapes: a leap of free imagination.
D A Prince