Ali Cobby Eckermann – Little Bit Long Time (Poetry Review by Nicola Burkhill)
Little Bit Long Time is Ali Cobby Eckermann’s first collection of poetry detailing her struggle as one of Australia’s Stolen Generation. It explores the pain and joy she experienced as she reconnected with her Aboriginal birth mother and ‘her mob’. I found Little Bit Long Time a unique and fresh read that gives us not only the insight into an indigenous community, but also a woman’s longing to find out who she is and where she belongs.
I’ll dance with mob in this red Land, munda wiru place
I’ll dance away them half caste lies ‘cos I got my Nanna’s face!
Initially, I raced through the collection, gulping down poem after delicious poem. I went back over the poems time and time again finding layer upon layer of meaning. Like a web that caught me differently each time I read it.
My heart is Round ready to echo the music of my family
but the square within me remains
The Square stops me in my entirety.
I was also fortunate enough to attend a reading and conduct an interview with Ali at Glasgow Women’s Library as part of the Commonwealth Read Aloud project. This was after we had read the poetry book, which was very kindly donated to the library from the publisher. I was not disappointed. It was wonderful to hear the poems read aloud and have the opportunity to raise any questions they posed. Ali, when asked how difficult it was to learn the Aboriginal language that is used sparingly in her first collection, but with increasing confidence in her further work, said she worked really hard to learn the language of her people and eventually, intends to speak less English and only Aborigine in her old age. She said this will be her “last protest”. The language is something that she is passing down to her own son and grandson in an effort to try and preserve what has been taken from her.
Every wild flower that blooms in this
desert of red
is a signpost of hope
for my People.
Little Bit Long Time is a collection that rouses, stirs, reminisces and leaves a lasting impression. The poems are hugely accessible as is the language, but don’t be fooled into thinking these are simple poems; they are multi-layered with imagery, metaphor and meaning. They are well constructed and formed and come from the voice not only of a woman, but the collective female voice of both the indigenous women of Australia and the non-indigenous women, who have been subjected to a government campaign of racism.
and from there come intervention John Howard
he make new rules he never even come to see us
Ali Cobby Eckermann’s first collection is observationally sharp and concise. Her poetry is an honest depiction of a struggle with identity, race, motherhood and adoption and we are taken on a quest with the poet. We journey alongside her as she navigates the healing process. These poems leave an imprint on the soul.
like a ribbon
across the desert sand
tying me to that place