Delicious descriptions from Down Under: Adrienne Eberhard on stones

Porcupine Rocks, Kosciuszko National Park

Porcupine Rocks, Kosciuszko National Park

Having just returned from Japan where stones are revered, I thought it might be apposite to share one of the poems from Adrienne Eberhard’s section “The Magic of Stones” in her suite of poems about Jane, Lady Franklin.

Blocky, grain-growing, cast in the stance
of a thousand others
Embedded, spore-emblazoned, lying in layers
of limb-lost wist
Forging, fossil-jawed, timing the hours
of a mute universe
Gravelled, facet-shattered, your end
is never nigh
Stoning the earth, shelving the soil

It’s not my favourite poem in the book, but I like the way it conveys the paradoxical nature of rocks – their longevity and their mutability. Their time, geological time, is almost beyond human (at least, my) comprehension and yet they do change, which gives an organic (life-like) dimension to their inorganic nature. Lichen grows on them, water and wind act upon them, trees and other plants force their roots into them. The original shape-shifters perhaps!

Anyhow, it’s no wonder, I think, that stones/rocks are a common symbol across time and space. They feature, for example, in the Arthurian legend (with the sword-in-the-stone) and in Christianity (with Peter, the rock). A well-known Australian representation is in the book/film, Picnic at Hanging Rock, where the rock has multiple meanings from the earthy (sexuality and loss of innocence) to the mystical/spiritual. Paradox again … but that’s rocks for you.

9 thoughts on “Delicious descriptions from Down Under: Adrienne Eberhard on stones

  1. This Adrienne Eberhard poem doesn’t waste a word, so compact and intense it is. Rocks must be one of the defining features of the Australian landscape, and certainly held great significance in Aboriginal culture/life. Have we been overlooking them?

    • Thanks for this Faisal. It is tight as you say. The whole book is pretty intense … I think she gets across Lady Jane Franklin well as a restless, curious, intense woman (which I think she was).

      As for the Australian landscape … yes thanks for this too. I was originally going to go on a bit more about that – the age old rocks of the centre, etc – but I tend to keep the Delicious descriptions brief. Perhaps it’s something for a future Monday musings? I heard on the radio recently a new push to protect Aboriginal rock art, with Jack Thompson (was it?) talking about his early introduction to some rock art in Sydney. But of course it’s not only the art is it, the rocks are an important part of story and ceremony … which anyone who’s been to Uluru and chosen not to climb it would appreciate!

  2. I think rocks are why I love the Sierra Nevada mountains in California more than the ranges on the east coast of the US where I grew up. The views are so much more interesting when rocks are involved!

    When it comes to Australia, Ayers Rock used to sum up almost all my knowledge of the entire country (and the Opera House, of course).

    • Ah, yes the Sierra Nevadas are wonderful – particularly the rocks of Yosemite. We have a print of Ansel Adams’ Half dome here that we bought on our first trip to the USA. As I wrote this post I also thought of the rocks of Zion and Arches and those other wonderful places in Utah and Colorado. And then there’s Lassen with its volcanic rocks (I think I’m right about that?).

      I guess Ayer’s Rock/Uluru IS the rock Australia is known by … but we have other wonderful rock formations. Another famous one is the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains.

      • My father, a geologist, quoted a saying that in the eastern US the rocks are hard to see but easy to reach, and in the west easy to see but hard to reach.

        I’ve been trying to think of poetry involving rocks, and mostly drawing a blank. There is Robert Graves’s “Rocky Acres”, and David Jones throws a lot of geology into the beginning of “The Anathemata”. But once you get past the Royal Welch Fusiliers, what’s left?

        Goethe congratulated American on having no old castles and no basalt. He was mostly correct on the first, but quite wrong on the second. One of the Coors Brewery emblems shows the plug of basalt at the west end of South Table Mountain, which overlooks the brewery

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s