The poems in Stone Girl, Mary Noonan’s second collection, are beguiled by the fascination of stone, especially stone statues of women – the statue of the Virgin carried through the streets of Seville to the bullring on Easter Sunday morning; Camille Claudel’s sculpture showing Clotho as a destitute old woman; the caryatids of Paris, seeming to carry the city’s buildings on their shoulders…Pygmalion casts his shadow, as he dreams a statue into life. The allure of stone is matched by a persistent reflection on the nature of skin, and ‘what skin remembers’.
The bodies of parents – dead or dying – come into view as the book navigates between the poet’s native Cork and Paris. Ghosts are summoned in both cities, in poems that explore the porousness of the divide between the past and the present, the living and the dead.
“Stone Girl mines her themes of family, travel, love and art with a renewed strength and confidence as the shadows darken and language intensifies. Every Noonan poem is a true performer which begs to be read aloud for its sonic delights as well as its strange and original visual tapestry.”
— Martina Evans
Self-Portrait with Camellia Branch
homage to Paula Modersohn-Becker
Your painting of a girl in a blue worsted dress
blowing a flute in a birch forest – a cage
with knotted silver bars – could be a beginning,
a way to tell why you ran from Teufelsmoor
to Paris, where crowds were fêting a tower
on the Seine, experimenting with light.
Four times in seven years you ran to the life-
drawing classes, where they let you sketch
the nudes. You knew what you could learn from
the mummy portraits in the Louvre, those eyes
without pupils, facing into the after-life.
In Rodin’s studio, you saw it was possible to draw
and not care what people thought and you
were able to let go at last, dive into the whirring
life of skin and amber and camellia branches
held aloft in the hands of melancholy children.
How you rushed to get it all out, writing Otto that you
would never go back to him, never have his child,
asking your sister to photograph you naked so that
you could paint your nude ‘Self-Portrait on the Sixth
Wedding Anniversary’, your belly round,
a string of yellow beads between your breasts –
Schade! – the word that flew from your throat
as you died, aged thirty-one, days after the birth.
Ah Schade, Paula ! What a shame it was!
You began by painting very old women, their hands
crossed in their laps, and you finished with your portraits
of girls, pressing red and yellow flowers to their hearts.