Recently, poetry has fallen victim to a slew of misconceptions and stereotypes. Many still avoid it, believing it to be written in a way that purposely confuses the reader, while others are worried of finding the same repetition of themes and images. Noodin’s “Weweni” puts to ease both of these worries in a stunning collection that not only presents an original set of poems but, more significantly, acts as a learning experience for the reader by introducing the complex and sadly overlooked culture of the Anishinaabe people.
I have had no previous experience with reading poetry about or by First Nations peoples, and coming across “Weweni” felt an instant fascination with the topic. I was delighted not only to find out that the collection was bilingual, but to also be eased into it with an informative and not very heavy preface. A significant portion of the fun came from trying to read the original Anishinaabemowin versions of the poetry, sounding them out using some of the pointers given in the preface. It allowed for a much more personal and deeper appreciation of the language and culture, one I knew nothing about and which isn’t discussed much either.
The translated versions of the poems left a warm and uplifting feeling after reading them, offering a starkly different atmosphere of forests, stars, and berries that felt so different to the European and contemporary North American poetry. There was a certain honesty to it, a balance of innocence and wisdom, that’s impossible to describe without having read some of them. One shouldn’t be fooled by their apparent simplicity. The collection leaves room for thought and meditation, offering a glimpse into the very tip of a complex culture. I wish there were more poetry collections like this.