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Talisman by Afaa M. Weaver. Tia Chucha Press ( P.O. Box 476969, Chicago, IL 60647).

95 pp.; 5” X 9”; $10.95. ISBN: 1-882688-17-1.

By Tim W. Brown

Talisman, a new poetry collection by Afaa M. Weaver, reads like a memoir in which the

poet tries to make sense of his experiences with various women in his life. The poetry describes

incidents occurring in early childhood until the present day. Read individually, the poems are not

very exciting—there is little imagery or verbal play to dazzle the senses. Read together, however,

the poems amount to an affecting autobiography of love.

The book is divided into five sections, each of which depicts the author’s relationship with

a particular woman. “Bessie,” the first and longest section, explores Weaver's relationship with his

mother. The first few poems of this group present a small boy’s scattered impressions. As the

section progresses, Bessie comes clearer into focus and the poet’s view of her changes as he

grows older. The following lines show a world-weary mother who gorges to assuage her pain:

“Some nights / she would make / herself a pan of pure / chocolate. By herself / she would dip it

out / with a spoon and / eat it / ... / She did it so she could / enjoy herself, she said. / ... / I knew

Mama / wasn’t just enjoying herself. / She was forgetting.” (“Hershey’s Chocolate,” p. 18)

“Eleanora,” the second section, presents the poet as young man. Fascination with sex

dominates the subject matter in the first half, where the author celebrates the newly discovered

pleasures of physical love in vivid detail. This sense of delight gives way to heartbreak in the

second half as he wrestles with early marriage, the death of his infant son, and divorce.

Sections three and four, “Ronetta” and “Aissatou,” offer a portrait of the poet in his

twenties and thirties. Here, Weaver writes of his literary aspirations and his attempts to deal with

domesticity. These sections chronicle dysfunctional relationships which are filled with bitter

confrontations and eventually end in the poet’s second and third divorces. Comments on the soul-
killing quality of these relationships are typical: “You were gonna / get your dreams by keeping

me / in the factory, where everything / threw my imagination upside / the wall like it was under

arrest.” (“Columbia City, 1975,” p. 61)

The final section, “Mizan,” presents an author in his forties whose experiences have led to

increased wisdom concerning the ways of women. Although he remains passionate about women,

he no longer rushes into relationships with them. Unlike in his earlier codependent relationships,

Weaver exhibits a new maturity in his relationship with the independent-minded Mizan. After a

long and sometimes tortuous road, he has become a fully realized individual who seeks same.

Even if the writing in Talisman is a little prosy, Weaver demonstrates time and again the

gift for turning a clever phrase. His meditations on the stages of love are suffused with painful

personal honesty. To compose such self-aware poetry obviously took immense courage. All told,

Talisman is a welcome addition to the confessional poetry tradition.