Manstorna: Life on the Mountains
Mary Jane Starr was with the National Library of Canada in Ottawa.
Liliane Welch explains in the Preface to her latest collection of poetry that Manstorna is a rocky fortress in the Pala Range of the Italian Dolomites. The collection, Ms. Welch’s fifth or sixth since the late seventies, deals with a climb up and down Manstorna by the poet and her native guide. The work is divided into two parts: the 18 poems in Part I document the ascent; the 18 poems in Part 2 describe the descent, a series of earlier climbs, and an assimilation of the experience. The publication is carefully produced and contains three notable enhancements — color photographs, a contents page, and a glossary of mountaineering terms. Ms. Welch admits that the mountain is a metaphor for life and peace and that the climb evoked images of her Christian childhood, her ancestors, and her Canadian home. However, the human and familial reminiscences, as in “Reunion” and “The Bedspread,” are frequently outweighed by the physical presence of the mountain itself; it is more often a dominant force than a backdrop or framework.
The last three poems in the collection deal with the assimilation of the mountain experience and Canadian homeland. “Manstorna’s Canadian Odes” represents the ultimate convergence of the exhilaration of the climb and a reawakening to, acceptance and appreciation of the domestic landscape. Manstorna is not a voice but a song that echoes long after the climb. The mountain theme has figured in other Canadian poetry. Here, Liliane Welch has conquered a foreign peak and patriated the experience.