Poet and writer, Ali Cobby Eckermann was born in 1963 at Brighton, Adelaide, on Kaurna Country, and grew up on Ngadjuri country between Blyth and Brinkworth in mid-north South Australia. She had travelled extensively and lived most of her adult life on Arrernte country, Jawoyn country and Larrakia country in the Northern Territory. When she was 34, Eckermann had met her birth mother Audrey, and learnt that her mob was Yankunytjatjara from north-west South Australia. Her mother was born near Ooldea, south of Maralinga on Kokatha country. Eckermann relates herself to the Kokatha mob too. (Ali Cobby Eckermann 2013).
Eckermann’s first book of poetry Little Bit Long Time was published by the Australian Poetry Centre as part of the New Poets series in 2009. Her poetry reflects her journey to reconnect with her Yankunytjatjara/Kokatha family. In 2011, her first verse novel, His Father’s Eyes was published, but her second verse novel, Ruby Moonlight, won the black&write! Indigenous Editing and Writing Project, the State Library of Queensland. The novel was then published in 2012 by Magabala Books, won the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry, and was awarded Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards in 2013.
'In her memoir Too Afraid to Cry, published in 2013, Indigenous poet Ali Cobby Eckermann related how she had been tricked away from her mother as a baby, repeating the trauma her mother had suffered when she was taken from her grandmother many years before. Eckermann in turn had to give her own child up for adoption. In her new poetry collection, Inside my Mother, she explores the distance between the generations created by such experiences, felt as an interminable void in its darkest aspects, marked by sadness, withdrawal, yearning and mistrust, but in other ways a magical place ‘beyond the imagination’, lit by dreams and visions of startling intensity, populated by symbolic presences and scenes of ritual and commemoration, chief amongst them the separation and reunion of mother and child. Though the emotions are strong, they are expressed simply and with a sense of significance in nature which reminds one of the poetry of Oodgero Noonuccal, whose successor Eckermann is.
'Too Afraid to Cry is a memoir that, in bare blunt prose and piercingly lyrical verse, gives witness to the human cost of policies that created the Stolen Generations of Indigenous people in Australia.
'It is a narrative of good and evil, terror and happiness, despair and courage. It is the story of a people profoundly wronged, told through the frank eyes of a child, and the troubled mind of that child as an adult, whose life was irretrievably changed by being tricked away from her family and adopted into a German Lutheran family.
'What makes this book sing is not only Ali Cobby-Eckermann’s strong and unique narrative voice and her ability to cut to the essence of things in her poetry, but also the astounding courage with which she leads the reader through the complex account of a life in free-fall and a journey to wholeness through reconnection with her birth family and its ageless culture and wisdom.
'This is a brave book, written by a woman who has faced her demons, transformed her suffering into a work of art, and found her true sitting place in the world.' (Publisher's blurb)
Through these interconnected poems, the main character, Ruby, the refugee of a massacre, shelters in the woods where she befriends an Irish trapper. The poems convey how fear of discovery is overcome by the need for human contact which, in a tense unraveling of events, is forcibly challenged by an Aboriginal lawman. The natural world is richly observed and Ruby's courtship is measured by the turning of the seasons. [From the publisher's website]