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Reviews | Reviews | Lavinia Inbar

Compendium, review by Lavinia Inbar, Poetry Canada Review

     Carolyn Zonailo is another poet who has used a visual medium in conjunction with her literary art. Like the simple line drawings illustrating her book, Zonailo's poems are elegantly succinct. However, unlike in Elliott's case, the drawings here are only a minor aspect of the larger work. The emphasis in Zonailo's work is in every way a matter of language.

     Some of the poems in her book entitled Compendium have appeared in earlier collections (this is her seventh), and one could say that their function in this collection is to be pieces representative of various phases of her work to be given in summary in a ‘compendium.’ More specifically, one can explore how these and other poems collected here are coordinated to make this book an organic, self-sufficient work.

     Altogether, Zonailo uses only a handful of images to make up this book. These few images, in turn, serve a kind of dialectic between language or the "Word," and animal drives or the "Flesh."

     The first image that we encounter is of a mouth, that of the "Stone Man," who "has a stone/in his mouth." The narrator must roll away this blockage so that sound may "spill out." It is linked to both hunger and language. Hunger is linked to sexuality:

...this memory
of a lover's kiss
bitter between my thighs

haunts like a hunger.

     The hunger can manifest itself in words too. Couples "devour/ each other with words" and "The barest bones/are ones picked clean/ by words." In the poem actually entitled "Hunger," the feeding of it is described:

Something in you feeds me
so that only body
pressed to body
I feel full.

     The image of "body/ pressed to body," like that of the mouth, is central and recurring.

     Such is the interplay of mages in this collection that we have, in a sense, to learn from each poem how to read the others. The two dominant types of images, those having to do with things related to the "word" are in one poem given a pointedly Christian expression:

Take, eat
this is my body.

Flesh made word.

But, the above excerpt shows only one aspect of their relationship in Compendium. These two classes of images, through the agency of language, act like the bodies of lovers "pressed" or (as it is described in another poem) "rubbing together," the action of which results in something being created. One could say that both the action and the results are poetry. Images, for example, of the mouth engaged variously in eating and in language, are usually in this book presented in a clearly sexual context. The images are then, because of their repetition throughout the different poems, by association rubbed together resulting in the kind of poetic possibility in which "The poem" can be "a fragment/our lips hold."

Copyright by Lavinia Inbar:, 2004. | Reviews | Lavinia Inbar
Wave Goddess
The Wave Goddess
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Zonailo attended ...
CZ is a visionary poet who writes with compassion and careful detail about the world she lives in.
GoddessThe Goddess in the Garden combines mystical insight and sensual language to evoke a timeless meadow where humans and deities play out eternal passions.
She draws on her study of mythology, astrology, and Jungian psychology, for a seemingly inexhaustible source of imagery.
There is a quality in her work which makes all her poems hers, but Zonailo’s style does differ. Compendium is a collection of short, lyrical poetry; Zone 5 of prose. Each book is an extension of her poetic exploration and a separate expression.
Over the years of sitting in Grant's Cafe or the Europa and talking poetry with Lewis Gretsinger, the questions have been asked: why write? what are you saying? what are your poetics?
Last Will and Testament
I give my soul to God.
I give my body to the earth.
I give my poems to posterity.
I give my spirit to tolerance.
I give my mind to the future.
Forthcoming Titles
The Land of Motionless ChildhoodThe Land of Motionless Childhood is a memoir of short stories by Carolyn Zonailo about growing up in Vancouver, and her Doukhobor heritage.
Photo Gallery
CZPictures of CZ from her 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.
Literary Papers
Spanning the years 1955 to 2005, the Carolyn Zonailo Papers holds, as nearly as possible, a currently complete collection of Zonailo's extant literary papers.
CZ Go to the Top of the Page.
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