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
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:
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:
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: www.carolynzonailo.com,