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Reviews | Reviews | Eleanor Cowan

The Goddess in the Garden, review by Eleanor Cowan, C.G. Jung Society of Montreal Newsletter

     The cover of The Goddess in the Garden, chosen by the author, shows a naked goddess, sleeping quietly, in a garden. Zonailo is from British Columbia and of Russian Doukhobor heritage, and, while she is not of the minority Sons of Freedom Doukhobors, I was reminded of their practice, at times, of undressing as a sign of protest against being required by the Canadian Government to get involved in battles they believed could be resolved more creatively. What is poetry but a creative and stark stripping to the bare essentials of a matter—to expose and reveal that which is most important to the unhooded eye?

     Carolyn Zonailo, M.A., poet, practicing astrologer, lecturer and lifelong student of Jungian thought, now lives in Montreal, Quebec and is the author of nine published books of poetry.

     Read “Skinhead Riding Bicycle” to hear moments of vulnerability while “getting dressed” prior to showing off the finished image—and hear youth’s fear. See flesh-carved roses, the pale word mother and exhausted mermaids draped over the now frail chest of “The Tattooed Man” as he prepares for the most exciting journey of all, not from the mast of a ship on turbulent seas as a strong, young man but from his quiet hospital bunker as a frail old one—and disrobe to the real adventure.

     The cover of Dancing in the Flames by Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickson also features a naked goddess, but this one is quite awake and consuming the hot flames that surround her whilst dancing in their light. The authors warn us that the sleep of the goddess is a special time and not necessarily an unconscious one. When she rises, refreshed, ready, and truly awake now, it is in the trinity of virgin, mother and crone, each with her own job to do, her own aspect that transforms, ultimately, into the whole person. Woodman and Dickson discuss the essence of worship of the great goddess, underlining its primary transfiguring function: “…there must be a death to the ego self; there must be a transformation in which there is a letting go of all false values, of all things that the egotistical nature clings to,” and further that:

In the burial ground of the heart, the goddess’s enlightened devotees see beyond literal death to the death of values rooted in fear. When they come to accept death as a necessary step in their transformation, then Kali can dance her dance of perpetual becoming. Once her cycles are accepted, those who love her are free of fear of death, free of their own vulnerability, free to live her mystery…destroying in order to create, creating in order to destroy, death in the service of life, life in the service of death.

Dovetailing perfectly, Zonailo’s poetry details this transformative, mediating energy of death, loss and perpetual becoming. Two beautifully named sections of The Goddess in the Garden, “Divine Healing” and “Angels at the Door,” both richly reassure that endings are paradox in motion, contracting to birth new beginnings. While a strong spiritual emphasis is present in Zonailo’s work, it is felt, somehow, viscerally, in the tissue, in the body, in the resonance of memory and the tough work of acceptance—and all this wrapped in the subtle, but steady encouragement that all is well, though certainly not easy. Both “Paula” and “Going Into Dark Sleep” feature the desperate contract that letting go requires, that concentrated faith that always results in gain and proves that death is indeed a trusted servant of life. Read “Mother’s Garden” and consider the author sitting in her own mother’s garden, at peace, now, with what was not received and actually nurtured from the painful process of acceptance.

     The Goddess in the Garden, is a wonderful, sensitively written volume and while probably not expressly intended to do so, starkly witnesses reality for those who are in grief, who have sustained a loss, who are working hard on healing some torn part of their lives or, perhaps better said, for those working on “growing through” something. It also brings smiles and exercises laugh wrinkles for those who recognize landscapes of former trips.

     For those who would like to hear today’s modern day, twenty-first century voices that echo the eternal insight of the virgin, the mother and the crone, consider from a standpoint of twenty-first century reality entries entitled: “The Female Nude as Earth Goddess,” “The Female Nude Lobotomized,” “The Female Nude as Single Mother,” “The Female Nude as Diplomatic Wife,” “The Female Nude as Sex Goddess.”

     Woodman and Dickson explain, in Dancing in the Flames, that in ancient times, frightened people tried to appease a goddess they could not understand and so, frantically, they sacrificed, co-dependently, the blood of their children, their animals and themselves in order to avoid what they considered to be her wrath. As time went on, this primitive perception changed: the literal and concrete moved to the symbolic and instead of the primitive pacifying of that which could not be fathomed, conscious energy became ethical, accepting and understanding of an underlying essence that pervaded and unified all things. With this insight, the authors explain, came the first glimmerings of an awareness of the subtle or archetypal realm. Importantly, the unifying light in nature came to be worshipped as the goddess, the mediator of transformation.

     Consider again, the evolutionary maturation, now achieved, now miraculously available to share with others, that Zonailo offers in “The Comfort of Mothers”—that we can “love our mothers for providing our neurosis,” that material of our continued evolution. This high level of conscious articulation is breathtakingly felt in “The Man Who Suffered Loss,” a marvelous, exquisite lyric that recalls Teilhard de Chardin’s idea that one day we will no longer need the “envelope” of the body and shall be pure spirit.

I took his hand and led him
to the edge of a cliff.
We looked over and our voices
were silenced. Our limbs came apart
at the joints; our ligaments
separated from muscle and bone.
We felt like we were falling.

Our souls started to shrink.
Finally they escaped, like butterflies,
into the air as we exhaled.
When our bodies were no longer intact,
our minds disintegrated.

We looked at the cliff.
It seemed to tower above us.
“We have everything,” we said.

Finding the goddess then, is a conscious process of transformation that comes not from running away but from integrating inherited fire, cooking from it, dancing in it and resting in the garden of peace that ensues—before a final leap. How many of us can actually thank the devastation that reveals to us, over time and tears, our own best essence?

Copyright by Eleanor Cowan:, 2004. | Reviews | Eleanor Cowan
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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