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Reviews | Reviews | Eleanor Cowan

The C.G. Jung society of Montreal Newsletter, Fall/Winter 2006/2007

REVIEW by Eleanor Cowan

the moon with mars in her arms
Carolyn Zonailo
Ekstasis Editions, 2006, 100 pages

the moon with mars in her arms is Carolyn Zonailo's new poetry book. It is a map charting, in three sections, places of Exile, Desire, and Blessing. Zonailo shares the experience of her chronic breathing condition. It is not surprising then, that this book charts airy corridors and underground passages inside the geography of the human body. In the first poem from Exile, "My Body is Also a Map," Zonailo writes that living in awareness of mortality brings gifts of heightened consciousness:

            I got used to hearing messages,
            prayers, whispers of mortality.
            I even learned to breathe again
            And gradually lost the sensation of being
            underwater and drowning….

Yet, as healing occurs, this acute intensification somehow diminishes. Instead, all energy is invested in the tremendous feat of simply staying alive.

                                                         …And then
            a slow recovery, no messages to guide me
            as the known was definitely left behind,
            the map a crisscrossing of valleys,
            mountain peaks, unnamed rivers,
            the everyday become a wilderness.

Exile is a definite location on the human map. It is a place of loss: of one's health, youth, loved ones, trust of or stability in a horror-filled world, one in which, for example, religious dogma is manipulated, as it has often been, to use human beings as weapons of destruction. Beginning and ending with the territory of the body, Zonailo shares the extremely important message each human heart provides: that its first valve's path curves back to feed itself. The second artery goes out to the world, but not the first. Yes, it would be folly to imagine that without self-love there could be any real love of the other.

In the section entitled Desire, she details many more pathways through which renewing graces liberally flow, but only to those willing to melt, float, or surrender out of exile to a special zone: the poet quotes Gaston Bachelard: "The poetics of space; The psycho-analysis of fire; On poetic imagination reverie; Water and dreams."

There are those, however, who in their ignorance or their despair think that the end of their firm-fleshed youth, or their health or the loss of a loved one devastates forever. Where to go from there? In the long poem series "Learning to Float" and "Dead Man's Float" the poet advises:

            Don't be afraid to let go
            of the known. Take a deep
            breath and remember: you

            won't be able to breathe
            under the water. The trick
            is to give up, go limp, surrender….

Zonailo's poetry caringly offers another locale, one of acceptance, and loving response. Delicately, yet with the surprising strength of waving, watery kelp, Desire directs our attention to a wide, airy and brave interior passage, deep inside the cave of the self, not narcissistically but courageously. Very courageously. Poetry is the speedometer Zonailo uses to measure time: not only her time, but all time, universal time. Poetry is her largest oxygenating vein through which utterance occurs.

Consider the poet's passionate plea for transformation from the first section, Exile, toward a peaceful world in the poem "The Garden of the Dead":

            I have often written about
            the miracle of spring returning—
            first tender shoots of saffron crocus,
            the perfect white camellia…

            But now my poem is an elegy
            for the harvest of the dead;
            …a tribute for those who kept their courage alive
            when they became a grisly kind of gardener
            as they dug, ploughed and raked
            through the garden of the dead…

Zonailo's poetry senses, touches and expresses concrete details, then deliver this accumulation from within with words so true readers are firmly encouraged to a different route altogether. In the section Desire, the poetry celebrates the exquisite achievement of being there for oneself. It rejoices in quiet presence, the simple attendance to sun warming the skin, to alert meditation of blue skies overhead and unhurried observation out a bus window, the car left at home. In the poem "Afternoon Sleep" it is a quiet nap with a lover on fresh blue sheets and plumped pillows:

            …no touch, two bodies
            breathing in unison;
            the fan stirring the air,

            breathing in/out,
            as we lie asleep together,
            each of us in our own dream.

In the final section, Blessing, the real gift is that of profound love. This is the gift of love between parent and child, friend to friend, intimate lover to lover. This embracing of love includes an awareness that the loving moon and the warrior mars are always in a delicate dance together. But as humans, we can make love a verb, a choice, and action lived. In the poem "Clouds of Becoming," Zonailo affirms human choice:

            …decide that during your
            indeterminate time
            here upon earth—
            make love your only mission.
            Eros or thanatos. Take a stand
            for love, as death
            will come sooner or later
            without any choice.

the moon with mars in her arms is a breath of fresh air, an inspiration for all to embrace the full spectrum of living. It call on all of us to move forward toward growth, expanded consciousness, and affirmation of the life force.

Eleanor Cowan is a member of the C.G. Jung Society of Montreal. She is a teacher; she has also taught special needs students and in northern Quebec. Cowan is a writer, currently working on her second book, a memoir.

Copyright reverts to author upon identification:, 2009. | Reviews | Eleanor Cowan
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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
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