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Reviews | Reviews | Marya Fiamengo

Split Rock, review by Marya Fiamengo, CVII

     At her best Carolyn Zonailo writes with a clear, clean polish. "False Passage" and "The Dreamkeeper" are substantial achievements. She combines with convincing exactitude the lyric movement, the cadence of voice, with a precise and documentary eye for detail. At her least successful she leans toward the clinical, and cerebral abstraction. Poetry among other things celebrates being. Carolyn Zonailo celebrates and explores the psychic, spiritual and physical dimensions of being woman. In this she shows a tensile strength and commendable perception. Her erotic poems are frank, rich, sensual. They are explicit, without vulgarity, only occasionally flawed by the over indulgence inevitable in the genre. Erotic poetry unless redeemed by extra-ordinary intensity of feeling always runs the risk inherent in the strip tease, where no matter how consummate the art, one is in the end confronted with mere flesh.

     The true strength of Split Rock lies in the poet's painstaking exploration of psychic realities, her feminine perceptions of the inter-relatedness of mind and matter. A number of poems in Split Rock speak of nature as spirit, or of spirit immanent in nature. "The Dreamkeeper" is one such poem, and section V is a distillation of one such perception where, "all gardens grow forever/ in this garden made of stone". The poet-persona turns to rock because it is "ancient", offers no "promise"; sets about to explore paradox, duality: man-woman, mind-matter, nature-spirit. In the end she longs to be free of it all, released into some primal unity, pure essence,

          ...When I descend

from the mountain, I walk
naked into a morning light

where there are no dreams.

     It is significant that the poet-persona longs for a morning without dreams, to be stripped to essence, pure conception, a state of being the delinquent male chauvinist mind has claimed over the centuries that woman, being an ally of matter or nature, is incapable of achieving.

     Elements of the journey and the search inform many of the poems in Split Rock. The opening poem, "False Passage", is a challenge. The reader is asked to sift and probe a triple weave of motif: legend, folk-lore, local history. The motifs centre on three islands, three people, three personae: princess, drowned boy, murdered man. It begins with the land, opens in undergrowth, strikes the man/woman duality note: "In this undergrowth/ a man can go to work./ I'm caged inside, in / a domestic lair,/ land inaccessible." It ends with a palinode, a song repeated, a song heavy with documented detail: omens, log-entries, journals, boats, fish. A sense of flux, of ebb and tidal flow, the rhythm of life itself, dominates.

          .…The new moon
is somewhere in the sky

turning its phases
from scythe to chalice.

     The new moon, cyclical, regenerative, turns from scythe to chalice, from death-despair-negation to hope-nourishment-renewal.

     The arresting blend of the documentary and the lyrical, a salient characteristic of Canadian poetry, is the distinguishing element of Carolyn Zonailo's poetic style. For example, from "The Dreamkeeper":

               ....I live

along the coast, throw
bait into the ocean
to fish for salmon,
hook the fleshy mouth
like my own quilt.

     It is gratifying to observe the native style so spontaneously, and so unselfconsciously present in the work of a younger poet of unquestionable talent.

Copyright by Marya Fiamengo:, 2004. | Reviews | Marya Fiamengo
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.
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