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Articles | Articles | Having The Last Word: The Archivist's Art
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Having The Last Word: The Archivist's Art
By Carolyn Zonailo

     To write a poetry that is profound and universal necessitates craft, talent, depth of vision, aesthetic and emotional sensibility, discipline and commitment. Moreover, the poet must have an observant mind. For the poet, time is not money, and productivity is not the goal. The goal is perfection—the poem must be as complete, as crafted, as intelligent and as truthful as it is possible for it to become; hence, the poet's goal is never productivity. The poet's activity is antithetical to that of commerce.

     Writing a poem is a complete act of creativity, one that involves mental, emotional and psychic energy. The poet's entire being is caught up into the act of writing a poem. A poet's job is to take on the discipline of not being busy—instead, of paying attention to the details that most people fail to notice. To repeat: the poet must have an observant mind. The poet observes the world in detail, in careful observation (this is an inner as well as an external watching) and the poet shares the results of this watchfulness. And it isn't enough for the poem to have something to say. It has to be crafted, as well. And it isn't enough for the poem to be crafted—it has to have something to say that is significant. The poem has to have both craft and depth of meaning, just as the poet must have talent and discipline in order to shape an art that has meaningful depth of vision.

     The poet who is going to create a poetry that is of significance must be able to use their imagination, i.e., to enter worlds of the imagination. This is not to say 'imaginary worlds' but rather worlds of the imagination. The imagination is the thinking soul, or the active part of the poet's psyche. By entering into the imagination the poet can bring forth and thus create new knowledge, new perceptions, new consciousness. Knowledge is never complete—there are always new, undiscovered, undreamt of, unthought of places the human mind can move toward. This part of the poetic process is what can be called the numinous, the revealing of spirit. If there were no such thing as previously unimagined consciousness, it might not be possible to avoid the destruction of the world at this point. But over and over again the frontiers of known knowledge have been crossed—through the use of the imagination—and something very different from what was originally thought possible, or probable, has happened. And will continue to happen. But it is the imagination that leads from what is known into the unknown, something that may be vital to survival.

     The last thing I look for in poetry that is important to me is that it has a visual or musical sensibility, or both. My own taste is for lyric poetry with a strong visual sensibility, crafted from a combination of image and rhythm. This has something to do with my own particular pleasure in the poem. The more visual and concrete the images that the poetry creates, the more intense the experience of the poem becomes for me. Those visual poetic images are the ones that linger the longest in my mind, that resonate with the greatest reverberations. Images comprised of concrete, visual experiences are the building blocks for my own poetic language. Image, and the musical content of language, may not be the only elements of poetry, but for me these are basic to the language from which poetry is constructed. Language and poetry are not the same thing—any more than a home is the same thing as lumber or brick. Language is the building material from which poetry is constructed, but it is not the equivalent of poetry. A poetry which sacrifices everything to a theory of language is like a house that has never been lived in, never become a home. Language, even poetic language, is only the uninhabited basic material, from which poetry is made.

Marie-Louise von Frantz, a co-worker with C.G. Jung, writes in Projection and Re-Collection:

“It's only since the 18th Century Enlightenment that man has begun to believe there is only one reality, this one, the material one... There is an ordinary collective world where one thinks things are real, and that is very much influenced by the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times; then there is the unknown, the surprising, the frightening, which we call the unconscious.”

     All poetry is a protest—against a reductionist view of life. Poetry affirms the spirituality of human existence. The soul-making, mythmaking and poeticizing part of the mind is the psyche. We have the capacity to have 'second sight,' a kind of vision that looks at both phenomenological reality and at meaning. The life of the spirit and material life co-exist, forming what we can know as experience. It's not a question of spirit or matter—as in one or the other; the physical world and the metaphysical world exist as one and the other, without separation.

     Ultimately, poetry protests against the willful infliction of death, pain or deprivation onto any human. Poetry is an affirmation of life. Poetry uses the imagination to discover meaning. The stance of poetry is always that of nurturing life and promoting the growth of consciousness. Poetry protests materialism, reductionism and negation of life in any form. The writing of poetry is a wholly affirmative activity. Poetry creates, affirms and nurtures the growth of human consciousness and brings forth new knowledge. Hence, poetry delves into the unknown, or the unconscious, and brings new consciousness into being. In this way, poetry is also wholly a visionary activity.

     There is private suffering, and suffering that is felt on a more public, collective level. Death, hunger, pain and illness, loss, poverty and lack of freedom may be caused by natural causes or by political causes. Suffering may be experienced by one individual or collectively by many people at the same time, but evil consists in the infliction of suffering, in any form, on an individual or collection of individuals. That is, evil consists of any kind of politically-caused suffering, as opposed to naturally-caused suffering. Politically-caused suffering is any kind of deliberately inflicted suffering imposed on one human by another—be it in a domestic, social or political arena.

     The need to create poetry is basic and enduring. Poetry enables us to both discover, and share, certain kinds of insight and knowledge. Poetry allows us to communicate in a particularly vivid and intimate way. It is an enduring human activity that involves creativity, emotion, intelligence and aesthetic sensibility. We need food, shelter, love and freedom from deprivation and pain. We need to create cosmologies that provide us with peace of mind. We need to make art, to satisfy our need for creative and aesthetic experiencing, and to bring us new knowledge. We have a basic need to make images and patterns—in sound, in visuals, and in language.

     The poem is capable of being compassionate, intelligent, original, disciplined and profound. What can be said in the poem, as the poem, can't be said in any other way. Without the poem, the knowledge the poem contains, and is, would be lost by virtue of its not being brought into existence. And any piece of new knowledge, any previously unknown thought—hence any kind of visionary activity—can be the essential means of gathering what is necessary for survival, either individually or collectively.

  Carolyn Zonailo
Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Copyright by Carolyn Zonailo:, 2004.

Page: 1, 2 | Articles | Having The Last Word: The Archivist's Art
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