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Poetics | Poetics | Afterword to Winter

10. Afterword to Winter

     “Winter” is a long poem—what I call a “mytho-political poem”. As a poem it makes metaphorical allusions, not political judgments. It was my personal response to moving from British Columbia to Quebec and living through the 1995 referendum, regarding the separation of the province of Quebec from Canada. “Winter” is personal, lyrical, poetic, literary.

     The poem describes, for me, what it felt like to move to Quebec at a particular time in history, and to experience political events. Perhaps the poem originated in response to a feeling of being hated, solely by factor of the language I speak. When I moved, it was from one province of Canada to a different province in Canada. It took me by surprise to encounter the vehemence of being hated because of the language I speak, and not because of my character or my actions. It was profoundly disturbing to be labeled an “anglophone” when my background heritage is Russian and Scots.

     The only real claim I make in the poem is to affirm poetic utterance as personal witness. My affirmation is of poetry as an art that contains individual testimony, perception, witness, experience. There are issues of language used politically in Quebec—but issues of language can also be used poetically. “Winter” is an attempt, as a poet, to view my own personal life story within the larger context of 20th Century history. I think poetry can do that—it can lift us out of the purely personal or political into a universal, archetypal, or historical context. I am not saying “this” equals “that”. I am saying “this feeling” or “this experience” constituting a particular place, time, event, brings to mind other events, times, places. One place doesn’t equal another. The poem moves through metaphorical association, not by linear, absolute connection.

     If I am feeling that I am despised because of the language I speak, then I can also imagine what it is feels like to be hated on the basis of my race, or religion, or colour of my skin. Or, to live in one period of history or another. “Winter” is not a political statement, it is a poem. It is up to politicians to create political ideologies, and up to citizens to make a culture, a polis (city), a community. It is up to poets to speak metaphorically through poetry. Sometimes—using the lens of poetic vision—events, times, places can be seen in a new or different perspective. Since I did not feel welcome in Quebec, because my primary language is English (although I am also able to read and speak French), “Winter” came to me as a way to envision both private and political experiences in a more universal, archetypal context.

  Carolyn Zonailo
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Copyright by Carolyn Zonailo:, 2004 | Poetics | Afterword to Winter
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