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.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Copyright by Carolyn Zonailo: www.carolynzonailo.com,