4. Notes Toward a Preface to A
PORTRAIT TO PARADISE
Sometimes the subject is perception;
and the theme is the question of life. How is it we are able to
live, to go on living, and how does our living end? And perspective.
Is that from the perspective of my body, which is at once characterized
by being mortal and female—as well as being capable of feeling
desire, pleasure, pain?
For the artist the task is to render,
with as little artifice as possible, the actual experience. From
my discussions with Anne Popperwell, the West Coast landscape
painter, I have learned that the impetus for painting landscapes
is the search for a human place in the seeming impersonality of
the universe. To render means 'to make visible' and 'to give in
return.' It affirms both the physical and the metaphysical presence,
This Preface has been subject to
growth and to change. It began in November of 1981 and I could
say it became complete in the spring of 1983. Even at that, it
is not very long and what it has to say is perhaps overstated
or understated. For the poet, the task is to render, with as little
artifice as possible, the actual experience. After nearly twenty
years of writing poetry that line comes closest to expressing
the impetus for writing.
And perspective. Point of view
certainly has something to do with perception. From when I started
writing this Preface to now I have learned to begin life anew.
But point of view—whether I love and am loved in return;
or whether I am sick rather than healthy; or whether I am happy
rather than unhappy; or whatever my political perspective, the
trick is to render, with as little artifice as possible. Trick.
Is it a trick, this being able to see, to perceive, and to make
from the perception a poem or painting that expresses, without
artifice, experience? I used to going ice-skating with my children
until one day I was sick and I had to watch from the stands. How
different the experience was, sitting and watching the skaters
circle around the arena, when previously I was among those gliding
over the ice in time to the music, weaving in and out between
slower skaters, participating rather than observing.
Of course, the images come from
experience as much as from perspective or perception. Cezanne
said: "One minute in the life of the world is going by. Paint
it as it is." This Preface began in the fall of an entirely
different year. During that time the perspective has changed and
perception has been altered. But the question—I believe
the question remains the same. And the task—the task is
still at hand and the rendering will not be complete until the
experiencing of life is complete. The task, for the poet,
is to render the actual experience with as little artifice as
possible. Matisse, speaking of his art, said "Above
all, I do not create a woman, I make a picture."
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Copyright by Carolyn Zonailo: www.carolynzonailo.com,