A Portrait of Paradise,
review by Stephen Morrissey, Poetry Canada Review
Carolyn Zonailo's A Portrait of Paradise is a
very good, but uneven, collection of poems. The first poem, "Blue
and Green," has obviously been worked on extensively, but
if feels overworked. It lacks the freshness of many of her other
poems. She is a very human poet, engaging and likeable. You can
feel her presence in her work. She is a feminist who knows better
than to flog her reader with her indignation at how women have
been treated. There is a meditative calm, for example, in A
Portrait of Paradise:
Only this wasp zeroing into
the circle of lamplight
to disturb like a thought
my wish to leave nature
exactly as I find it.
For Zonailo, life is based on trust; she expects the universe
to unfold in a certain way and she is not let down. In "Planting
Tulip Bulbs" she writes:
Of necessity I believe
that next spring
the red flowers
will rise up and be visible
Her most feminist poems are a series
of portraits of "female nudes." In these poems she works
through a variety of roles that women play, from "earth-goddess"
to the "single mother" from the "sex symbol"
to the "diplomatic wife." It is here that A Portrait
of Paradise has something Ford's By Violent Means
could use: humour. One laughs with Zonailo's poems but that laughter
doesn't negate the force and message of her work.
A Portrait of Paradise
is divided into four parts: Landscapes, Portraits, Songs and Mandalas.
The Mandala section is a series of drawings and mandalas. Unfortunately,
the reproduction is unsatisfactory and does not really work in
what is otherwise a good book of poems.
Copyright by Stephen Morrissey: www.carolynzonailo.com,