Articles & Reviews

The Feminine Consciousness in Poetry: Carolyn Zonailo's The Taste of Giving: New and Selected Poems

Review and essay by Stephen Morrissey

Carolyn Zonailo's poetry is fundamentally different from the work of most other Canadian poets, either male or female. In Zonailo's The Taste of Giving: New & Selected Poems the erotic, the mythopoeic, and landscape serve as vehicles for the expression of the archetypal feminine. Zonailo's poetry is predominantly an expression of universal consciousness as revealed in a human being aspiring to be whole and complete. I will examine four long poems from this book that form a record of Zonailo's journey to "individuation", to use the Jungian term for an individual's growth of self-awareness and openness to the universal Self.

In a 1982 interview published in CVII, Zonailo refers to writing "female romantic" poetry. Zonailo's poetry is more than an expression of female concerns or even of feminism; her work is more correctly an expression of the feminine. Indeed, Zonailo's use of mythology and landscape are in the service of the archetypal in her work. How do we define the eternal feminine? Robert A. Johnson, a Jungian analyst, discusses the story of Tristan and Iseult and the birth of romantic love in his book We, Understanding The Psychology of Romantic Love:

Jung found that the psyche is androgynous: It is made up of both masculine and feminine components.... The psyche spontaneously divides itself into complementary opposites and represents them as a masculine-feminine constellation. It characterizes some qualities as being "masculine" and certain others as being "feminine."...It is the feminine qualities that bring meaning into life: relatedness to other human beings, the ability to soften power with love, awareness of our inner feelings and values, respect for our earthly environment, a delight in earth's beauty, and the introspective quest for inner wisdom. (17-20; my italics)

Johnson's words can be used to describe Zonailo's poetry. In Inside Passage (1977) she writes, "My poem is not me, neither is it separate from me. I and my poem are related to each other. I do not want to humanize the world, nor do I want to dissect it. I want to discover my relationship to it. This might be called a family vision. In that, it is a survival of all, or nothing." This is what the reader discovers in Zonailo's poems: the expression of that which aims for relatedness, and is constantly moving towards unity and away from fragmentation. This is a recurring theme in Zonailo's work, found in all of her books, since she first began to publish her work in the mid-1970s.

One of the influences on Zonailo's work is the poetry of John Keats. Keats, in his "Axioms of Poetry" writes, "...That if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all. "Zonailo writes, again in Inside Passage, "I and my poem and the tree are related to each other. The tree expresses leaves, the amphibian expresses fins, the bird its feathers, a stone its mass.... Poetry does not reflect life, it is a part of living; it is as natural a function as breathing or blossoming." Indeed, Keats's "Ode to Psyche" is fundamental to understanding Zonailo's work. While Zonailo refers to other myths, one myth that is central to her work is that of Eros and Psyche, which is also the subject of Keats's poem. Myth, for Zonailo, is a way to investigate psychological insights. Myth is alive with truth in the psychological and spiritual realms. Myth is traditionally a vehicle for poets, as it is not only condensed and concise language, but is also a collection of symbols that communicate simultaneously—at a number of levels of sophistication—eternal and universal wisdoms.

The best interpretation of the myth of Eros and Psyche is Erich Neumann's Amor and Psyche: The Psychic Development of the Feminine. Neumann's important study of the feminine in psychology is essential reading for anyone concerned with understanding archetypal psychology. Neumann illuminates what Zonailo is doing in her work, regarding the erotic and mythopoeic. One brief quote from Neumann might suffice in asserting the importance of this myth; Neumann writes: is no accident that analytical psychology defines the totality of consciousness and the unconsciousness as the "psyche". This psyche as the whole of the personality must be characterized in man as well as in woman as feminine, because it experiences that which transcends the psychic as numinous, as "outside" and "totally different." For this reason, the mandala figure, which appears in man and woman as the totality of the psyche, is feminine in its symbolism as circle and round, or uroboric as that which contains the opposites. (141)

Zonailo's poetry is a celebration of unity over fragmentation and relatedness over alienation. Before I get to a more specific examination of the four long poems from Zonailo's The Taste of Giving, New & Selected Poems, I will refer to her essay, "The Idea of Poetry as the Visible Rainbow", published in Poetry Canada Review in 1987. Zonailo writes, "When poetry is seen as soul-making, there are no questions as to whether or not poetry is political, experimental or profitable.... Poetry is an essential human activity—not humanistic, but human—part of the condition of being human, and of having a soul... the collective body of poetry contains the collective knowledge of our souls." For Zonailo the very act of writing poetry is to discover one's soul; and the role of the poet is to identify dualities by recognizing them. Poetry provides insight: from viewing the world through Psyche, the soul, we discover our relationship with the world. "Psychological 'insight' ", according to Zonailo, "is not looking inward but a viewing of the world through the psyche—i.e., looking at the world with the eyes of your soul.... In that way we can speak of Vision, where it is possible to see both cause and effect at the same time, and to see them belonging inescapably together." The conclusion of Zonailo's essay is of particular importance; she writes:

A poetics presided over by Psyche is a poetics in which the soul is born from the physical, material world. We don't have to transcend or destroy our mortality to become divine. The dualities of phenomenon & numen, physical & metaphysical, reality & dream, necessity & desire stand side by side, as do Eros and Psyche. The need for a monotheist, monopolizing "oneness" can be replaced with an acceptance of the diversity, duality and polymorphous actuality of phenomenal existence.

All of this is particularly fascinating when studying the archetypal feminine. Zonailo's whole thrust is towards discovering unity and relatedness, not promoting divisions and barriers to relationship. These positive qualities are intrinsic to the feminine. This consciousness is not exclusive to women; traditionally, and universally, it has often been an expression of a mystical awareness embodied in Taoism, Buddhism, and the Christian mystics (including Meister Eckhart, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and Brother Lawrence).

Lorelei Cederstrom writes in Fine-tuning the Feminine Psyche: Jungian Patterns in the Novels of Doris Lessing, that "feminists have largely abandoned the project of Jungian or archetypal criticism...While feminism in a political sense may no longer be a viable form for the discussion of Lessing's work, the feminine remains the heart of her contribution, for the archetypal roots of every woman's psyche have never been so fully expressed as in the novels of Doris Lessing." (203) This is an important point to make regarding Zonailo's poetry—she is not overtly political but, as with Doris Lessing, "the feminine remains the heart of her contribution." Zonailo's poetics are essentially life affirming and celebratory. The literary tradition of lyric and meditative poetry in which Zonailo's work can be placed extends from Sappho to Emily Dickinson and H.D., but it also includes Keats, Stevens, and other poets, regardless of gender, in the long tradition of lyric poetry from different eras and cultures.

Zonailo's poetry can be divided into thematic categories, one of which is female sexuality and sensuality. This is a poetry of erotic connection, in which eros is combined with the romantic and ultimate union between individuals. As such it is a celebration of sexuality from a female perspective. Zonailo's ongoing poetic discussion of sexuality is non-exploitative—it is not concerned with the mechanics of experience, but centered on sexual union as a human expression of love and intimacy.

The feminine consciousness in poetry is not the same thing as a feminist consciousness—although the two necessarily overlap. Feminism, as a political and social movement, originates with Mary Wollstonecraft, J.S. Mill, and the Woman's Movement at the end of the Nineteenth Century. But the feminine consciousness is archetypal in origin and therefore is at once ancient, contemporary, and will extend into the future. Zonailo is concerned with a similar area of human consciousness as Doris Lessing: this is the archetypal feminine. Zonailo writes a poetry of transformation. It is not confessional poetry in which the poet is endeavoring to discover herself in a personal way, but rather to develop what Jung called the Self, that part of the individual that experiences consciousness as universal and which relates to the collective unconscious. This is poetry in which the Self unfolds to reveal the multiplicity of its levels of being. It is a poetry that expresses the ways in which the feminine consciousness is fundamentally different from a perception of life that is fragmentary and materialistic. This is not a poetry of separation or one that encourages a battle between the sexes; it emphasizes that we're all human beings, whether male or female. It is a poetics that, although able to incorporate gender, transcends both masculine and feminine roles.

From Zonailo's The Taste of Giving, I am singling out four of the long poems as spiritual pilgrimages. These poems illuminate Zonailo's spiritual quest, her ongoing poetic exploration of the eternal feminine consciousness. Where does one begin the psychic journey? What accounts for the urgency of this journey? Surely it must be a sense of loss, a feeling that life has become in some essential way meaningless and without value or purpose. As the poems in this collection are arranged chronologically, Zonailo's psychic journey begins with the first of her long poems I have selected to discuss in this essay, "The Dreamkeeper." Here we find the Garden myth, the fall from innocence into experience. The "wolf/outside my window" that stares at the narrator with "yellow eyes" is the poet's own shadow self, that part of the human psyche that we either reject, hide from, or project onto someone else, but which, inevitably, returns to haunt us. In this poem the reader sees the beginnings of the poet's transformation. "The Dreamkeeper" is a nocturnal poem, a poem of the unconscious mind: "I live/ on the coast, throw/ bait into the ocean/ to fish for salmon, / hook the fleshy mouth with my own guilt." Now we know the locale of Zonailo's work: it is alternately on the edge of or in the unconscious mind, or moving into the ocean-like depths of the collective unconscious.

At the beginning of "The Dreamkeeper" Zonailo mentions kare-sansui, a style of symbolic landscape garden popular in ancient Japan. Here she is writing about arid gardens, her own work as a poet, and the garden myth. She quotes from a description of the Zen stone garden: "The intention is to portray the inner meaning rather than the external appearance." The dream in this poem is a nightmare vision of existence after the loss of human love and spiritual experience. Life has become a wasteland, a desert: "I stood once in/ a blood-red desert/ let the cactus spike/enter my flesh." Love, creativity, spirituality—all the components that are important to the growth of the inner life—are now denied; the only purpose that remains is to escape the desert... "A young woman carries a/ piece of wood in her hand,/ kills the snake with her stick."

Even dreams are no solace for those who have fallen from grace, for those who have become exiles from Edenic consciousness. Zonailo writes: "Night, fire, the dark/ moon-bewildered/ animals: these my dream/ companions, my personae." When the narrator "meet[s] the wolf in/ daylight" she is meeting her shadow self, made distinct from her and materialized into the form of a wolf. The poet now recognizes the she-wolf as evidence of her own disturbed psyche. The totemic or shamanic animal's intervention in her life is no longer reserved for the night, it now confronts her during the daylight hours. There is no respite in this poem, only a final despair, sorrow, and resignation to solitude: "I am one person walking/ alone.... / This isolation turns/ my heart into stone"; Zonailo continues:

The snake I wanted to kill
begins to love me:
my body smells like shed
skin. I wait until

blood dries in thin brown
stripes on my legs, then bury

my clothes, the amulets of love
I carried with me. When I descend

from the mountain, I walk
naked into a morning light

where there are no dreams.

There is much interest today in mythology and a growing fascination with various manifestations of the Goddess. In the second of the four extended poems that are spiritual pilgrimages, "Ceremonial Dance", Zonailo now refers to Circe, the sorceress who enchanted Ulysses and had the extraordinary ability to transform men into animals. "Ceremonial Dance" is a poem that begins with sexual transformation; it deals with one of the several ways in which women are depicted in mythology and literature, and is a manifestation of the goddess as enchantress.

"Ceremonial Dance" is an interesting poem: we begin with a reference to Circe's island, as a mythological place in antiquity, but the contemporary locale is the Queen Charlotte Islands, off the coast of northern British Columbia. The Queen Charlottes are the physical and spiritual home for the Haida, known for their creativity and their totemic art. There is an ingenious overlapping of geographical locations, making the distant and foreign feel local and known. There is also the blending, at one point, of Haida myth with Greek mythology. This certainly shows the oneness of human nature and the relevance of mythology—disparate cultures manifesting psychological reality in the similarity of the motifs in their mythologies.

Zonailo begins this poem by referring to Circe and her tempting of Ulysses. Circe's transformation of men into animals, after seducing them, is central to the poem. However, Circe doesn't transform Ulysses into an animal—instead she helps him find his way home, via the underworld, and gives Ulysses the magic he needs to travel, unharmed, to Hades and back again to the world of the living. Circe is a goddess of transformation and metamorphosis, and as such, a goddess central to the archetypal feminine consciousness. Circe represents spiritual change through sexual union. Zonailo writes:

The message Circe whispers
in Ulysses' ear
the message, traced like the veins

of his strong wrist
is the wind around her island.
To love and let go.

To send him away
on the longest journey
into the night-life

of the other world:
the transformation,
the metamorphosis.

There are two important themes involved in this poem. First, Circe, the seductress who is usually seen in a negative way, here represents change and renewal. It is Circe who transforms and metamorphosizes the men who come into her world. She is a psychic figure who signifies spiritual transformation. She changes men into totemic animals. To be changed into a totemic animal, whether it is shown in ancient Greek or Haida mythology, is to effect profound changes in the unconscious mind of the individual. These changes are usually manifested in the area of myth or dream or shamanic journey.

In the following long poem, "Journey to the Sibyl", the Sibyl is another kind of figure who stands at the entrance of the unconscious mind. Through the Sibyl's prophecies she leads one into spiritual transformation. However, in "Ceremonial Dance", we encounter Circe, who meets lovers and enchants them through her sexuality. Circe is a powerful female shaman, who leads one to inner transformation. Circe takes you down into your bestial nature and thereby transforms you. Circe, therefore, represents the spiritual aspects of sexuality. A part of the feminine consciousness is change through sexual union. The poem posits that sexuality can affirm life, offering a holistic vision of creation.

A second aspect of "Ceremonial Dance" is the transformation not only by sexual awakening, but by change through romantic love. In our times, we have become resigned to marriages failing and are often jaded with respect to romantic love. However, most of us still fall in love and are deeply and profoundly changed—life acquires a new meaning and the sense of emptiness and lack of purpose often disappears. The erotic is a part of Zonailo's poetry, but so is romantic love. However, the poet is also aware of the possibility of the failure of romantic union. Zonailo writes of "Circe's gift: a wound/ in the thigh, a trip/ to the underworld." The poem reclaims ancient mythological images to function as metaphors for present-day experience. By juxtaposing North American native myth and classical references, Circe becomes depicted as a shaman and a healer rather than simply a sorceress. In Zonailo's poem Circe is a very strong image of a female shaman whose gift can literally and metaphorically bring about transformation or metamorphosis.

"Journey to the Sibyl", was first published in The Canadian Forum and was performed, recorded, and broadcast with jazz musicians Al Neil and Howard Broomfield. It is a marvelous poem, concise and perfectly written, always using the exact word to communicate a delicate interweaving of ideas and emotion. The Sibyl is a seer or prophet; she is a figure from antiquity who represents psychic perception, and who was in direct experiential contact with the noumenal and transcendental world. But the Sibyl of Cumae, Zonailo reminds us at the beginning of this poem, has exacted an unfortunate bargain with Apollo: she has been granted an extraordinarily long life, a thousand years, but she continues to age. Inevitably her body will atrophy, but there is still something to affirm—at least for a poet—who asserts that the Sibyl's "voice will remain."

This poem is a journey to the Sibyl, it is not an imaginative journey of a Sibyl. Zonailo is not taking on the persona of the Sibyl and assuming to be able to talk for her. This is a pilgrimage, a poem of odyssey that represents the dark night of the soul. The narrator of the poem is trapped, and there are images of being trapped throughout the poem. For instance, "a bird wakes me/ this morning in my room/ stares with frozen black/ eyes the window closed". Bird images are a central motif in Zonailo's poems; "the woman's hair/ like feathers, her smile/ a trap, is it jealousy". This is a poem of entrapment, of a feeling of loss of control over one's life. Nevertheless, it is also a poem of life affirmation, of concern with the details of everyday existence, "you can throw grief/ into the sea/ hook it back the way/ coho/ swim to the side of the boat." The world of temporality has not failed us; Zonailo writes, " why, anyway, cherry/ trees bloom on schedule/... the season returns/ on schedule/ the heart continues/ to pump blood."

Throughout "The Journey to the Sibyl" there is the counterpoint and suggestion of death. A memory of "grandmother's face/ in the white satin/ coffin... the journey isn't/ to a place, only the sense/ of place." Geographically the "place" is the coast of British Columbia, an important locus in much of Zonailo's poetry. However, the true "place" and location of all of Zonailo's work is the soul. She writes:

doppelgänger, the old woman
buried in me, the bird's
flight suspended
in mid-air

this companion self
might live for hundreds
of years

impossible to be certain

but the need
to make an image

to invent
an image that carries
a permanent face
a face fixed in stone

The "face fixed in stone" is the face of the feminine consciousness as it is manifested in poetry. It is not only Zonailo's own face, but also the human face as it is expressed by a poet. Zonailo's journey may be to the Sibyl, but the expression of what is seen on the journey is the work of Zonailo, as woman and as poet. In this way, Zonailo also affirms the importance of the poet's voice: it may be a quiet voice in a world of activity, but it reverberates throughout history.

"The Dreamkeeper" began Zonailo's quest for individuation, and "Ceremonial Dance" extended this pilgrimage into shamanic metamorphosis. Then "Journey to the Sibyl" explored the themes of mortality, prophecy, and spirituality. The fourth of the long quest-poems I have selected from this collection, "Blue and Green" could be a manifesto for the individual who has entered the psychic depths of the unconscious mind. There is a Whitmanic expansiveness of vision and language in this long poem. Once again, "Blue and Green" is actually a poem of life affirmation and spirituality. However, as in all of Zonailo's work, her spirituality seems more Eastern than Western, and has more to do with Jungian depth psychology than with traditional religious practice. The central image in "Blue and Green" is the sea and what is below the surface. The ocean is always a universal symbol for the unconscious. As such, it represents all that is hidden, opaque, and constantly changing. We must dive deeply into the sea to discover its hidden treasures, just as the individual needs to go deeply into the unconscious mind to reveal its secret insights, dreams, and visions. Zonailo writes:

The emerald sea, the grey-green sea,
the turquoise sea, the final blue Pacific...
pieces of sea glass collect on the beach

(prized most of all, the cobalt blue,
the smoky violet shards);
gather as sea-treasure in a mosaic.

And why not love the sea's harvest—
these fragments, bits of broken glass
that surface and resurface

between the blue of the sea and the thin blue line
between the sea and sky?

Pieces of smooth broken glass that one finds on a beach can be seen as a link between the natural and man-made worlds. We are here at the littoral edge of nature between land and sea. Glass, that was wrought by humans, is now found on the seashore. The glass appears to have been assimilated into the natural world and seems almost as though it was created by nature. In a similar way this poem is a link between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind; between the natural, physical world and the human world. When we view the ocean as a cosmic symbol for the individual's unconscious, or even the collective unconscious, we begin to understand the depths of this particular poem.

Nature, or the ocean, are forces that cannot be controlled by humans. Likewise, when the unconscious mind intervenes in our daily life, it too seems foreign, a part of our world not able to be controlled by the rational mind. No wonder when the irrational appears we are often disturbed and disequilibriated; our whole education and existence is, for the most part, a movement towards imposing control, whether in our own lives or upon the natural world that surrounds us.

Zonailo's archetypal approach to poetry may differ from the post-Romantic view of deconstructionist literary theory. However, most of us still long for something that gives us meaning and comfort. One has only to remember the last lines of Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" to recognize a lack of spirituality that is more prevalent today than it was even in Arnold's own time. Zonailo's importance as a poet partly lies in her assertion of the urgency of the numinous in everyday life.

As in "Journey to the Sibyl" there is the image of a trapped bird in "Blue and Green":

a seagull swoops and gathers in its beak
the unsinkable lure.
Caught now, on the line, the bird is a body

pulled from the sky
and flight becomes a matter of diving,
diving into the alien water.

The next section of the poem continues this image:

The hooked bird disappears underwater;
feels its feather become fins.
The beaked mouth, sharp with barbed pain,

takes on the human features
of a seal's whiskered face.

The bird, entering by accident the world of man, is dragged into the sea. However, a transition occurs in the image: the bird becomes human-like and now represents those who enter the unconscious mind by chance. Indeed, perhaps the unfortunate ones who enter unwillingly, through emotional breakdown, or through the demands of nightmarish dreams or some other psychic disturbance are most common. Some may enter the depths of the unconscious willingly: "two men/ prepare to dive./ They wear wet suits, helmets, masks..." How is one to enter the sea? Zonailo writes:

If you swim the sea will float you, but swallow you
if you dive deeply.
This is how to dive—take artificial lungs,

wear an extra layer of skin...
in the destructive element immerse
and by the exertion of your hands and feet
make the deep, deep sea bear you up

Zonailo's approach here is Taoist, the approach of least resistance. If you struggle against the sea you will be drowned, yet if you can relax then there is the possibility of at least treading water. But most of us are psychically thin-skinned. We don't have "an extra layer of skin". Subsequently, we are more liable to drowning than the individual who does not fight "the destructive element". Our rational minds resist hearing messages from the unconscious; thereby, we resist change or transformation.

What does one observe beneath the sea's surface? First, "the surface is a memory", a foreign place, just as the unconscious mind is foreign when we are not in direct contact with it. Second, "there's no light...only a midnight blue like a starless/ night." But it needn't be a place of darkness and terror:

In the flashlight's beam the sea-floor
is a garden of orange-coloured blossoms
bending in the current...
The sea is never still, the silent depth

alive with strange shapes.

There are many things to observe in the under-depths of the ocean or the unconscious: "time takes on/ another dimension..." This is psychic time, the non-linear time of the emotions; indeed, there is also a suggestion of the mystic's transcendence of time. The rational world of differentiating reality into species, levels of order and organization, has no value here. This type of perception offers what philosopher W.T. Stace, author of The Teachings of the Mystics, has referred to as an "undifferentiated perception of reality". In the poem, "Blue and Green", Zonailo as poet and mystic identifies an awareness of reality that is holistic, non-temporal, and not bound by concepts that prevent understanding of more visionary ways of apprehending the world. For Zonailo, "Language becomes a gesture, a signal/ made by a gloved hand."

The world of the unconscious can also be a place of terror. There is a gruesome discovery, a "naked body, bloated by sea-swell,/ sinks and is lodged between rocks/ in the steep shelf." Death is a part of the psyche; we are able to perceive the new only when the old is allowed to die. Only with a psychic rebirth can fresh concepts supercede outworn ones. There is death in the psyche, but there is also recognition that loss is inevitable. Fear of the unknown prevents some people from going deeply into the unconscious mind. But if we continue, if we are courageous, we can then discover something remarkable unfolding before us: a transformation has taken place. The drowned body that was discovered is being partially eaten by small fish and this body, undergoing natural change, rests on a rock. In the poem the rock ledge the dead body is lodged upon is seen by the poet as mythologically female. "The rock is a woman":

Starfish cover her nipples, cling to her crevice.
They are lovers under the water—;
the woman whose body is stone,

the man whose body begins to decompose...
under the water they mate and make love,
not drowned but diving,
diving in.

The dead man is absorbed by nature: it is almost an act of love. This organic form of transformation, via nature, is presented as an erotic process. Death—whether psychic or literal—is no longer something to be feared; it is now a return to the physical world that represents continual death and regeneration. In this form of transcendence there is also love. Here, in "Blue and Green", we enter an expansiveness of consciousness. Despite the turmoil of the everyday world, Zonailo takes a contemplative approach to life that should not be confused with passive resignation: "The drowned bird will be swept to shore,/ feathers heavy with memory/ of flight".

To enter the depths one must be prepared to die to the way we live, and be reborn at a different level of awareness. Before leaving the sea, "With the last moments of air/... cut a path through kelp/ back to the breathable, blue surface." We can't live in the unconscious mind, but we can visit there through myth, dreams, literature, spirituality, psychotherapy, depth psychology, poetry, art. By doing so, we can replenish our fundamental existence; and then we return to live in the mundane world of everyday life. But ordinary life is now transformed and has been enhanced with the imaginal, the creative, and the archetypal. As Jungian analyst James Hollis says in Creating a Life: Finding Your Individual Path, the end goal of psychotherapy is not always to make a person happier or to solve life's dilemmas. Hollis writes, "Therapy will not heal you, make your problems go away or make your life work out. It will, quite simply, make your life more interesting.... Consciousness is the gift and that is the best it gets." Going into one's shadow material, or through a shamanic transformation, or finding the seer's wisdom, or going into the depths of the oceanic collective, brings back to the surface "sea-treasure" in the form of individuation.

The poetry of Carolyn Zonailo is a journey into the underworld. She is a poet who moves the reader deeper into an unfolding of the self. This is not only a poetry of self-discovery, but the poetry of an individual who discovers the intricate depths of the human psyche as it unfolds. As the self is revealed, so is the Self, a consciousness that transcends personal self-discovery. This is a poetry of unity over division, of love over despair and bitterness, and of life affirmation over denial. It is a manifestation of the archetypal feminine consciousness.

What, in summation, is the feminine consciousness? I suggest that it is ultimately a vision of union and unity that is close to a mystic's perception of the world. It is a vision that is made more accessible to the reader by the work of Carl Jung and subsequent writers on Jungian themes, by Taoism, by mysticism, by archetypal psychology, or by religions that allow for the existence of apparent contradictions. Whitman famously writes: "Do I contradict myself?/ Very well then I contradict myself,/ (I am large, I contain multitudes.)" The feminine consciousness also contains "multitudes". It is predominantly intuitive rather than rational; it emphasizes the "oneness" in all things, rather than differences and contradictions; it is a union with nature. The archetypal feminine consciousness may be like the Tao; Jean Shinoda Bolen, a contemporary Jungian analyst, writes in The Tao of Psychology:

The eternal Tao or great Tao had many names representing the idea that there is an eternal law or principle at work, underlying what appeared as a perpetually changing world in motion. Taoists referred to it by many names, including the Primal Unity and Source, the Cosmic Mother, the Infinite and Ineffable Principle of Life, the One.

Shinoda's commentary on the Tao is consistent with Zonailo's perception of human nature and the natural world. Carolyn Zonailo is one of the very few contemporary Canadian poets who writes from the feminine consciousness. Zonailo's poetry is a celebration of life and of the creative ability of the individual to realize most fully his or her potentialities.

Cederstrom, Lorelei. The Fine-Tuning of the Feminine: Jungian Patterns in the Novels of Doris Lessing. New York: Peter Lang, 1990.
Johnson, Robert A. We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love. New York: Harper and Row, 1983.
Neumann, Erich. Amor and Psyche: The Psychic Development of the Feminine. New York: Princeton University Press, 1956.
Shinoda Bolen, Jean. The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self. New York; Harper and Row, 1979
Zonailo, Carolyn. "The Idea of Poetry as the Visible Rainbow." Poetry Canada Review 9:1 (Fall 1987)
---------------------. Inside Passage. Vancouver: Caitlin Press, 1977.
---------------------. "Interview with Carolyn Zonailo." CVII 6:1&2 (Winter 1982).
---------------------. Portrait of Paradise. Vancouver: blewointment press, 1979
---------------------. The Taste of Giving: New and Selected Poems. Vancouver: Caitlin Press, 1990.

Copyright © 2007 The author