Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Tuesday Poem: D'Zonoqua

[For Emily Carr]

4. D'Zonoqua

It is your own life
you find there
among the rotting board-walks
and roofless houses
the feral cats that shared your supper
the eternal rain dripping onto canvas.

But, stumbling through nettles
ruin and undergrowth, you can’t avoid
the carved eyes of D’Zonoqua –

a bird nesting in her mouth
snakes in her hair, her lips
stained with the blood of children
the one who gives and takes away –

that fierce wild woman of the forest
a pillar of fear and longing
whose deep gaze follows you far out to sea
burning a pathway to the horizon’.

© Kathleen Jones 2015
[All quotes taken from “Klee Wyck” by Emily Carr, Author and Artist, 1941, BC, Canada]
D'Zonoqua - Alert Bay
D'Zonoqua (sometimes D'Zunuqua) is an important figure in the mythology of the First Nation people of British Columbia, Canada.  She made a big impression on painter Emily Carr, who encountered the carved figure in the forest behind one of the abandoned villages she visited.  Emily feared it, but was also drawn to it.  D'Zonoqua is the wild woman of the forest, a figure of fear but also of empowerment.  She is possibly rather like the Indian goddess Kali.
D'Sonoqua mask
I met my first D'Zonoqua in the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver.  They had a display of feasting dishes carved in the shapes of reclining women, with lids carved with the face of D'Zonoqua. The men would eat from her body, which seems to have had ritual significance in a matrilinear society.
D'Sonoqua feasting dish
Then, in Alert Bay, where Emily Carr had her unnerving encounter, I also met my first D'Zonoqua totem.  She is black and fearsome and embodies everything I try not to look at in my own female nature - the wild, creative energy that is inside us.  What might women do, if they weren't constrained by some social notions of femininity? Sometimes I terrify myself, when I look at what's inside me.
D'Sonoqua dish and masks being displayed by the Kwak'waka'wakw people.
The poem above is part of a series of poems about the life of Emily Carr, who defied convention and spent a large part of her life travelling to the remote villages of the First Nation people of British Columbia, to paint the ruins of their culture, during the first decades of the twentieth century.  I love her work, but I also love the journals and letters and fragments of autobiography that inspired these poems.  If you want to read the rest, you will have to buy the latest copy of Earthlines - a wonderful magazine publishing 'eco-literature' - beautiful, thought provoking prose and poetry accompanied by wonderful images.

The Tuesday poets are an international group who try to post a poem every Tuesday and take it in turns to edit the Hub.  If you'd like to see what the others are posting, click on this link.


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