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Reviews

"Zieroth's poems are so strong and effortless, and steer a consummate line between thought and feeling - actually, the lines of thought and feeling braid into one another and the result is quite stunning, all the more so because of the quietness."

-Janice Kulyk Keefer

"A lovely, humane, humanely insistent voice. There's a witnessing in these poems that is generous and brave."

-Tim Lilburn

ARC Review of How I Joined Humanity at Last
David Zieroth's How I Joined Humanity at Last fits nicely into this new sub-genre of books which has sprung up of late by poets who are approaching or have reached middle age. One of their hallmarks is the need to come to terms with the traumas of the past and the disappointments of the present so they can move on to what's left of their lives with some equanimity.

David, whom we all came to know and love as Dale, recounts how he was forced to abandon his given name by a grade one teacher who could not accept two boys with the same name. Now, in middle age, it is time to recover this lost boy," a skin dropped, a ball/ lost in the summer grass." Zieroth has that uncanny knack of writing deceptively simple accounts, brimming with the mundane detail of the everyday, which nonetheless spin you off into some realm beyond, where the flotsam and jetsam of the world are placed in perspective.

In a series of work poems, he manages to capture the tedium, political manipulation and numbing bureaucracy of the office environment, while recognizing the satisfactions the community of hours brings, of returning after holidays to "arrangement, the in, the out,/ the top drawer where the clips/ are left, the pens, the pills,/ the comfort of lists." Often the work we do lends stability to lives unravelling in other areas.

But Zieroth's real strength lies in the family poems, such as "Father's Work," a nostalgic examination of his father's role, and "Foot Rub," in which he nightly massages the tension from his daughter's feet, washing his hands afterward to rid them of the hurts and poisons. The tenderness he feels towards father, mother, daughters, fairly radiates off the page - remembered incidents laden with the sense of loss. These poems capture the warp and woof of a life: meditations on doing his own laundry in What Comes After Love, on cutting himself while shaving, on being stranded when his car alternator conks out. There is humor, but of a black sort replete with irony, exemplified by "Endhome," a lament for a place the suicidal can go to be put out of their misery.

A highly auditory poet, Zieroth is sensitive to the noises humans emit which give clues to the workings of their inner lives: his mother's midnight wails, loosing the day's suppressed frustrations; the sobs of a neighbor behind a locked door; the love cries of the couple upstairs. Wistful and bewildered, poems like the title poem show him groping for connectedness after a failed marriage, learning "When love/ in the heart speaking to me/ dies out, to recognize the same wounds in other people who could make no deal/ to sidestep pain for the sake of/ a good night's sleep." The result is an unexpected birth of softness. This is a book with a story to tell and it won't do to read the poems randomly, for they document a spiritual and emotional journey through that dark wood to the clearing on the other side.

-Pat Jasper, ARC Magazine


Review of Zieroth Reading
Having never been to a poetry reading before, I had visions of bearded professors sucking on pipes, and eccentric women with wild hair and glazed eyes all gathered 'round a prolific speaker.

Except for a couple of bearded men, that was not the scene last Thursday, at David Zieroth's reading from his latest book, How I Joined Humanity at Last.

Undoubtedly one of Canada's finest poets, David's both touching and humourous book takes readers on a journey through his midlife quest for renewal. I was lucky enough to be one of those travellers, with the author as my personal tour guide.

About a dozen of us took shelter from the rain to relax our minds and open our hearts to David's world. I must say, the sprinkling of rain on the rooftop, dim lighting and the velvet couch that embraced my tired bones set the scene for a very relaxing evening.

After a short introduction David began reciting his poetry, first from his new book and then some more recent work. His poetry ranged from the melancholy to comical with a few poems that were so touching I felt like I was witnessing the events David was recalling.

Now a resident of North Vancouver and a teacher of creative writing at Douglas College, David's poems were resonant of both his current life and his youth spent in Manitoba. We were a captivated audience. Personally, David's voice reminded me of my grandpa's - the type that is so soothing I find myself hanging on every last word.

As he recited I realized that poetry is not simply the catalogue of another's experiences, but rather it is a personal journey from within.

David's poems sparked my memories of my own past and invoked questions of my own future.

That is the inherent beauty in poetry. When one brings their thoughts to life, the beholder often finds a reflection significant to their own experiences. Poetry probes thought, and by writing on such a personal level, Zieroth makes it easy for his readers to depart on their own personal journey.

David's advice to aspiring poets: write from your heart. Honesty is the key when it comes to recounting personal thoughts. David has written five books, but feels that he never reached true clarity until he received a letter from his father that evokeds memories from his childhood. Going back to his roots, David recalled, was the pivotal point in his writing. It allowed him to "soul search free of external influence".

At the end of the evening I reluctantly collected my things and prepared to brave the nasty weather. But, to my surprise, the rain had ceased and I was able to stretch the night's events out a bit longer.

As I pondered David's advice, I realized I have always enjoyed poetry, but have always resisted the urge to document my thoughts. After such an enlightening evening with David Zieroth, I just might see what I can come up with.

-Andrea Foster, The Gazette

Review of Zieroth Reading at the University of Acadia
On Wednesday, March 10, David Zieroth read from his latest of six collections of poetry, How I Joined Humanity at Last. Zieroth suggested that the aim of his poetry was to create a character with whom anyone could identify. His semi-autobiographical poems dealt with an ordinary man trying to find "the meaning of self in modern times." The narrator has a sense of his individuality at the same time as he recognises how individuals are all influenced by others, each travelling "through what has been shucked off" by others.

This exploration of selfhood leads to some interesting ideas. One of his poems evoked a common nightmare, that sudden realisation that one is naked in public. Zieroth sees in this shared dream the message that our society allows us no privacy. This theme carried over to other poems, including one entitled "Thinking My Neighbours Thoughts," which dealt with the narrator’s imaginative attempt to identify with his neighbour in an apartment building. The narrator imaginatively invades his neighbour’s apartment, looking into his life via the spy hole of poetry, trying to understand himself through a neighbour who lives in a place that "could almost be [his]."

Other important issues in Zieroth’s exploration of selfhood are children, nature, and, of course, the imagination. Children are an important part of Zieroth’s poetic project as connections between the generations, as reasons for living, and projections of parental selfhood. Some of Zieroth’s poetry is about his children; some, about his own childhood in British Columbia. Inspired by BC, he discussed the importance of the environment to the poetic imagination, bringing out the impact that BC's "brooding hills and grey sky" had upon his writing. He also spoke of gaining power and satisfaction from nature, as a line from one of his poems shows: "I will drink from the creek and be made happy."

Zieroth’s well-attended reading, the last in the department’s sponsored readings this term, sparked some engaging discussion.

Praise for David Zieroth's Earlier Books:
The Weight of My Raggedy Skin

"The poems depend on Zieroth's sophisticated, humane sensibility, a sensibility that both cherishes and queries the daily, one working - and allowing the reader to see it at work - to make sense of this human life. We have much to gain from this appreciation, this inquiry, and Zieroth's lucid yet unblinking vision is one for which we should be grateful."

-Rhea Tregebov, University of Toronto Quarterly


Judith Fitzgerald Review of When Stones Fly Up in The Toronto Star, June 14, 1986:

When the Stones Fly Up brings Dale Zieroth's publications to a total of three in 15 years. It adds weight to those cliches about quality and quantity, less and more, live chickens and dead ducks. It contains three sections (House in the Night, The Boat and When the Stones Fly Up) introduced by an epigraph from C. S. Lewis' The Allegory of Love:

"Humanity does not pass through places as a train passes through stations: Being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind."

Zieroth's poems take the notion of humanity to heart. Family, place and childhood dominate his work. This side depends on a subtle transference for its effect: "Sometimes you hear another voice, as if from behind a green hedge where I might be walking where poems slip out of my head hit the ground and start blooming."
- Judith Fitzgerald, Toronto Star