Even the first selection “[Essay with Dead Fish]” begins introspectively, “I’m wondering if a writer isn’t a kind of failed magician. Or if it’s an erroneous gesture for a reader or a writer to apply the kind of thinking required in the space of the book to a space outside of the book.” From the very first line, the speaker (in this case, Zurawski herself) questions her role as a writer and the impact a fictional work can have on reality. These poems suggest a writer who is unsure of poetry’s purpose, yet feels inclined to write anyway.
In “February 13, 2012”—a poem constructed like a letter correspondence--the speaker reflects:
The problem is both that poetry seems to do nothing to makeThis describes poetry as a type of therapy. Those who write are drawn to the act for inexplicable reasons, and yet writing gives the speaker a sense of fulfillment and wholeness, although fleeting. In “Dear Reader,” Zurawski admits, “Since the completion of my first book, a novel published in 2008, I was scared to write, but daily I felt displaced from myself because I wasn’t writing.” This struggle is made apparent throughout the collection. Many writers (or would-be writers) face a resistance between the desire to write meaningful, impactful poetry, and the courage to actually try to do so. This self-doubt can be stifling if not overcome.
things better in any material way, and yet we can’t stop ourselves
from writing it. We need it and don’t even know why. And even
if poetry is just a kind of astrology through which we begin to
dream that we can be like a we, it seems we’ve been dreaming a long
time, and, still, you and I wake up every morning alone with a
pencil in hand.
Writers may ask themselves: Are words enough? Zurawski seems to ponder this question throughout her collection. After all, in the poignant elegy "[A Horizon is a Line You Can't Cross]," the speaker accepts: "What moves / my hand to the page can't make a world / a word." A poem can't bring a dear friend back to the flesh, nor can it recreate a world in any physical sense, yet we turn to poetry regardless. Zurawski's poems may, at times, question the relevancy of poetry, but they don't diminish its impact and importance. In “[” the speaker begins the poem in doubt:
Now that I’m oldBut what begins in doubt, ends in a simple reminder that poetry serves a crucial role, in that it has the potential to bring a little magic into our lives:
it’s hard to get any
writing done. Every
day I’m busy
When I was youngThe speaker may struggle with the meaning and tangible importance of poetry, but cannot deny that it's an essential art form.
I learned that poetry
was a little light
in all that darkness.
Companion Animal is an introspective collection whose speakers reflect on the role and importance of writing poetry and its impact on our lives. The perils of daily life are illustrated here, and questions go unashamedly unanswered. Readers who favor poems that are short, punchy, and (occasionally) profane, or who themselves question the role of the written word, may find a companion in this book.