Recollection and Emotion

“As a whole, the poems are a collection of thoughts and moments; responses to memories and present events. If the feelings represented in the poems are not always ‘emotion recollected in tranquility,’ they are often perhaps tranquility recollected in emotion.”
—from the introduction to “Today and Other Moments,” the poet’s collection
submitted to the English and Creative Writing Department of San Francisco State University

In this collection of poems collected from several decades of her work, Stella Zamvil displays a remarkable range. Her style can be affectionate or comic; but it is often angry. She writes of family and domestic struggles; yet she also responds passionately to world-shaking historic events. She is equally at home with the liberties of free verse, but she knows and is comfortable and competent with the formal structure of rhyme and meter. In every poem, throughout her range, she has the discipline to make it look easy: strong, economical phrasing with the right word in the right place. These poems are the work of a poet who knows her business, and her business is the human heart.

Zamvil responds to social issues with no holds barred. She shows dramatically the tragedy of the Holocaust at the very personal level (“There Are No Toothbrushes in the Camp”). She shows the dismay of neglected veterans, victims of the Vietnam War (“Veterans’ Day”). She also explores the injustice of sexism. But the majority of Zamvil’s poems are personal and up-close. She paints the suburban landscape with humor and affection and close attention to details, from a frog trapped in her watering can to egrets roosting in the pines behind her house. She celebrates the city parks and her community of dogs (“A Dogged Sestina”). She finds moments of tranquility (“Morning Mellows Me”) and desperation (“I Want to Be Free”).
Many of Zamvil’s poems deal with the frustrations and rewards of female sexuality, with the difficulties and partnership of marriage, the role of motherhood, her ancestors, and her Jewish roots. She is a poet who has experienced life in tranquility, and who recalls life with emotion.

Stella Zamvil lives and writes in Palo Alto, California. She studied creative writing, with an emphasis on poetry, at San Jose State University and San Francisco State University, where she earned her Masters Degree in 1977. During the 1970s she studied writing with Al Young, Robert Hass, and Mark Linenthal. Her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Women Talking/ Women Listening, Gusto-Driftwood East, Hoosier Challenger, Louisville Review, Urthkin, Stars, Samisdat, California State Poetry Quarterly, and Green’s Magazine. She is also the author of two published story collections, In the Time of the Russias, stories of life and death in the shtetls during the time of pogroms; and My Father Hunts Zulus, My Mother Puts Up Pickles, which contains stories of first and second-generation Jewish immigrants in America.

Silently You Taught Me
And Other Poems
Stella Zamvil
ISBN 978-156474-474-6
ISBN 156474-474-4
80 pages, paperback, $15.00

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