The Book of Changes
poems by Madeline Sonik

106 Pages
April 01, 2012
Poetry All Titles



The Book of Changes poems by Madeline Sonik

Madeline Sonik creates poetry through the contemplation and inspiration of the abstruse symbols encountered in the ancient oracular Chinese text, the I Ching (The Book of Changes). The interplay of concept and image that the I Chingoffers, as well as the non-causal world view it implicates, presents a unique place of poetic inquiry. Sonik uses the Richard Wilhelm translation as her source and has ordered and labeled the hexagrams as he has, using his labels as the titles for each poem.

Carl Jung used the I Ching as a method of exploring the unconscious, and pointed out how it worked by allowing chance details to "enter into the picture of the moment of observation and form a part of it." This is what Sonik attempts to do this with each of the 64 poems that correspond to the I Ching's hexagrams. She was also was interested in using the I Ching as a feminist writer, for although it gives credence to intuitive and synchronistic ways of knowing which, in Western cultures, are associated with the feminine—the work is predominantly masculinist in that it foregrounds issues of male power, as well as occupations and concerns that have traditionally excluded women.

Sonik compensates for the lack of feminine presence in the I Ching by projecting into the hexagrams a personal experience of womanhood, where autobiographical elements are at liberty to dialogue with proverbial wisdom. Through this conversation, readers will discover a deeper understanding of what it means to be both human and female.

The Book of Changes

Madeline Sonik is an eclectic, award-winning writer and anthologist whose fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction have appeared in literary journals internationally. Her published book-length works include a novel, Arms, a collection of short fiction, Drying the Bones; a children's novel, Belinda and the Dustbunnys; a poetry collection, Stone Sightings; and a collection of personal essays, Afflictions & Departures, a finalist for the 2012 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction. She is also the co-editor of three anthologies: Fresh Blood: New Canadian Gothic Fiction; Entering the Landscape; and When I Was a Child: Stories for Grownups and Children. She currently teaches at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

"Open, passionate, and charged with metaphor, these poems bear the authenticity of a life fully lived, and the insights of a life fully felt. "
—Stephanie Bolster

"Sonik's poems gain momentum from skirting great pain. Objects metamorphose into other, incendiary nouns, and there is no rest. One doesn't need a copy of the I Ching to appreciate these poems: the hexagram title directs the reader's attention. Tight lines pay attention to sound. "
—Zoe Landale

"Here are spare, taut poems with "whirlpool edges" that take readers on a journey through an intricate and intimate poetic expanse. These poems rooted in the experiences of childhood, motherhood, and relationships attest to Sonik's range and keen eye."
—Fiona Lam

"Here is a new mythology, a way to explore the ancient divination system through the body and what it experiences, imagines and remembers."
—Yvonne Blomer


Focus: Victoria's Magazine of people, ideas, and culture - June 2012
Reviewed by Amy Reiswig

Highlights from the review:

"Madeline Sonik moves gracefully from the small and intimate to the celestial.

Since ancient times, there has been a connection between poetry and prophecy. Poets were seen as accessing something beyond themselves and the mundane mortal world and acted as a channel or conduit for words beautiful, wise and oracular. It seems fitting then that Madeline Sonik's new book of poems, The Book of Changes (Inanna, April 2012), is both named and styled after what some consider the oldest extant book of divination: the I Ching.

The poems in this collection take their titles from the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, beginning, appropriately, with "The Creative." While some might see it as odd to base a book of often highly personal poetic expression around an externally-imposed structure, the key in many ways is suggested by hexagram 2's title: "The Receptive." For being receptive means incorporating, being open to influence and making it your own. As Sonik writes: "I taste the treasures/ of your apples/ words hanging over a fence…I place them in the pockets/of my ears."

…Sonik's poems are also about shared experience, particularly the experience of living as a woman and as a complex human being in this beautifully, painfully complex world. In many ways she is therefore inviting us to know ourselves, and what she writes of herself in "Innocence (the Unexpected)" is something we should all do more often: "I marvel at the mystery of me."

Copyright © Inanna Publications. Site development by In the Lost and Found & Nicole Chung.