Monday, August 21, 2023

California Dreaming by Lily Iona MacKenzie


 The Capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”- Julia Margaret Cameron

  Mrs. MacKenzie’s poetry is an exquisite dance of words on the crevices of both pain and joy. She grew up on a farm in Canada, where her surroundings inspired her to see the beauty in everything.  

 It is not easy to summon up a common thread to all these poems.

 A number of poems at the beginning reflect on the inquisitive nature of the art; the last few poems of the collection seem to harmonize with the first section, for the poet conjures up questions that lack answers.

  A section is dedicated to the impact of Covid-19, and another one deals with a lyrical exploration of emotions. Her words carve a gentle trail into the soul of the reader.

  There is an array of her poems that meditates on the power of specific masterpieces by Matisse, Vermeer and other artists. The images of the paintings are included, so one gets to “see” the poems through her words.

 The musical rhythm of her verses along with the ingenuous quirks embedded in some of her poems assemble to create a unique style of expression. I think the magic of her poetry is also revealed in the variety of themes and elements she offers.

 I find the author intriguing. I have added one of her novels to my reading list: Freefall: A Divine Comedy.

 Lily Iona Mackenzie’s literary works have appeared in more than 160 literary magazines, and she teaches literature and creative writing at the University of San Francisco, California.

This lady's enigmatic gaze has captivated the attention of various generations of people. Mrs. Mackenzie traces the energy of this intriguing painting by Johannes Vermeer in one of her poems. I will share a fragment of it:

“It’s the contrasts

that make her enigmatic.

Her lips hover on the verge of sensuality,

her expression

chaste as well as inviting,

pale skin

lit from within.


A force of nature, she can’t be contained

for long in that frame, watching

the world pass her by.”


 One could say that Mrs. Mackenzie’s poetry celebrates the power of art, so I expected Mrs. Mackenzie would transcend the boundary of focusing on the female artistic muse and include the artworks of women artists as well. My curiosity propelled me to search for them in her collection, but I was sad and disappointed to see that no poem was dedicated to the masterpieces of women artists.

 Women artists have worked as hard as men to create their masterpieces. If we celebrate art, shouldn’t we celebrate the art of women artists as well?

 Unfortunately, biases against women artists continue to be alive and well.

 According to a website from Yale University, research has shown that women’s art appears less frequently than men’s art at auctions and galleries. A study of Yale Art School graduates over 120 years suggests that institutions pose bigger obstacles than market participants. If you attend art auctions or wander through an art gallery or museum, you will find that the majority of artworks is likely to be by men.

 One study found that men’s work made up 96 percent of art sold at auctions around the world from 2000 to 2017.  This may be due to the biases of buyers, curators or museum managers against women’s works. Institutional barriers may play a role too.

 Women’s names are still less likely to be mentioned in books, so there is less awareness on their works. Therefore, curators need to work harder to support women that are not in the spotlight. The biases against women artists have been well documented, and I am sharing a few links at the bottom of this post to help you learn about this important issue.


  California Dreaming was published by Shanti Arts Press.

 I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thank you for visiting My Writing Life blog, a space of awareness, reflection, inspiration.

 Till next month.


Supplementary reading material: