Tasting Fire


86 pages
ISBN 1-55071-090-7
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Beryl Baigent

Beryl Baigent is a poet; her published collections include Absorbing the
Dark, Hiraeth: In Search of Celtic Origins, Triptych: Virgins, Victims,
Votives, and Mystic Animals.


Tasting Fire is a beautifully produced first book with cover art by
Micol Katz. The author is an Italian-born teacher of creative writing at
the University of Toronto, and it is evident that her birth country and
family are of ultimate importance to her. In the cover notes, she
reveals that her “writings speak of transitions and changes in [her]
cultural self, [her] maturing feminism, [her] encounters with destiny,
history and nature.”

Many of Colalillo-Katz’s pieces are dedicated to special people in
her life. Some are vignettes of recollections written in sparse
passionate prose, as in “Kisses” where “Fat tears pool around the
red marks of her anger, around the red marks of my love,” and in
“The Old Man” who reminisces from his train seat about his estranged

Perhaps this book is a chronological journey, from the “Fig Tree”
of Italy through the “immigrant timewarp / in exiled land” to the
“Dark green shutters / white woods walls / shimmering forest / around
/ a single pine” of “Pauline Johnson’s House” in Brantford,
Ontario, and the “Proud winter snows” of an “Oshawa Afternoon.”
Taking the questing journey with Colalillo-Katz, one meets grandmother
who died of ovarian cancer at the age of 53, mother (who also writes
poems), father (whose “heartbeats remember / the golden wheatfields /
he harvested at twenty / before the war made him / angry and
homeless”), and other old relatives who move “reluctantly / into
death’s watchful shadow.” We also meet Mary Wollstonecraft who
“died in childbirth,” the poet Lorca who teaches that “Life is not
a dream,” Dante (who is part of a “universe / unfolding / in rose
petals / of Light”), and an unnamed woman whose writing “set [the
poet’s] soul free.”

Other immigrant Canadians will recognize the pain, pride, and success
in this book and will join the dancing “women uniting in circles /
dancing in ancient ways / in the wise / new ways of spirit.”


Colalillo-Katz, Isabella., “Tasting Fire,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/8441.