Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mark Pawlak's Lubec Poems

I recently learned something fantastic.

Mark Pawlak has been coming to my home town of Lubec Maine for years and writing poems about the area. Pawlak is co-editor of Hanging Loose Press, a poetry journal and book publisher that recently celebrated its 40th anniversary! HL is an extraordinarily rare standout. A non-academic venue that has persevered well beyond the stage of greatness into something ineffably more amazing. In both contemporary and historical terms it is masterful and vigorous.

From the website:

“The first issue of HL contained work by Denise Levertov, John Gill, Jack Anderson, Victor Contoski and other poets who would remain close to the magazine. The editors were in agreement that they were not interested in begging poems from famous writers but that they wanted to stress work by new writers and by older writers whose work deserved a larger audience. In 1968, the magazine introduced a feature which has become celebrated over the years, a regular section devoted to writing by talented high school writers. This section printed early work by such writers as Evelyn Lau and Sam Kashner and has produced three highly praised anthologies.”


I discovered Pawlak’s interest in Lubec accidentally, while checking out a call for submissions by Breakwater Review. BR is a brand new journal run out of the University of Boston, Massachusetts. Guess whose poem is the very first one featured in their very first issue? And guess what that poem is about?

Without further ado, here it is, reprinted by permission of the author:


By Mark Pawlak

From Quoddy Journal 2007, Lubec Maine

(for a life of Sensations rather than Thoughts— Keats)


Today my preoccupation
is this cracked, seamed,
frost-heaved tarmac road
along whose crumbling
shoulders edged with gravel
squadrons of bees patrol
hydra-headed Chamomile
just coming into flower,
yellow clover
already gone to seed.


Isn’t that a beautiful vignette? The poem captures one of the essential feels when you travel that last mile or two in Lubec, toward the Quoddy Lighthouse, which sits on the easternmost point in the United States. Yes, I know this seasoned tarmac well. It is tremendously powerful to walk its last furlong to a hard-bitten angular cliff overlooking the vast Atlantic and the Grand Manan Island of Canada. One of the last spots you pass on the way is Carrying Place Cove, where the Passamaquoddy carried their canoes from one side of the neck to the other.

This is a journey beyond the last vestiges of society to a rugged and magical realm--one that is, as Pawlak says, “cracked,” “seamed,” “frost-heaved,” and “crumbling”--and in which "hydra-headed" flowers and golden bees are lovely yet fierce treasures.

Pawlak is a poet of intense immersions, and reminds me of the sense-addicted writers who are “On the Road” in the style of Kerouac. For them, each moment unveils a new miracle that begs for a swooning scrawl of the enamored pen.

You might have noticed that Pawlak keeps a journal of his visits to Lubec, which include a good number of poems. You can read more of the Lubec poems from his Quoddy journal here:


What an honor to my town that Pawlak has chosen it as a Muse for his rich and energetic mind. And what a great discovery for me to find his words. Poetry in Lubec just took a quantum leap up!

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