Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Reading By Mark Pawlak and Mary Bonina!

August 2nd marked a special day for poetry in Down East Maine. Editors, writers and literary leaders converged to hear Mark Pawlak and Mary Bonina read at the Machias Public Library.

In attendance were: (a) the Salt Coast Sages, a flourishing group of poets based in Machias, led by Jerry George, (b) the editors of Off The Coast, our area’s only world class literary magazine, Valerie Lawson and Michael Brown, (c) various wordsmiths of all backgrounds from near and far, (d) a polyglotism of curious tourists and onlookers. The room was packed, rare for our region, and the atmosphere hummed with expectation.

Pawlak, in a nutshell, could be described as historical, amiable and brilliant. He has edited Hanging Loose Press for thirty years. Also, he hobnobbed with some of the legends of poetry. You’re dealing with someone who studied extensively with Denise Levertov.

For detailed information on this wonderful and talented bard, check these links:

Over the last five or so years, Pawlak has bestowed an especially great honor on my hometown. He has been using Lubec, Maine as a muse. Happily, there is now an accumulated body of Pawlak work that could be called the Lubec Collection. Some of these poems, each an acute vignette of the people or place, can be found here:



As if the Down East region weren’t honored enough by the presence of Pawlak, his wife Mary Bonina also read for us in Machias. It was a memorable convergence, indeed!

Bonina also studied with Denise Levertov, as well as Ken Smith. She has many publications and seems especially prone to winning grants and awards. One of her pieces, we were informed, had been chosen for a granite monument! I could kick myself for not writing down the details. I believe this immortalized poem is etched on an obelisk somewhere in the Boston region.

For more on Bonina’s publications and various accolades, check out her homepage:

I would like to mention that Bonina has completed a chapbook for Cervena Barva, one of my favorite small press publishers. Cervena Barva is associated with a group of poets in the Cambridge region. I’m not sure of the whos and hows, but these cool poets participate in a number of literary projects, including the following (as well as Cervena Barva): The Bagel Bards, Wilderness House Literary Review, Istanbul Literary Review, and Ibbestson Street Press.

I’ve worked briefly with editors Irene Koronas and Robert K. Johnson, who are affiliated with this group. The experience has been nothing but positive and indelible. They love poetry and painstakingly struggle for vigorous awareness.

At our get-together, Bonina read many poems that could be described as freshly nostalgic. The well-crafted phrases enticed us like fluent and lissome creatures of air. Pawlak’s work was sometimes political, often satiric, and always expert at combining disparate yet connected images. Much of his repertoire consisted of found poems, that is, poems constructed of excerpts from newspapers, books and other media. He proved himself a master at this skill, swinging from humor to sharp insight--or sometimes merging them in a deftly tuned cluster of phrases.

I deeply and emphatically thank both Mark Pawlak and Mary Bonina for gracing us with their warm presence and their unimpeachably fine art. Viva Pawlak! Brava Bonina! Excelsior Down East Maine!



  1. a fine evening of poetry, indeed! what a talented couple!

  2. Hey, Thanks for all the compliments. Thrilled that the reading was so well received! Mark and I were pleased to see so many poetry lovers in attendance. We enjoyed meeting The Sages, seeing Off the Coast editors, the people just passing through and were grateful for the Machias Library to host the event. Michael Brown was responsible for some good publicity and many others spread the word. So thanks and thanks, too, Chris and Shanna for the tour of your studio/workspaces a couple of days later. We love Maine, and finding Lubec after I've been exploring the state my whole life has given me a huge infusion of "the way life should be."

    FYI: Some history and info on the public art project you refer to in your post: there is a link on my website to another site at Northeastern University where a prof assigned some of his students the task of writing about the poetry from "Arts on the Line " public art at a Boston subway station (Green St. Station, Jamaica Plain section). My poem "Drift" was a winner of the project called "Boston Contemporary Authors." There are photos on the NEU site and the student who was assigned my poem wrote a little something about how it affected her. The photo doesn't do the monolith justice since it's cut off: It's about 9 feet tall and the words are inscribed on the beautiful highly polished charcoal granite from a New England quarry. I am honored to have my poem there for passersby to read on the street corner outside the train station. This award came before my chapbook LIVING PROOF, which was more than a little overwhelming since I thought you needed a book before you got the stone!
    My full-length collection is scheduled to be published in October 2010. It's called CLEAR EYE TEA and it will be available through my website ( or from the publisher, The press is located in Somerville, Massachusetts, a city that borders Cambridge. For the last few years they have sponsored a reading series at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Harvard Square. If you order the book when it comes out (and I hope you will thanks) be sure to ask the editor to have me inscribe it for you. Nice blog you have with OWL!

  3. Mary,

    Will do, definitely! And thanks!!!

    Good luck with Clear Eye Tea. I look forward to the read.