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!