In this slender book, Mark Pawlak offers a poetry of place, transporting us to the coast of Maine with his words. The body of the book alternates between intertwining texts, one titled “Bold Coast Partita” and the other a series of diary entries called the “Quoddy Journal” (referring to Maine’s Quoddy Head State Park) that weaves together disparate texts in the form of the author’s original poetry, prose and “found” texts.
It is useful to know that a partita is an instrumental piece of music with variations, often a suite of connected pieces. Pawlak names each portion of the Bold Coast Partita with the musical term appropriate to the piece (chaconne, allemande, sarabande, etc.), and these shorter pieces set the pacing and tone for the journal entries that follow.
The journal entries are an exercise in presence and awareness, detailing by name the flora and fauna of the Maine coast, but also the details of human life there, from fishing and gun shops to tourists. Pawlak includes it all in an homage to the lived reality of this place he so clearly loves.
He also weaves in literary and artistic references, as in these lines about a sighting of starlings:
Little old men out of 19th century Russian novels
wearing dark, ash-flecked greatcoats,
pace the length and breadth of this yard.
Bent at the waist, heads down,
hands folded behind backs, they search,
among grass blades and sheep droppings.
for lost thoughts.
The book is at once an easy read, almost a travelogue, and a personal journal with deeper glimpses into parenthood and partnership, and into the way time in this beloved place has a lasting effect:
returning the same way
but as a different person
from the one who arrived.
If we accept the invitation he offers in some of the more contemplative pieces, or even surrender ourselves to the details (lists of birds, of wildflowers) that can help us be in a single timeless moment in a particular location, Pawlak’s poetry enables us, as readers, to leave the text subtly changed. In this way we indeed are different readers from those who arrived at the first page.