Sunday, March 19, 2006

Official Versions. Mark Pawlak. (Hanging Loose Press 231 Wyckoff St. Brooklyn, NY 11217-2208)

Mark Pawlak, long-time editor at the “Hanging Loose Press,” reminds me of a lyrical “junk,” man—and I mean this in the best sense of the word. He collects phrases, archaic songs, ephemera from the past, and makes a strong poetic statement. In his poem: “A Boy’s Life, 1960” he pretty much lists things in a way that captures the unique texture of an animated, intellectually curious boy:

Painted candy-red stripe
on model ’56 Mustang; added decals.
Bowled three strings, made 5 strikes.
The Day The Earth Stood Still-scary!
Ice breaking up on Niagara River.

Easter. Bopschu’s sauerkraut pierogies
and duck’s blood soup!
Played charades with cousins.
Learning Latin to be altar boy (ugh.)
30 situps, 16 pushups.”

And how about this well-rendered picture of the owner of a cottage “resort,” on the coast of Maine in: “Hart’s Neck Haibun, Book 1 2000?” I think we all have encountered the type:

The “man of the house,” arrives later—the others, now gone were
relatives down for the weekend. In contrast to his wife’s girth, he
is skinny as a rail, has a nervous tic, and is weighted down by an
enormous ring of keys, dangling on a chain from his belt. (Mary:
Are you sure he is not a speed freak?”)

But anyone who is familiar with Pawlak’s work realizes there is a very strong political component to it. In: “All the News: Sept 23, 2001,” Pawlak has a deliciously ironic poke at the war in Afghanistan:

According to the Times,
Air Force bombers are heading
toward distant airfields
to fight a shadowy foe
flitting through mountains
in a deeply hostile land
already so poor and so ruined
by two decades of war that it is
virtually bereft of targets.

the headline instructs

I review a lot of poetry books, and I can say Pawlak has a very quirky, engaging and unique style. Recommended.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ March 2006/ Somerville, Mass.

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