The Coastline of Forgetting.
Lawrencetown Beach, NS: Pottersfield Press, 1995. 89pp, paper, $8.95.
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Pat Bolger.
In his introduction to this collection of poetry, Choyce explains what
led him to make a walk along a section of the Nova Scotia coast: his
attempt to nave a drowning woman made him suddenly aware of "how much
brutal indifference lurks beneath the ocean's often beautiful exterior."
He also describes his walk from Lawrencetown to Chezzetcook as "an
attempt for me to tie back together the entirety of my life along this
shore, to lose myself in the forgetful shoreline . . . and record, just
once, exactly who I am and where I've been."
The forty poems here reveal Choyce as an ideal companion for this
kind of very long walk, and for the short period of closeness that exists
between poet and reader. He's observant, aware, struggles with everyday
concerns like mending ties with his brother, and involves us deeply in
his pilgrimage to exorcise the memory of his "lost battle/ to save the
woman of Stoney Beach" and answer the question: "How can the sea remain/
both death and life for me?" ("Chezzetcook Inlet").
Choyce has a gift for the precise image: "Our feet stir stones from
the cobbled road/ and send grasshoppers stinging the air" ("August 5:
Three Fathom Harbour to Hawkeye Island"); the gulls in "Wedge Island"
"shriek and dive/ and carve long shadows with their wings/ as they fence
us in with their fury/ and stage a frenzied ceiling/ hung low beneath the
clouds." He is always alert to the relentless process of change, and as
he and his brother discover an old well on a tiny island, his mind leaps
ahead: "One day soon the sea will meet this well/ and steal the rocks
that once made walls/ until it gushes free on every side/ and spends
itself at last/ in salt." ("Facing Rat Rock.")
From the colour photo on the cover to the art by Judy Brannen that
complements the text, this handsomely produced book will attract
browsers. Even younger teens would enjoy "Otter," "Rocks," "The
Wreck," "The Porcupine," and "What I'm Doing Here." And for those who
surf (or just dream about it) there is "Caprice":
Adolescents will welcome this addition to the Canadian poetry shelf and
budget-squeezed librarians will welcome the now-rare, three-digit price
the Tropics turn
and venture north
to rush this coast with seas of thunder.
I'm tired too of a docile summer;
let heat avenge us with murder
before we step back into winter next.
Even now, as the Arctic inhales deep,
ready to blow the ice back into our veins
the South Atlantic is on the make.
Tomorrow when the waves explode
along this bouldered point
I'll stroke the sea to prove my dance
upon their backs
and carve my name on ocean walls
then drive for frantic light
as they tunnel on the reef
and I pretend I know their ways;
I've walked on water all my life.
Pat Bolger is a retired Teacher/Librarian living in Renfrew,
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
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The Manitoba Library Association
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