CM February 2, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 16

image The Coastline of Forgetting.

Leslie Choyce.
Lawrencetown Beach, NS: Pottersfield Press, 1995. 89pp, paper, $8.95.
ISBN 0-919001-95-5.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Pat Bolger.

image 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":

image This week
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.

Adolescents will welcome this addition to the Canadian poetry shelf and budget-squeezed librarians will welcome the now-rare, three-digit price tag.

Highly recommended.

Pat Bolger is a retired Teacher/Librarian living in Renfrew, Ontario.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to

Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

Go back to CM Welcome page
Go back to Table of Contents for this Issue