OFFICIAL VERSIONS by MARK PAWLAKLAUREL JOHNSON Reviews
Official Versions by Mark Pawlak
(Hanging Loose Press, Brooklyn, N.Y., 11217)
One critic stated that Mark Pawlak is "our most politically conscious poet." This fifth book of poetry by Mr. Pawlak proves that statement to be true. He harpoons politicians, posers, and power brokers, gathers poetic grist from tidbits of daily life, and shares his thoughts with whimsical humor or a sharp satirical edge. An introductory quote by Oscar Wilde reflects Pawlak's philosophy succinctly: "The truth is rarely pure and never simple."
Scattered among the roasts aimed at political spin-doctors, the gentle musings of "Hart's Neck Haibun" provides a deliberate, soothing contrast:
climb out of sight;
from fog's hem.
In "Aiming High," Pawlak memorializes unusual contenders for the Guinness World Book
of Records. The poet's tongue-in-cheek humor meets the solemn goals of eccentric people with delightful results.
"East-West Dialogue 2002" is a disturbing commentary on our times, in which a Russian and American worker compare notes on perks for business executives, communism, capitalism, free enterprise, and injustices experienced by the labor force. The ultimate irony is that, in the end, the American and Russian workers see the same outcome: Business as Usual for executives while workers get the shaft.
"20th Century News Briefs" are priceless. I'd like to quote every one, but space
limitations prevent that pleasure:
PRESIDENT CREDITED WITH INVIGORATING ECONOMY
Night and day,
at the South Bend, Indiana, A.M. General factory
new Humvees roll off the assembly line,
painted shades of sand.
AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION REBOUNDS
In fields that under the Taliban
were barren of all but landmines
cultivated flowers as far as the eye can see
now bend their heads in the breeze –
is once again a thriving enterprise.
EMBRACING AMERICAN VALUES
Outside the gates of the U.S. compound in Kabul,
lessons only recently learned
about freedom of speech and assembly
are being put to practice by Afghan students
shouting slogans and burning American flags.
IRAQUIS VIEW AMERICANS AS LIBERATORS, SAYS PRESIDENT
Citizens gather daily in the streets of Iraqi cities
to dance and cheer in displays of gratitude
around smoldering Humvees.
"Capsule History of Herat, Afghanistan" is a powerful poem best read in its entirety. Regardless of who might conquer or be conquered, women of the town look on through the narrow eye slits of their burkas.
From the official and unofficial versions of daily headlines, to the beauty Pawlak sees around him while vacationing at the Atlantic shore, his work is certainly unique and well worth reading.
Laurel Johnson is a Retired Registered Nurse and the author of four books. She is Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review; Review Editor for New Works Review; Staff Reviewer for Shadow Poetry Quill Quarterly Review and occasional submitting reviewer for The Wandering Hermit Review and Irish News and Entertainment. Her poetry and prose can be found online in various literary e-zines. She lives in Nebraska with her husband of forty years.