Once in a while, perhaps every day, as in an endorphin-releasing morning walk, let us extract ourselves from pressing matters of family and state and delight in the splendid anti-oxidants of association. Mark Pawlak’s Jefferson’s New Image Salon Matchups and Mashups offers us this divertissement. It tells us to look once at the subject name and to stare wide-eyed at its predicate as in “Lincoln Hat Supreme” or “Washington Rib & Chop House”,” Roosevelt Costume Shoppe,” or in the link that gave Pawlak his title “Jefferson New Image Salon.”
I have never read a poetry collection like Pawlak’s latest. This is anti-poetry in the spirit of Nicanor Parra’s drawings with lines attached, as in Parra’s cross where the moniker says “Voy y Vuelvo” ( I will be right back).
The beauty of Pawlak’s book is that he has done the associating from found materials, everything here picked up by an observant and intelligent citizen, member of the community. Pawlak, the peculiar poet, has taken on the role of acute observer and subsequent assembler of tomfoolery and gimcrack and wonder. Like Shelley from our Romantic Poets class, “the unacknowledged legislator,” here is an avatar, resident in Cambridge, Massachusetts and frequenter of “Leda Foods” and “Helen’s Leather Shop” (from “Greek & Roman Mythology in Massachusetts.”)
Pawlak draws his arc wide across the canvass, from the Greeks and the Bible to Shakespeare and the New World. He includes British Authors and European Composers and North American Tribes. This assemblage comes certainly from New England, from associations linking European settlers and America. I have begun to daydream about other associations, perhaps from the West Coast, Chow Fat Salon, or Good Luck Cleaners, or perhaps a Hawaii specific set, Diamond Head Grill, Waikiki Flip Flops, But the universal begins of course in the particular and New England culture and its attendant parts merit a feast day and a fine poet of found materials, a Bauhaus-type, a wit with shapes of words, Mark Pawlak.