Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Written on the Shore, Pauline Prior-Pitt

Jacket is white with all lettering grey. The title, very dark grey, is in fairly large lower case, a rounded font, centred, about two inches from the top. Below this a little rectangular hand drawing of sea and shore (inside the flap it say this illustration is done in pen, ink and sea-water). Author's name centred below this in same rounded font, a little smaller than before and pale grey. Name of press at the bottom in grey small caps.

Spike Press, 2019    £9.00    

[ISBN 1 872916 51 4] 
Copies direct from author: http://www.pauline-prior-pitt.com/contact/

The attraction of loneliness

This beautifully designed pamphlet (white jacket; small, square hand-drawn illustration of sea shore; French flaps) is a pleasurable read for any one, but especially for a beachcomber. As the title suggests, all the poems here are connected with the sea and walking beside it.

Many pieces are mysterious — even occasionally ominous — but the back cover description gives some help:

... at the heart of the collection are poems imagining the sea to be in love with a woman who walks along the edge of the tide.

And yet both in the ‘love’ poems and others, it was a sense of loneliness that stayed with me most. It’s not just the loneliness of the sea yearning, as in ‘Offering’, ‘to embrace’ the woman who walks beside it. It’s something about the white space in the margins, the short lines, the gaps between stanzas, the way that poems without punctuation (i.e. nearly all of them) open out into the air. Something or someone here is searching and solitary, inconclusive.

But empty beaches are lonely places, where each day the tide sets down its ‘wave wave shapes / tiny ridged ridges’, as in ‘Shore’; or its ‘necklaces of broken shells’ as in ‘Come’; or its precision of shells and bones in ‘Graveyard’:

empty whelks
cockle purses
limpet hats
thin dunlin skulls
tight lipped cowries
pecked white crabs

These brief snatches of line, short stanzas, minimal punctuation — all of them somehow evoke the experience of beach landscape, the empty miles of sand dotted with little phrases and hints of shells.

But loneliness here is not the miserable kind. It is romantic, beautiful, curiously seductive:

and though the frost
still sparkles in sand shadows
it’s a perfect day to picnic

not what you’d expect
in February
but then nothing ever is

come quickly now
be here with me

Also this beach is not imaginary. It is Sollas, on the Hebridean Island of North Uist, where the sand is white. Read these poems and you long to be lonely there.

Helena Nelson