Written on the Shore, Pauline Prior-Pitt
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’:
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
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.