Opening into a story of familial loss and its environmental echo, Portal traces the salvaging of what remains. At the center of Mary Pinard’s lyrical and formally expansive collection is a brother lost at sea in a freak tugboat accident, with the subsequent search for cause and comfort rippling throughout.
Yellow Leaf Canoe
by Wendy Thon
In Portal, Mary Pinard explores grief and its transformations–both agonizing and transcendent–with a range and skill that are breathtaking. Here, the portal in its many manifestations (window, aperture, lens, doorway, insight) becomes both obstruction and passage, that which at once separates us from what we most desire and gives us access. Along the way, Pinard’s powerful, lovely, and sometimes horrific imaginings and figurings evoke and invoke our own deepest fears and loves. This is an enormously brave, tough book, compelling and beautiful, a tour-de-force.
Grief has the power to shatter or transform us. Mary Pinard is a visionary who dares to dive into the wreck, exploring the deepest realms of human consciousness and surfacing with gorgeously wrought revelations of what it means to survive, to love, to continue. She speaks to the lost in voices no longer personal: wind and water, sweetgrass and diesel engine, salmonid and sand eel. With transcendent tenderness, Portal opens a window on a world of radiant wonder.
Melanie Rae Thon
Mary Pinard’s Book Portal consists of a number of poems recounting the circumstance of her brother’s death, drowned in the kitchen galley of a capsized tugboat; the poems are heartbreakingly and unsentimentally a catalogue of the circumstances, what kind of person her dead brother was, and what have been the consequences, meditative cataloguing, too, of her own feelings of bereavement. The poems, for the most part in free-verse, are highly controlled, in a wide variety of dignified and deeply expressive forms rhythmically proceeding in their telling of the story. Separate poems, each beautiful in itself, but, taken together, it is one poem, in my opinion a great poem, a great elegiac poem.