Resolute Bear Press in Robbinston has been a percolating little literary operation for years now. It was established in 2008 as the publisher of Off the Coast literary journal, which started life in 1989 in association with Rockland’s Live Poets Society. When Valerie Lawson and Michael Brown took over, they moved the journal to Washington County and developed its mission as a Maine-based international literary magazine. Off the Coast’s editorial operation was handed on last year to A.E. Talbot as an online ‘zine based in East Machias.

Resolute Bear, meanwhile, turned its attention to book publishing. Its first two offerings, released last year, are “3 Nations Anthology,” edited by Lawson, and “The Martin Bormann Dog Care Book,” Brown’s collected poems.

The stories, essays and verse in “3 Nations Anthology” are assembled generally around the themes of identity and boundaries — personal, familial, political and cultural. And as the book’s subtitle indicates, we hear from an array of New England, Canadian Maritime and Native American voices. Among the Maine-based contributors is Penobscot Nation spokesperson Donna Loring, whose “Tribal/State Relations in the State of Maine USA” gives emotional scrutiny to the cultural and political implications of the expression “circle the wagons.” Other Maine writers include Dennis Camire, Leonore Hildebrandt, Ellie O’Leary, Lee Sharkey, Jeri Theriault and Brown, among others. Patricia Ranzoni’s mesmerizing poem “Facing Both East & West at the Same Time: Along Passamaquoddy Shores” is a dreamlike portrayal of life along the Down East coast from long before it was called Down East. This book, in theme and morality, is squarely of its sociopolitical-arts time.

“The Martin Bormann Dog Care Book” collects poems written by Michael Brown over the last 50 years; its explicitly “political” themes also fall squarely within current trends. Brown’s verse is characterized by precisely crafted sentences; his principal subject matter involves the ways in which personal life intersects with the ongoing turmoil of the world at large, sometimes in his own experience, sometimes in his imagination of others’. The title poem is a surreal-feeling narrative set apparently in a Nazi-occupied country (maybe the vicinity of Kafka’s Prague?), and focuses on a family’s efforts to train a new dog alongside the bewildering difficulties of learning to get along with repressive, violent government. It is a poem about how the masters train the subjects. There is definitely food for thought in this poem about our present national situation.

Brown’s poems lend themselves to what literary studies used to call the moral-philosophical approach to interpretation. In fact, the pointedly plain-spoken diction, sentence after well-crafted sentence, is often aiming at an actual moral in the final lines. A few examples of the more explicit didactic endings: “We must feed, tame, and educate / our children before we starve, / and they become cannibals”; “The right time to oppose injustice is always”[cq]; “with a little skill, / the people can have real soup”; and “Mary Magdalen” concludes, “Anything I can / do for a man takes three minutes. / Everything else is talk.”

In the prose poem “La lecture a la Robbe-Grillet,” interesting repetitions of phrasing expose a situation many of us have endured way too often: a lecture so shallow and insubstantial that, to avoid exploding, you have to suppress your speculations on how much the person has been paid to deliver it. The poem’s lecturer is given to “repeating the conventional in a way that … will cause us to look more deeply into the subject and grasp its fundamental importance when there was no importance in the first place.” It includes what amount to refrains involving the phrase “there was no importance in the first place,” except in prose, creating in some ways the most evocative application of the straightforward diction that characterizes the whole book. You come away with a sense of heavy irony about the emptiness of authority.


If you are attached to the current belief that art’s primary function is to make a socio-political difference, like we say, then you will want to look into “The Martin Bormann Dog Care Book.”

Both the collection and the anthology are available through online book sellers or by writing to Resolute Bear Press, P.O. Box 14, Robbinston, ME 04671.

“3 Nations” contributors Valerie Lawson, Carol Hobbs, Paul Hostovsky, Cheryl Savageau and David Surrette will be appearing in a session of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Saturday, May 5, at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first Thursday of each month. Contact Dana Wilde at

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