Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Quebec Passages - Pearl Pirie (Noun Trivet Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Quebec Passages.  Pearl Pirie.  Noun Trivet Press. Ottawa.  Ontario.  2014.

"we followed the rules we set for

This line from Pearl Pirie's poem "a rail bed of feldspar" just may be Pirie's mantra.

Quebec Passages is the second book of Pirie's that Today's book of poetry has looked at.  The first, been shed bore (Chaudiere Books, 2010) blog can be seen here:

And a disclaimer - I was lucky enough to read many of these poems in manuscript form, and was enthusiastic in response.

Nothing has changed.

Pearl Pirie seems to set projects for herself, dictates rules that demand poems of specific direction and focal point - but more and more the poetry of Pearl Pirie is becoming a clear, crisp beacon, they read universal and remain vulnerable.

hair strokes

     "things recede, everything recedes, everything is far away
     [...] the moon of contemplation on our backs"
     ~Tim Lilburn, Moosewood Sandhills

from every angle examined, yep, still 2 white hairs

as a teen you said: I want to love you till we're grey
we're there...

no, the whole head, and if you go bald, then too.

twenty years, you're still here, your hand thrust into my side,
rooting for a grip to hang on.


Pirie's nod to Margaret Atwood's Edible Woman let's us know that Pirie knows her history.

These interesting and articulate poems seem to come from a very deep well.  Pirie may be one of the best kept secrets in Ottawa.

Her dry humour just races around inside these poems like little landmines.  Some of them go off, when you are pouring tea, or turning down the sheets for the night.

Today's book of poetry is challenged by some of the visual poetry in Quebec Passages but isn't dissuaded.  I always hope to broaden my scope even when I'm reluctant to embrace.

Quebec Passages races past the reader like the witty barbs and bon mots of a strange but exceptional seating companion on a train.  Someone who is full of wisdom and a little piss and vinegar.  Someone confident enough to let loose with those assuring assessments, clinical appraisals and whimsical amusements.  They all fly by with staccato-clackety-clack of clockwork, or steel wheels on rails hitting seams.

after the meltdown at Promenade Plantee where shoppers and
suits averted their already preoccupied gaze we returned to
our flophouse de jour

waking to sun,
your hand on my back
was feeling a vertebra
as if testing for
a weak rung


Pirie's mature poems are Brautiganian whip-smart and as precise as pinched purpose.

She packs an over-sized emotional heft into many of these brief brios.

Pirie likes to laugh but has to move her tongue out of her cheek to do it.

moss is a velvet cape laid down

welcome back milkweed, lamb's ears,
grapevine and smallest of clover sprout.
good to see you up and about. apple petal.

verdigris pixie cup, dark umbrella lobbed
into the bush's sand, broken and turned
back on itself, oh, hello, rosette of lobes,

tar jelly lichen, what we saw once close up
we can draw in details from a distance.
we know a smudge is weather.

we breathe and know rain's close, we have
no word for the taste of air but know a shift
once our bones feel it. we notice best what

we have an easy word for. what we might
even believe. or else we're stranded in hail
in diagonal sweeps of musical sheets.


                       "or else we're stranded in hail
in diagonal sweeps of musical sheets."

That is such a great line.  Today's book of poetry remains convinced that Pirie will continue to cement her reputation as one of Ottawa's finer poets.  Quebec Passages is another big, solid statement to back that assertion.  It is a small book full of big ideas, humour and a searching intelligence.

Pearl Pirie

Pearl Pirie’s next collection, the pet radish, shrunken is with BookThug, March 2015. Author of been shed bore (Chaudiere Books, 2010) and Thirsts (Snare, 2011) which won the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Pirie has over a dozen chapbooks, most recently today's woods (above/ground, 2014) & polyphonic choral of civet tongues and manna (unarmed, 2014).  Host of Literary Landscape on, she organized Ottawa’s Tree Seed Workshops 2009-2014. She gives workshops and talks on poetry for various organizations. She blogs and photographs Ottawa’s rich, amazing literary scene.

"Part of the appeal of following Pirie’s work over the past few years has always been in not entirely knowing where her work might go next, shifting between narrative forms into more traditional engagements with haiku as well as more experimental forms of language and visual poetry, playing constantly with different shapes and possible sounds. [...] [T]hrough her curiosity, her work manages to accomplish a series of unexpected moments and startling, even jarring, images."
      —rob mclennan on Quebec Passages at Small Press Review

Pearl Pirie
Poet, Editor, Publisher
with thanks to Illume Espresso Bar


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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