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Poetry Week: One-on-one with the talented Pearl Pirie

By Sanita Fejzić on March 26, 2015


Ottawa’s Pearl Pirie recently published her third full collection of poetry, the pet radish, shrunken, a wonderful, playful, and funny collection of unforgettable poems.  You will scratch your head, laugh and be happy to think about “the tangerine sunset,” how “I love yous peak on sundays,” and “because I love you. if I didn’t, think/ about it, why would I be yelling?”

She will be reading at VERSeFest on Friday, March 27 at 7 p.m. alongside Marilyn Dumont, JC Bouchard and Stevie Howell. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear her live. Until then, here’s a quick interview with the loveliest Pearl.

Apartment613: Your poems are unlike anything I’ve read before; they’re playful, experimental, and at the same time rich in content — some of them even tell stories.  In your own words, how would you describe your poetry?

Pearl Pirie: Whimsical, exploratory. like most any writer I’m making what I would like to read.

Apt613: How would you define a lyrical poem?  Would you say you are a lyrical poet?

PP: The word isn’t useful anymore. it covers too much.  Lyrics is still a useful word (not that these are) unless there’s a musician in the house? going once…twice…?

Apt613:  Your attentiveness to language is incredible.  It’s as if you’ve spent a long time with certain words, getting to know them, intimately, and undoing them for us.  I’m thinking specifically of the word “olive” in your poem, “until components float apart.” it metamorphoses with each passing line, from “olive” to “live & o” to “oliva” to “ilove.” It’s not just playful, it is a testament to the shifts and migrations of meaning, sounds, words and people.  It’s also a bit dadaesque. H ow would you describe this poem, and can you tell me a little bit about your writing process?

PP:  A stream of my poetry is roots and false etymologies; sense and history is partly consent.  What will agree on as common ground?

Pearl Pirie

Pearl Pirie

Apt613:  The poems in this collection are quite different.  Some of them read like prose poems, others like parts of a play (conversations), filled with dialogue. There are three sections to the collection.  Is there logic to your lovely madness?

PP: I see the first chapter as relationship with self and other intimates.  The second are more anxious, the “tetchy” in “technique” and more language-based and geography-based.  The third chapter poems are more predominantly the bigger picture, among other species, politically and in community.

Apt613: Although the poems are certainly not limited or defined by this observation, you use a lot of domestic imagery throughout the pet radish, shrunken.  There are also quite a few references to food, with tomatoes sticking out in particular for me. what inspires you?

PP:  I garden, work from home; one writes what one is aware of.  I like tangible grounding.  It anchors and makes flights sensical or endurable.  Pain Not Bread said, “Easy to forget all thought is detail,/fashioned out of wood and iron”

Apt613:  You experiment with form in quirky and meaningful ways.  In “vertiginous frights,” for example, you make a clock with the word “no” and then cross out a word.  In other places, you leave ___ for words to be filled out, and, in what is one of the most exciting poems for me, your use of parenthesis in “alternative response (f)or irritants” is so punchy, bright and funny that a second and third reading only increases the pleasure.  You also use French and Spanish words, and don’t seem to be limited by language; on the contrary, it’s as if words open new horizons of expression when penned by you.  How do you do what you do, pearl?

PP:  Glad you like that one.  It’s like a make your own mystery novel where you can chase every option.  The reader should have options.  I don’t like, as a reader, being instructed on how to interpret. the world is bigger than one particular sense or story or English.

Apt613: Tell me what you’re working on right now and what’s coming up. are you touring, or doing any readings we should know about?

PP: I’m competing at Battle of the Bards at IFOA in Toronto March 25.  I’m reading at VERSeFest with Stevie Howell and Marilyn Dumont March 27.  Cocoa Cabin, a chapbook anthology of chocolate poems of my press phafours should be back from the printers shortly to launch at A Thing for Chocolate April 8.

On April 15 I read with Max Middle and Dennis Reid as part of the Great PoeTrain Event April 15 at Pressed Cafe.  April 18 at Octopus Books David O’Meara, Shane Rhodes, Brent Raycroft and I do an Ottawa launch of The Best Canadian Poetry 2015. Reading at Ottawa Writers Fest April 26 with the Ottawa BookThug spring launch.  It’s all at