reviews

“the linguistic clean and jerk” and “the power and appeal of Pirie’s whirling dervish wordplay. ” —Tanis MacDonald, The Rusty Toque

I do have a favourite above/ground title: Vertigoheel for the Dilly (2014) by Pearl Pirie. Another crazy title! I gather that vertigoheel is a herbal remedy for Meniere’s Disease. It’s a modest-looking chappy—as they all are—but I think it might be a major long poem in that—being by a woman—it subverts (by its music & gender & argument) & takes a whacky complex stance against those stale male tropes in the long poem we have been accepting as a template for too long. To me—Vertigoheel is useful—brave—smart—& funny. Physical / political / & ecological too. “—Phil Hall at above/ground press 25th anniversary essay

The effect really is curious, as Pirie composes new poems out of the bones of my own fragments, creating both new poems and a strange kind of collaboration between our words and effects.”—rob mclennan  on rob plunder gift (Battleaxe, 2018)

Pearl Pirie is concerned with vectors, disruption, iridescence, and combustion, and using them to unsettle seemingly settled things. Ignore for a moment that the title suggests a disappointment in not spontaneously combusting. Motion is a position, as in the poem “We Casually Toss Around our Rucksacks” where “all we have is looser than clouds. we are air, this breath from / our octopus beaks.” As a reader you look again, unsure what you saw. That “we” really is air, really is this breath from our own beaks. The fantastical pushes boundaries of that which “we” encompass.” and What’s important isn’t that the words point toward something but that they are propulsive. A series of guidelines from a poetic HR department address questions you didn’t know you needed to ask in “Poet’s Guide to Buildings on Fire.” Here, Pirie plays dangerously between the literal and metaphorical. Everyday speech isn’t any less metaphor and exaggeration than poetry. Insert a flame emoji. Turning everything into metaphor can be a too-serious business. Laughing at the conventions of poetry (and poets) is an essential method for keeping poetry (and poets) from becoming unbearable. Pirie recommends carrying a small axe. So, “if the building has a small fire, put it out.” Easy enough! But “if the building is on fire, be aware buildings have been on fire before. are there horses running into it? can they be allegorical unicorns?” Meanwhile, someone might be on fire. What’s seriously addressed in funny lines are questions of priority. One can’t inhabit metaphor to the point that it inhibits interaction with the world. Well, one can, but there’s a cost and that cost is worth imagining. —Aaron Boothby on An Ongoing Lack of Spontaneous Combustion at the Town Crier”

I have been known to say that I am not a big fan of ‘sex poetry’. What I really mean is that I am not generally a fan of ‘erotic poetry’, though there have been exceptions. This is the former without being the latter. The sex is there, but it certainly does not mean to titillate, rather… illuminate? Causing you to ruminate? Or maybe just enjoy. This is a very good chapbook by a very good poet. Thanks to rob mclennan for passing this beauty my way. Thanks to Pearl for writing it.” — Rusty Priske on Sex in Sevens

Pearl Pirie’s thirsts, like the yin-yang, denies the reader’s thirst, and by denying it makes the reader aware of their thirst – so much the better to indulge it.” [4/5 stars] — mwpm on Thirsts at GoodReads

Each poem in this cleverly crafted collection seems to be the product of impishly wielded Scrabble tiles, intimately deployed with often revelatory results. Pirie’s collection is a charming puzzle, a delight and a balm to heart and soul. [5/5] — Vicki Ziegler on the pet radish, shrunken on GoodReads 


Pirie weaves together scientific observations on the grizzly bear, barbed critiques of the current Canadian political atmosphere, and ruminations on child psychology laying them bear against a reimagining of Grimm’s classic Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Pirie’s today’s woods is a gorgeous example of experimental poetic collage narrative. The texture of her language, thick and dense, is a stunning contrast to the sharp and cutting criticism levelled at the too comfortable white literary landscapes of colonized Canada. Pirie pierces the reader with the knowledge that sometimes we come to poetry in need of something that we weren’t aware we were lacking. When we sit down with this chapbook, we are sitting down with our five year old selves; this poet gives us permission to grieve the flawed narrative fed to us by parents, teachers and larger cultural attitudes. That’s a tall order for a chapbook of four pages, but it’s done with such an agile voice that the reader is lulled into this jarring imaginary-real world.—Lyndsay Kirkham on Today’s Woods at Broken Pencil

Inven­tive, adven­tur­ous, humor­ous, and a lyric aper­ture onto the strange beauty of the quo­tid­ian,  pet radish, shrunken  is a delight to read. Uni­fied in their unpre­dictabil­ity, these poems explore a range of forms and voices.   Pirie rubs words until they spark and fume, turn­ing the com­mon into an uncom­mon blaze. Every line is joy­ful in its eccen­tric­i­ties, and emi­nently re-read­able as it tum­bles through lan­guage.”—Lampman jury citatation, Arc

[With  The Pet Radish, Shrunken, Pearl Pirie] “reaches for a ripe tomato and sinks thru into a poem”; she “conjugates herself into hums that become harmony-hands as they rub, spin”. She accomplishes all of this with her playful style and sense of humour.” [4/5 stars]— mwpm on the pet radish, shrunken at GoodReads

Ottawa poet Pearl Pirie has taken one such idea and put in the work, and her joy is palpable. A fun and instantly rewarding work of mock-non-fiction in the vein of Roberto Bolano’s Nazi Literature in the Americas, Pirie’s Reviews of Non-existent Titles is likely to cause discomfort in poets who may feel implicated in the “deification of an abstract female as an angel of death” or the “generally skilled use of rhythm and metaphor to express bitterness at book length. It’s hard to tell if Reviews is meant to satirize poets or if it it’s a pastiche of pugilistic reviewers. The richness and nuance with which Pirie renders (and skewers) her non-existent titles reflects her familiarity with the North American poetry landscape, and how could someone conjure a world so thoroughly without harbouring some affection for it? Ultimately I think the prevailing spirit of this chapbook is like that of a roast.”—Bardia Sinaee on Reviews of Non-existant Titles at Medium.

These descriptions are not wholly satisfying though, because they do not interrogate Pirie’s lusty, zesty use of language, nor do they explore word play in the individual poems.[…] Pirie shows through Oulipo that homosexuals, like hyacinths, are beautiful.“—Joe LaBine on the pet radish, shrunken at Flat Singles Press

Prevost and Pirie are keen readers and listeners, capable of shaping one another’s gambits into sturdy morsels worth pulling apart. Though the exercises seem custom-built for Pirie’s elastic dissection of koan and colloquialism, Prevost proves totally up to the challenge, often distilling these ‘bastard ghazals’ to their imagistic potential. Like any thriving partnership, one person’s strengths must balance the other’s. At various points in-between the peaks of exploration and consolidation, the Ottawa-area poets achieve a single, hybridized voice. It could be said, albeit unfairly, that the procedures and approaches they discuss outshine the poems themselves – but that’s like saying limitless possibility outshines the closure of a finished piece! “—Ryan Pratt at Ottawa Poetry Newsletter on Sourdough Collaboration

I wasn’t very far into Pearl Pirie’s new poetry collection the pet radish, shrunken when I wished that I wasn’t reading it. Oh, don’t get excited; this isn’t some horrible negative review. Alone in my backyard in suburbia with the book in hand, I wished for a brief moment to be in a darkened public venue somewhere in urban wherever, listening to Pirie read, or better yet, to have her teleport to my backyard and read the book to me, or leap it to me, spin it to me like sixteen plates on sticks, dance its punny pas de bourrée, mash its oulipo sassiness into a fine paste and wear it like a facial. Wishing makes it so, in this case: that all happened anyway despite the decided lack of technology to support teleportation, which tells you something about the linguistic clean and jerk that this book performs and about the power and appeal of Pirie’s whirling dervish wordplay. ” —Tanis MacDonald, The Rusty Toque

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.—Sanita Fejzic on the pet radish shrunken at apt613

After two books, Pearl Pirie already has something of a reputation for verbal pyrotechnics, & her eccentrically titled new collection will definitely further burnish it. […] Although many of these pieces seem to fly beyond the ordinary, the local & political world hovers nearby, & sometimes impinges in a cutting manner. There’s a pertinent impertinence to such poems as ‘but here are you from, really?’ with lines like ‘absence makes the heart grown nomads. we are cheerleaders / standing on the pyramid of temporary workers,’  ” —Douglas Barbour at Eclectic Ruckus

These playful little books consist of a single sheet, ingeniously folded to provide eight pages. Pearl’s writing is so consistently varied that it is wonderful to see her tastes and gleeful experimentation extend to her publishing projects (both in material form and in the work she is publishing). At the November book fair I picked up new tiny chapbooks in this series from Pearl, Gary Barwin, and Amanda Earl (to go with titles from Pearl and Gwendolyn Guth acquired in the summer).”—Cameron Anstee

The lyrics populating Ottawa poet Pearl Pirie’s new collection, the pet radish, shrunken, buzz with oblique wisdom and surgically sharp wit.[…] the sonnets, tercets and dialogue poems of this new collection strike powerful and deliberate chords even while they frolic and surprise. ” —Wanda Praamsma In Conversation: Wanda Praamsma talks with Pearl Pirie about her new collection

 Quirky and fresh, playful yet serious, Pirie’s collection, THE PET RADISH, SHRUNKEN, demands and activates new pathways of reason. These line-by-line lyrical segments both tantalize and take the reader down the rabbit hole (pulling rabbits out of hats along the way) with their semantic surprises and jumpy music. Pirie sees the world askew and brings the reader along for the ride. An invigorating collection.”—Catherine Graham at SPD books

the pet radish, shrunken explores and dissects sound, form, and linguistic play, frustrating what Pirie calls embedded sense – the deeper meanings we ascribe to words, and by extension, the world. In “the body, its calendar” she writes, “wouldn’t we all fly up if not clasped? / you & I talk of saturn. I say weight. / you reply, mass, mass, but all I hear / is the trinity. dust, our size, not our origin.” Worlds collide in this single stanza: creationism is pitted against not only evolution, but existentialism.[…] Many of these poems aren’t pretty in a lyrical sense, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because they please the mind in another way. “—Safa JinJe on radish in Quill & Quire

She’ll slip a hard edge into the most carefree poems to knock you out while other lines evoke giggles[…] a radiant union of contemporary situations and classic themes.”—Kalina Lafromboise on radish in Maissonneuve, Spring 2015
(print or subscription/behind a paywall: http://maisonneuve.org/issue/spring2015/)

Pirie’s poetry reminds me of early Atwood. Witty and biting at the same time. I haven’t read poetry that I have enjoyed like that for a long time.”—Anne Boys-Hope on the pet radish, shrunken

She’s the opposite of boring!” —9-year-old neighbour on the pet radish, shrunken 

Precise riots of vowels and consonants rattle these poems. Pearl Pirie’s lines burn with sonic-rich images. Her verbal verve is rooted in an ecstatic attentiveness to language, both found and formal. Moving from sonnets to dialogue poems to tercets, these poems shelter surreal and uncanny imagery. Charged with innovative and lyrical energies, the pet radish, shrunken is a gorgeous rebellion.”— Eduardo C. Corral on the pet radish, shrunken

Pearl Pirie’s words live on in the mind long after you’ve read them. She is an exceptional writer, one who creates a fierce impact on the reader, an impact that lets them know they are in the presence of a wild and beautiful imagination. Her poems are complex and playful, demanding and worthwhile, endowed with wisdom and wonder equally.”—Deborah at Goodreads on been shed bore

manages to articulate a series of confusions and sparks, none of which could have been articulated in any other way. These are poems learning how to explore simply by exploring. She has become a poet worth watching, which is always a rare and enviable position.” —   rob mclennan  at Jacket2

In Pearl Pirie’s poems, language ferments, foments a “vinegar vigour.” Flipping the labels off contemporary mores, cooking with sound, she offers quick food for thought. Keep up with her if you can.” —Daphne Marlatt on the pet radish, shrunken    

I very much enjoyed it. I laughed out loud on multiple occasions which is no small feat for a book of poetry! It was delightful. The poems collected in  the pet radish, shrunken  invite us equally into routine and catastrophic events. The delights of each new moment is tied with those memories that so casually insist on a place in a present.  With humour, play, and brass, Pirie revels in the daily raucous of domesticity, verbatim conversations, and the language that must somehow hold a whole existence.[…] I read the book through three times”  — Jenny Samparisi on the pet radish, shrunken 

“These interesting and articulate poems seem to come from a very deep well.  […] Her dry humour just races around inside these poems […] Pirie’s mature poems are Brautiganian whip-smart and as precise as pinched purpose. […] full of wisdom and a little piss and vinegar.  Someone confident enough to let loose with those assuring assessments, clinical appraisals and whimsical amusements.” —Michael Dennis on Quebec Passages, February 2015, Today’s Book of Poetry

“the pet radish, shrunken (March), the third full collection of poetry from Pearl Pirie, deals in the poetics of sound, language, and play.”—Kerry Clare, January 26, 2015, Most Anticipated: Spring 2015 Poetry Preview

“Pearl Pirie’s been shed bore moves at the speed of sound, slipping up against silence.” —OIWF

“Pearl Pirie and Kateri Lanthier both use a flitting, ghazal-like strategy to deflect the full force of their affections for their respective “yous” in their witty, conversational rambles.”—Sonnet L’Abbé in Best Canadian Poetry in English 2014 

“This very small chapbook came in the mail yesterday along with several other subscription items from rob mclennan’s also small but many-windowed publishing emporium. Once past the cryptic title, this one is more than worth the price of subscription.  […]  Goldy cannot get out of the woods in this skillfully and amusingly critical parable — because those woods were darker and more complicated even back in 1918 than we readers first noted. Dark and complicated woods, which in Pirie’s interrogative narrative become fresh woods too.”—Frank Davey on today’s woods

“The poems were obviously crafted with care and attention to language, but manipulation of spelling and syntax purely for its own sake did not prove rewarding for me, similar to Nichol’s experimentation in the same way.”— Philip on Thirsts on Amazon Review 

“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.”

My epiphany— that Vertigoheel for the Dilly is a personal essay, touching on interests and frustrations that percolate through her social media outlets—barely skims the surface of this little chapbook’s big ambitions. “—Ryan Pratt on Vertigoheel for the Dilly at The Puritan.    

“Stylistically been shed bore offers a plethora of choices and the unendingly exuberant imagination of Pirie who comfortably stakes out her space as she explores a wide range of poetic forms […] What I have been clumsily trying to express is my admiration for those poems I loved in this collection, and there were many.  But equally, my awe at Pearl Pirie’s comfortable range, this book is so much thicker than it appears. “—Michael Dennis on been shed bore

“It’s only fitting that one of the city’s literary forebears was a poet, as Ottawa has been called “the poetry capital of Canada. For a city of its size it boasts an impressive number and variety of poets, readings and publications […] An incomplete list of some other writers with Ottawa connections[…] Henry Biessel, Dorothy Speak, Monty Reid, Blaine Marchand, First Nations writer and publisher Katerie Akiwenzie-Damm, Christopher Levenson, Daniel Poliquin, Moira Farr, Amanda Earl, slam poet Oni the Haitian Sensation, jwcurry (called “the best concrete and visual poet in Canada”), Pearl Pirie, Christine McNair, Max Middle, *John Barton, Terry Fallis[…]”— Andrea Martucci, Jan 2013 in Ploughshares, Literary Boroughs.

One of the best collections of workshop poems I’ve ever come across, and nicely assembled and produced. “—Barbara Myers on’a wall’s sharp white’ edited by Pearl Pirie.

“Part of what makes Pirie’s writing so compelling is her adherence to sound, and one that doesn’t go over meaning but tears through and twists.”—rob mclennan: Dusie: Top Eleven (Canadian) Poetry Books of 2011:
Phil Hall, Gregory Betts, Gary Barwin, Pearl Pirie, Stan Rogal, Sachiko Murakami, Stephanie Bolster, Gil McElroy, Sandra Ridley, Emily Carr, Meredith Quartermain & Mike Blouin.”

Ottawa is the poetry capital of Canada,” says Phil Jenkins—himself an Ottawa poet. He has a point. Pearl Pirie is becoming a Canadian household name.”—Vera Grbic: Apt 613

“She’s quirky, humorous, compassionate, clear-seeing, and she always finds the most interesting conjunctions of words to convey an essence.”— Rosemary-Nissen-Wade: SnakyPoet

“singular lines (or random acts of poetry) from a bevy of poetry collections you can try to get your hands on this month.[…] ‘I love conflict like sand in a thong’ from “what to do with her heat?” in the collection “been shed bore” by Pearl Pirie, Chaudiere, 2010″— Desiree Ossandon: Canada Arts Connect

“works of observation and images riffing, set on a train. The theme means there is an entraining structure (the trip, the people),and there is a desire for stylisitic surprise (Pearl andthe need for anti-sense)…and some memory pieces.The result is a lot of tasty re-examinationsof things you know. […] packed with some very complex tropes and ricochets somewhat like post-av, but inside I found some highly refined linguistic acrobatics, riffing, and lang-flirt as in ‘just kiss me then’: … a tangle, a lip of the tongue, / some flaw in the ointment / the flu in the augment? more/less / the fly in the argyleness, / the flay in the target”— Jim Knowles on Between Stations: Ribbons of Intonations

“a heart-work with a sharp and attentive assessing of the socio-cultural. Hers is an exactitude of emotions, complicated and questioning—a taut balance of tension and joy, abandon and restraint.”— Sandra Ridley on been shed boreAdvent Book Blog

“the book’s final section is its strongest, a 16-sonnet sequence featuring a handful of characters where the final line of one poem begins the first line of the next. The topics are common: marital counselling, fidelity (or lack thereof) and perceptions within the family unit. The language, however, is intimate and reliable: ‘Y’know dad, I’ve seen your browser history.’ As the sonnets pass on their final lines like a relay baton, the positions of perceiver and perceived also change hands and produce titles like ‘Kaylen of Joe and Janey,’ ‘Janey’s Joe’ and ‘Janey of Gil.’ With a consistent and original tone, a clear focus and a strong narrative, Pirie’s sonnet sequence establishes that sweet, sweet internal logic that also flows through Nichol’s ‘strawberries.'”— Bardia Sinaee on been shed boreIn/Words, issue 10.1 , Dec 2010

“… been shed bore is packed densely with poetry, with sound gymnastics, brilliant wordplay, with stories, recurring themes such as the difficulty of communicating, loneliness, and awkwardness caused by dealing with prejudice and societal convention. There is tenderness here, eroticism, joy of language and life, sadness and compassion. It’s a book to pick up again and again and find something different to ponder and to enjoy.”— Amanda Earl: The Literary Blog of Amanda Earl

Her new book, been shed bore, has a beautiful website. Her work reflects what I said above about her blog: it is infused with compassion, curiosity, discovery, and inquiry, to which I should add play and a great ear for the musical possibilities of language.”— Gary Barwin: Serif of Nottingblog

“Love of lightness[…] It plays with you, its strongest poems coming on gusts of words that sort of travel allusively around each other […] she gravitates towards the looseness and joy of play with words, where she excels.”— Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston: Ottawa XPress review

“Pirie’s poetry will be of interest to anyone who enjoys good wordplay, linguistic gymnastics, humour and surprising twists and turns.”— Ottawa Sneezers

“What do the most interesting poems provide? Often as many questions as there are certainties, and Pirie alternates, able to turn even her questions in on themselves. These are poems learning how to explore simply by exploring. Oh, and the places she goes.”— Globe and Mail: In Other Words

“Well-centred and smoothly flowing, this humanistic poem impresses with its tone of considerate affection. Deftly symbolic […] clear natural diction, notable for its sharpness and economy.”— Tony Cosier in his judges notes on “Making Connections” which received third place in the the Ray Burrell Award for Poetry, 2005.