pesbo since 2005.

Pearl Pirie’s book lists, interviews, event write-ups, poems and more.

Village Poet

I had the pleasure of being on library shift with Wakefield’s Village poet emeritus, Phil Cohen. Phil started in New York City, went to MIT in engineering, and somehow ended up Quebec by 1984.

Internal Meanderings by Phil Cohen (2012)

{…] real people here too on the other side of the man made wall.
isn’t it,
That whenever I slow down
I find people just like me,
they too have a place called home
And friends
Just as I do in my world

Internal Meanderings

Phil’s a big deal in town, with his birthday celebrated as part of February’s Dragonfest. There’s a DVD of his poems in tribute. He has at least 2 books. One of his poems was the source of the name of the TaDa arts fest.

He says there are big P poets who do it for a living, small p poets who do it seriously and no p poets like him. He says poetry is in the living, and in involvement in the community.

Phil Cohen as a Saturday librarian, with my book, Footlights

A delightful chance to talk. He knows everyone and is happy to share his stories. He found my book and asked me to read ones to him.

I found his book and he asked me to read one of his. Read one over at my instagram.

Loved Then, Loved Now: In Jesus

That as a post title frankly makes me nervous but it is what it is, a pattern of structure for the title.

Confirmation Bias, I knew it would be

My soul is crushed. There is no light.
I can not see. I cannot fight.
But what I know, must be right, ever only specious.

my own satire of it

Okay, as post title suggests, that’s not the original words. I’ve since thrown Baby Jesus out with the dirty bathwater.

I’ve tried in vain a thousand ways my fears to quell, my hopes to raise; but what I need, The Bible says, is ever only Jesus.

My soul is night, my heart is steel. I can
not see, I cannot feel; For light, for life, I must appeal, In simple faith to Jesus.

He died, He Lives. He reigns, he pleads; There’s love in all his words and deeds. There’s all a guilty sinner needs, for ever more in Jesus.

Tho’ some should sneer and some should blame, I’ll go with all my guilt and shame, I’ll go to him because His name, above all names is Jesus.

“In Jesus” by Robert Harkness, (music)/James Procter(lyrics) written in 1903

The iambic spin off is a comfort. As is the rhythm itself. And for a decade or more I carried the original poem in my pocket as an antidote to the despair of depression.To it I’m grateful for its help as a bridge.

As I encountered it first in the 80s, it was only the first two stanzas and marked as written by anonymous.

In fact Harkness (2 March 1880—8 May 1961) wrote it. He was an Australian composer, musical genius, and pianist on the Revival circuit. Quoted as adapting his music to where they toured, he said,

The weather has much to do with his adjusting the music to the assembled company. If it is a stormy night the voices of the people as a rule have not got the range that they have on a crisp cold night. In the first instance they will not sing as high as on a cold night. In the morning the voice is lower in range. He explained that if he played in the same key morning and evening, the singing would not be the success that it should be. In the morning the au­dience will sing up to D, while in the evening it will sing up to F.

If church organists would watch this to keep the music of the hymns within the range of the voices of the people of the audience they would have better singing, and therefore a better tone to the service.

In a small hall, or one where the ceiling is low, it is also necessary to keep the voices down as regards the range, otherwise what would sound well in a large hall, would sound like screeching.”

Much like Emily Dickinson poems can be sung to the Yellow Rose of Texas, this can map a regularity like the heart. And how can you unlove anything you once loved?

Loved then, Loved Now: Half a Loaf

Half a Loaf

The whole loaf’s loft
is halved in profile,
like the standing side
of a bombed cathedral.

The cut face
of half a loaf
puckers a little.

The bread cells
are open and brittle
like touching coral.

It is nothing like the middle
of an uncut loaf,
nothing like a conceptual half
which stays moist.

I say do not adjust to half 
unless you must.

Kay Ryan’s Half a Loaf from p. 58, The Best of It: New and Selected, 2010)

The image of a bread as a cathedral, of bubbles as bombing, the exhortation to not settle for a disaster but a wholeness, I keep coming back to.

Why I like poetry

I read novels. Not all novels but. In the exceptional one each sentence hooks forward and stands fresh in perspective.

For example,

“One of the doctors said that his boot had probably saved his life, and she felt like kissing it, although in all the confusion, no one knew exactly where it had ended up.”

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Tree.

For example

Before me an older man of about my height but with fully twice my mass in his upper body. His torso was the size and shape of a bass drum

the piano mover arrives in T.E. Carhart’s The Piano Shop on the West Bank.

Low density sometimes distresses me. In sources unnamed there are other sentences.

Beyond narrator predicting, then it playing out as predicted, events happened then being recounted to another character the same way, and antecedent problems, so many redundancies and padding drive me just a little batty.

She gave her name to one of the doormen manning the entrance.

She stepped out the door and looked up at the blue sky outside.

She looked down at the terra cotta floor tiles.

She took in the cast plaster medallions and dentil on the ceiling.

She wondered if the little pink pill she swallowed was to blame.

She shrugged her shoulders.

She cut a piece of cheese and put it on a cracker, which was cold from the fridge.

She took her place at the end of the line.

The bell over the door jingled as the door shut after her.


I could pass over typos easier. Likewise poetry can state and explain the obvious but published ones are more likely to have been edited.