pesbo since 2005.

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

Girl Running review

Girl Running by Diana Hope Tegenkamp (Thistledown, 2021) reviewed by Pearl Pirie

How could I not love a poet who epigraphs Nicole Brossard and Erín Moure? And a poem after Robert Hass. Girl Running by Diana Hope Tegenkamp is divided into 6 sections, “Spectra” of white poems, “Arterial” which are more family poems, “Each breath an oar” (which I would imagine was in the running for the book title), “Quarry” of vispo, experimental and ekphrastic, “Fata Morgana” of dreams, and “The Speed of this Passing” of end of life of her mom. Often sections have a segment of a prose poem called “Loop” which further tethers this tender book together.

My copy is heavily highlighted with favourite turns of phrase or turns of concept. Simply gorgeous ideas and images. “Thoracic flow of trees” (p. 39), for example, gives poem envy.

The book is marked by a “mollusk dawn” of self-awareness, a tectonic paradigm shift, a reevaluating and resetting the axis of meaning or towards gelling into meaning. And (spoiler alert) a finding of core truths in the value of family and of love.

We are witness to Tegenkamp as she realizes the other side of the binaries as on p. 14—

Her mother mouthing the words in a choir as instructed is recast wider, “mouth moving,/making its own silence” with “Song, and cries/held in”, meditating on the implications of not being heard, at an individual level or the level of Highway of Tears. A mandated silence numbs. If you are closed to your grief, you are also closed to your joy and your history.

A refrain through the first section of the book is whiteness, of snow that is painted, of her mother’s blindness and of societal blindness to their impact on Indigenous women’s lives. (p. 16) “You’ve risen without the word lavender to describe your footsteps in snow. A woman walking the white bone alley.” As the book flows forward it becomes more saturated with colour.

She returns throughout to the idea of light as a touchstone. For example, in p. 27 as she is ill in bed

“Light passsing/hard to hold onto, harder to see”


p. 4, “Frequency

“Maybe light/doesn’t seek anything”

That daring, asking self to unpack significances imposed as a given, as a cultural gift, and find it an empty box. Maybe there is no intention. Maybe there is no enemy or hero. Maybe there is what is and nothing beyond. It is frightening and freeing. Watching self and seeing cause and effect, source and impact. For example,

p. 5

“to say “you” is to think/of the two great arteries/carrying blood to the head”

And to ask that what if that freight were unhooked?

She does this inner-work without becoming hazily abstract. She incorporates conversations, and radio announcements and Buffy. 

It’s sometimes said that no one wants to read someone else’s dreams but we do if they are a story interestingly told. In the book sleep and dream act not as dissemblers and chaos but means to order. Even in dreams there’s an astute eye witnessing her life in minute detail. For example, in “Far”, p. 42

How do we know a certain slouch
will cause such surrender? We don’t.
Our eyes can’t anticipate space collapsing, 

can’t predict such generosity. 

That richness of not knowing, and of imagining the possible, of life becoming easier, not out of someone else’s failure but sudden tenderness and kindness. It is a bold imagining. What if everything doesn’t descend to entropy and chaos, (p. 45) “your nieces, parkas/open, bare heads” but a kind of perfection? How would we choose and live differently?

Why is the titular girl running? To my eyes, away from the oppressive shadows and shallows and towards the depths of new light.


Is this meta? I have posts up at Patreon of publishing news with a cover reveal to come soon. I have a post at substack on the economics of poetry, open to anyone, not just subscribers and patrons.

I’m still active at Instagram of what I’m reading.

If you know me and miss my face, I have a blogspot of Pearl Essence for that.

Soon I’ll have new things for sale and if all goes well I’ll do a zoom launch of last year’s chapbook at Haiku Canada. Where I’ll also announce the Betty Drevniok Winners.

Betty Drevniok

You may know the name from the annual award, now in its 21st year. Who was she? Betty Drevniok was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1917 and died in Ontario in 1997. Between those dates, Miranda Baker at Millikin University reports that Drevniok was a nurse. She was also an organizer.

Betty Drevniok was “a major early influence of the shape of haiku” in English Canada by making space for a community to grow. How did she get to haiku before haiku was a thng in Canada? Terry Ann Carter related in “A History of Haiku in Canada” that Drevniok moved from sumi-e to haiku in the 1960s. 

In 1977, Betty Drevniok, George Swede, and Eric Amann founded the Haiku Society of Canada. Rod Wilmot recalls several Haiku Canada weekends in the 1980s hosted at her wooded cottages in Combermere in Northern Ontario. From 1979-82 she was President of the Society.

Photo by Kim Brickley of the Aware launch in Bellingham, WA in November 1980. Pictured, left to right, Chuck Brickley, Anna Vakar and Betty Drevniok.

Michael Dudley remembers her as “an exceptionally kind, considerate being, who generously shared her ideas and insights by conversation, correspondence, presentation, and publication”.  

Pilgrim Reader Bookstore owner, and former neighbour, John Lynch recalls “long easy evenings with Betty and her husband Willie with food, and talking about and reciting poetry” on their night porch.

Dudley recalls how, “whether by mail or in person, Betty pulsed with creative energy and seemed always to be meaningfully engaged in, and inspired by, unique ideas and the positive possibilities offered by fresh perspectives and approaches.” He related how correspondence from Betty “was marked by caring questions and musings, and compassionate interest” in the lives, plans and poems of others.

In her haiku primer, Aware, Drevniok said, “Be aware of things around you. Let those things reach out and touch you.”

Janick Beaulieu in her history of ‘Haiku Women Pioneers from Sea to Sea‘ says this book Aware: A Haiku Primer is Drevniok’s best legacy. You can read Janick’s essay and Drevniok’s 108-page book Aware as a digital book at the Haiku Foundation Digital Library. It was a book that led to a eureka by  Jane Reichhold.

Betty Drevniok’s penname for haiku was Makato. Betty’s books are mostly handwritten. These are: Impressions of Rural Ontario (1976), Inland: Three Rivers from an Ocean (Commoner’s Publishing, 1977), Focus on a Shadow (Commoner’s Publishing, 1977), Aware: A Haiku Primer (Portal Publications, 1980) and Thoughts of Spring (King’s Road Press, 1993). She also published Smell of Earth (Haiku Canada Sheet, 1987). Here’s one:

autumn night:
following the flashlight beam
through rain

Thoughts of Spring

Haiku Canada started the Betty Drevniok Award in 2002 in her memory.

Mike Montreuil made a 2012 compilation, playing a lullaby, the Betty Drevniok Awards, An anthology of winners of the Betty Drevniok Award, sponsored by Haiku Canada, from 1998-2011.

Each year hundreds send unpublished haiku for consideration for the Betty Drevniok Award. The next set of winners will be announced in Montreal at McGill the Haiku Canada Weekend, the long weekend in May 2023.