Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

At The Desk: Pearl Pirie

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Pearl Pirie is the author of been shed bore, and her manuscript Thirsts won the Robert Kroetsch Award for innovative Poetry and was published by Snare Books in 2011. Her newest books include vertigoheel for the dilly and Quebec Passages, and she has a collection, pet radish, forthcoming from BookThug in 2015.

Today we hear from Pearl for our At the Desk series, where readers get a sneak peek into the writing spaces and processes of Canadian authors.


Home is where the wifi is. As with many writers, my work space is wherever I am. I jot notes and drafts in longhand/shorthand. Because I work on portable computers (or with portable paper) I can move around the house to follow the sun. My home base is my home office. I do most editing and transcribing of hard copy edits here. Well, not here, here, exactly. This poem has travelled across at least 3 moves. I thought it would be a long poem. It will tell me if so. So far part of it became Vertigoheel for the Dilly. A different piece from the series is in my BookThug 2015 collection The Pet Radish, Shrunken. A piece is in the upcoming Best Canadian Poem Anthology 2014.

This manuscript has travelled with me from a condo where I had a shared desk with hubby where we were overlooking the tops of seagull?s backs, and came to my very own deep forest green walled office, the colour I craved. Most of the books however were in the living room. My office then doubled as guest room, meaning I had to houdini all signs of myself on an irregular basis.

This office is mine alone. All the books, those that haven?t salmoned their way beside and couchside to breed, are in here, alphabetized and by genre, except for the ones that aren?t.

It has all closed shelves so I can make a blank uncluttered space to concentrate. I have a closet that?s devoted to books to sell and materials for making chapbooks. I have walls I can puncture with pictures, such as a piece by Vlad Gerasimov that keeps punctuation and my Apostrophe and Semicolon project in the mental arena. (That?s where I transpose Sidney?s Astrophel and Stella sonnets into a typographical world.)

It has small display cubbies with a collection of lenses that remind perception is not what is; it is only perception. Stones and photographs of forests are around the room as well as books and chapbooks everywhere. I can see out to the garden from here. Poems I admire are around the room in frames, like Nelson Ball?s Curt, Stephen Brockwell?s Lessons of Giving the Dead, Rosmarie Waldrop?s Early Studies in Respiration, as well as art pieces by Michele Provost, a Hiroshige print, and a question mark to remind of the value of questioning and because I like punctuation. A flammability tag I put in a frame to reminds some things are complete as is. And because it makes me laugh.

It has space where I can spread out over the floor and with 3 desks, 2 of which fold away. I have stand up stations and seated stations and reading corner of pillows. It?s a place to hang my, er, dozen hats, and my foam swords, and trebuchet (from launching Quebec Passages) and catapult (from launching been shed bore).

This poem series sprang from Lyn Hejinian?s My Life so mementos are there to bump my unconscious to scrape something from my past and see what I can recover. The red and shell box in the background was a gift to me as a child from a neighbour Walter Lewis who was elderly then and he said it was given to his mother when she was a child. It is a little paste board jewelry box.

It sticks in my mind that he was loyal to a geranium plant for most of his adult life that his wife had grown for so long that it looked, with its thin bark, like an old jade plant. It?s been probably 30 years since his estate auction and I still wonder who looked after or pitched that plant. Any thing, or any idea can be longer lives than seems credible.

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