Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Dirty Dozen, with Pearl Pirie

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Pearl Pirie

Pearl Pirie is a poet, blogger, editor, educator, thinker and food-aficionada who shares her love of words and humans from her post in Ottawa.

Thirsts, her most recent collection, has just been published by Snare Books, the Montreal-based publisher of experimental poetry and prose.

Pearl chimes in with her own take on Open Book's Dirty Dozen, the interview series that reveals 12 unknown and unlikely facts about the writer in question. Today's medley includes Pearl's take on the wearing of hats, a memorable plowing match and the Guatemala Stove project.

  1. Why did you stop your last manuscript?
    What’s this word “stop”? I’m gathering more life experience on the stalled ones so I can get insight. Horace said don’t publish a poem younger than ten years old. Pope said let it gel five years. I suppose an advantage of working on many manuscripts in parallel, you get different vintages of historical calm.
  2. What's your opinion on the question of hats?
    They are woefully underworn. It seems a roving collective of strangers feel a need to come up to me and say, good for you for wearing something, whether it is in fashion or not. That hat is just like one that my [great aunt, first school teacher, grandmother] wore. I used to collect antique hats but never got much past a dozen or so. They haven’t done well in slipshod transit of decades under my use and care.
  3. Why does a little banana play the slide trombone?
    Because it likes to slide on the scales.
  4. What unexpected things might someone find in your bedroom?
    A pirate sword (foam) and a ferret (plush variety) with Groucho glasses. Unless you expected that. Did you?
  5. What was your least liked nickname?
    Purp. Because the girl in class loved purple and liked me and I seemed purple to her. (Perhaps she was synesthetic?) I refused to answer to it and refused wear purple for years to distance myself from that perky affection. She later became Miss Carleton Place. Or was that Queen of The Furrow at the International Plowing Match? Perhaps both. Alas, perhaps, I shall never wear a sash. But I can perhaps attend another plowing match. Good fun that.
  6. What did you do at the plowing match?
    Well, I may have fallen off the turnip truck yesterday, but I fell off the hay wagon that year. The tractor pulling from the parking lot field lurched and I fell and ripped the knee of my pants. The official was horrified and apologetic and insisted we both get in for free. (Or was that at the Highland Games in Almonte? Or another year?)
  7. But it was at a plowing match that Hubby and I manned the booth for the Guatemala Stove Project. They had a model set up that drew the attention of the crowd. We were explaining about the benefits of an insulated cinderblock stove with a chimney over open fires indoors. It attracted a wide-range of men in bib-overalls and women in impractical shoes for mud, many of whom had travelled to South America. I realized that we’re much more mobile and interconnected world on a person-to-person level, not just product-to-person level.

  8. Tell me more about the Guatemala Stove Project?
    We’re still working with that organization. It started in Perth, Ontario in 1999 and has built about 4000 stoves in the highlands.
  9. The last chapbook my phafours press put out was In Air/Air Out: 21 Poets for the Guatemala Stove Project. It got poets from around North America to donate a poem and so far we’ve raised enough to buy stoves for 2 families.

    Another reading from it will be April 14th with Monty Reid, Czandra, Shai Ben Shalom, Jorge Etcheverry and Luciano Díaz.

  10. You have nearly 2000 posts at your food blog. What made you a devoted foodie?
    I don’t consider myself a foodie. I respect food and the quality of the land and water that makes it. I like to pay attention to beauty in what I perceive. That’s more the focus. Photography is about light and shadow not any particular subject. To date, a croissant has never complained of how its flake looked in a shot. And a vegan wrap rarely rolls to get out of the shot.
  11. Do you think blogging takes time that could be spent on poetry?
    Poetry is paying attention. It may be in the form of walking with mindfulness. It may be in the outward form of a well-placed joke in a conversation. Anything that gives energy gives itself to poetry directly or by making an essential by-product for poetry.
  12. Why do you blog?
    Composing pictures and words about some things allows you room to move on. Malcolm Gladwell suggested that writing something displaces real memory with your telling of it. I suppose that would mean writing to forget rather than remember. You can’t take in anything new if you don’t forget things.
  13. In the case of 40-Word Year, Dan Weber started the idea as a thankfulness project that went viral. I’m somewhere close to 1100 moments, people, characters, that have nudged my trajectory or given me an aha moment.

    I’ve found the process has helped form a story of self where I can self-disclose (which previously I’d been notoriously card-chest-close-istic.). I explore what rhythms and shapes are possible with a material of any given 40 words.

  14. What are you reading?
    For the last several months I’ve rarely been far from Ma Desheng’s Kiwi, an absurdist French dictionary. Also on the active side table: The Obvious Flap by Betts and Barwin, current issue of Haiku Canada Review, Roses Love Garlic: Secrets of Companion Planting with Flowers, Blink (rereading) and Bruce Taylor’s Facts (rereading).
  15. What’s the future of poetry?
    Poetry is many Kingdoms so there are many paths of concurrent evolutions. Every sub-species has its diversity and niche. One I’d be cheering to breed is animation/video. Concepts can move in poetry while words stay still in maddening evenly kerned parallel rows as if they are all Canadians in a queue. That’s an impressive magic trick. But Artist Patrick Kelley does some gorgeous things to the words and page by making shape and letter shift about.

Pearl Pirie writes in Ottawa and lives in her head (with outings for chocolate). Her poems have appeared in PRECIPICe, dANDelion, This Magazine, unarmed, Womb, 1cent, bentspoon, Peter F Yacht Club, pooka press and gar. Find more from Pearl by following her blogs.

For more information about Thirsts please visit the Snare Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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