On Sunday afternoon Pearl Pirie was the featured reader at the Sasquatch Literary and Arts Performance Series. This series has continued since 1980 but not consistently since the founder Juan O’Neill passed away in 2006. In the past while it has had a hiatus but thanks to host Alastair Larwill it’s been back since April and hopefully will continue. It takes place at the Royal Oak II, 161 Laurier St. East in the basement. Next up is Jim Larwill on June 12 at 2pm.
The series also has an open mic. One of the directors and regulars John Woodsworth read poetry in Russian and English and played his balalaika and sang. I felt like Juan was there, applauding from his spot by the fireplace and asking John for an encore.
Pearl read to a small but attentive audience, primarily from an unpublished manuscript she referred to as the sentences project. The idea came from a workshop exercise for her writers’ group Ruby Tuesdays. Pearl chose to do a variation of Lyn Hejinian’s long autobiographical poem My Life and ended up with a dense manuscript.
"The alternative form that Hejinian uses most frequently is what has come to be called the "new sentence," a form of prose poem composed mainly of sentences that have no clear transitions. The gap created by a text that moves from subject to subject invites the reader to participate, to bring his or her own reading to the text."
I think this fits with what Pearl is doing in this particular work and like Hejinian's open text, Pearl's text is open to the reader.
And this is what Pearl says about the method: “For 20 minutes we did a take-off, picking one year and writing as many sentences as our each. Each sentence was a non-sequitur to the last. It worked well with how I think. I pushed to see how far it would go. In the first burst, about 4600 words long. It was a larger canvas than I usually give myself and by its nature asks to be dense, but not dwell and to build in ways for cross-ties over the length to give some coherence, but not in a direct linear way.”
It is not uncommon for Pearl to use exercises to help in the creation of her work. In her recent collection “been shed bore” (Chaudiere Books) she uses several constraints to create her poems.
What I found about what she read is that it seemed to be a cumulative collection of juxtapositions that resulted in slices of life, kind of like a snakey jigsaw puzzle with much fun word play and a depth of meaning, lyricism and imagery.
You can find an example of the work over at the League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Month blog.
And to read more about the influences for the project, you can visit her blog entry here.
I'll be excited and interested to see this work published.