Lyndsay Kirkham was good enough to review Pearl Pirie’s today’s woods (2014) in Broken Pencil #69. Thanks so much! This is actually the second review of Pirie’s chapbook, after Frank Davey reviewed such over at his blog.
Pearl Pirie weaves together scientific observations on the grizzly bear, barbed critiques of the current Canadian political atmosphere, and ruminations on child psychology laying them bear against a reimagining of Grimm’s classic Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Pirie’s today’s woods is a gorgeous example of experimental poetic collage narrative.The texture of her language, thick and dense, is a stunning contrast to the sharp and cutting criticism levelled at the too comfortable white literary landscapes of colonized Canada. Pirie pierces the reader with the knowledge that sometimes we come to poetry in need of something that we weren’t aware we were lacking.The reader needs this story to be rewritten: we need Pirie to recast the characters in this flawed fairytale. As she strips down Goldilocks, the poet silently takes to task all other lies that litter our collective childhoods. When we sit down with this chapbook, we are sitting down with our five year old selves; this poet gives us permission to grieve the flawed narrative fed to us by parents, teachers and larger cultural attitudes. That’s a tall order for a chapbook of four pages, but it’s done with such an agile voice that the reader is lulled into this jarring imaginary-real world.A particular achievement of this short collection are the dues it pays to revisioned narratives. The poet offers a variety of different possibilities that can account for the Goldilocks story. Pirie explores possibility within reality by laying at our feet the potential of characters.“Scenario A, they were called away from the meal on emergency and to add insult to injury they came home to a home invasion…Scenario B: so they go for a walk while it cools off, how was it that going for a walk seemed like a good idea?” Isn’t this what so many of us want from and for our childhood memories: a chance to rewrite that scene on the playground, to imagine a new understanding from our parents’ divorce?today’s woods would benefit from some further massaging around punctuation and word choice. The core skeleton of the work is its strength, but the mechanics could be made to work a little bit harder.
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