Review of Pearl Pirie’s THE PET RADISH, SHRUNKEN

The Pet Radish, Shrunken
Pearl Pirie. BookThug, 2015. $18 CAN/US (96p) ISBN 978-1-77166-092-1


the lane walks the legs along mud
while the moongrass verge lullabies.

a hand grapples with sedge more
easily than with a steer.

any mushroom omelette admits
the axe equally as the flax seed.

winning is not all but it is
something of bliss. for one side.

in cold blood? shortfin mako sharks
and yellowfin tuna are endothermic like us.

lose an evening chez chefs
their red snappers, ocean wars.

far hums of the 2 am road racers
making vain small vrooms of their own.

Ottawa poet, editor and publisher Pearl Pirie’s third trade poetry collection, The Pet Radish, Shrunken (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2015), continues her exploration into and through sound, play and meaning. The author of two previous poetry collections—been shed bore (Ottawa ON: Chaudiere Books, 2010) and Thirsts (Montreal QC: Snare Books, 2011)—as well as a growing number of poetry chapbooks, what becomes curious about Pirie’s writing is how she appears to utilize poetry as a way to understand how the world works and somehow navigate through the occasional confusion, whether the immediate day-to-day of existing, or something larger and more abstract. As she writes in the poem “how not to have the mouth say”: “you’re uncharacteristically / quiet. I’ll balance us. we’ll // average us out to everyone / okay. what did I do? I decided / to fix a shirt by getting a huge / pot & dying.” Whereas her first two trade collections felt exploratory, and even hesitant in places, The Pet Radish, Shrunken is a collection by a poet with far more confidence and heft, using language as a series of tools in which to facilitate discovery. As the final poem in the short suite, “discarded early spring,” reads:

sunday afternoon

a lack of movement is suspense.
grass in sun, by vast millimetres
grows & breaks its own drama
of spring held in stasis. a brother
and a sister sprint past the toilet
past its seat’s unsurprised o.

(March 2015)

Purchase The Pet Radish, Shrunken HERE.

Reviewer bio: Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of nearly thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. His most recent titles include notes and dispatches: essays (Insomniac press, 2014, The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and the poetry collection If suppose we are a fragment (BuschekBooks, 2014). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, The Garneau Review (, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (, Touch the Donkey ( and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater ( He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at