HCSHR 4:17 —Pearl Pirie, Not Quite Dawn.


HCSHR 4:17—Pearl Pirie, Not Quite Dawn. Ottawa: Éditions des petits nuages, 2020. 978-1-926519-49-4. 20 pages.

review by Maxianne Berger

In Not Quite Dawn, Pearl Pirie has gathered seven tanka, fifty-three haiku, and seven more in the sequence “Seasonal Constants.” In choosing so few haiku and tanka from her twenty-year span of writing, Pirie has put together a worthy collection. The qualities that stand out most for me are originality and accessibility.

The very first page includes a haiku that strongly resonates with me.

thick fog
over the kettle

sundowning                                     (p. 1)

“Sundowning” concerns an experience I had the misfortune of witnessing, over and over. It occurs in dementia, from late afternoon through evening, and can include quite explosive behaviourso the “thick fog” of dementia, and the kettle, ready to blow. Precisely the right words, and the thought of teas once shared, and perhaps no longer so.

Another haiku that especially appeals to me is set up vertically.

light                                                   (p. 12)

I am drawn to word play, and to calligram. Both within the same poem is genius!

The poems are arranged in a flow, as a rensaku, and “can/ dle/ light” is placed among haiku about relationships.

jealous flicker
on his sleeve
my white hair                                  (p. 13)

The passing of time within a relationship is conveyed in such a subtle way. Perhaps the I-persona’s hair is no longer white, however it is quite likely that the protagonists are not newlyweds.

The passing of time also shows up in a most traditional haiku topic:

cherry petal
under the lens
veins, blemishes                             (p. 15)

There is no direct mention of the aging skin of humans. For the third line, however, Pirie has selected terms that are often mentioned in ads and articles.

The celebration of age continues immediately.

park bench kiss
at first we don’t see
they’re seniors                                  (p. 15)

If readers often attempt to link poems to an author’s life, perhaps it would be more fruitful for a reader to link each poem to his or her own life. Pearl Pirie’s approach to writing makes such reading eminently possible. These poems are inviting. The cover shows a farm house very early on a winter’s day. Inside this farmhouse, it is comfortably warm. Not Quite Dawn is available for reading at The Haiku Foundation’s digital library.

Maxianne Berger
June 2021


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