"Miranda Pearson’s exquisite poems in The Fire Extinguisher reveal the human psyche in ways that are both painstakingly beautiful and generous. No detail is too small to find a place in her constantly shifting vision. Threaded through with natural imagery—fire, the sea, animals and plants—alongside many references to visual art, these poems ask brave and difficult questions: how do we find a balancing place between peril and safety, can we endeavour to live in the contemporary world with compassion and hope, how do we live with uncertainty?"
~ Ron Smith
“These are poems you enter and never quite leave. They are alive to the things people don’t say, the complications of a view, the strength and fragility of our bodies. They commemorate the present and admit how difficult it is to live in it. Above all, these are poems that describe our ‘flammable lives’ with shrewdness and grace.”
~ Helen Mort
“Miranda Pearson’s shimmering poetry falls on the reader like snow, leaving one with a gorgeous, mature, complicated appreciation of what the world offers.”
~ Arleen Paré
Cover painting “In Tangle” by James Vanderberg www.jamesvanderber.com
Miranda Pearson’s third collection of poetry, Harbour, (Oolichan Books, 2009) looks at ways humans are driven to construct territory in whatever space is available, however borrowed or makeshift. In the first section, “Asylum,” Pearson turns, for the first time in her writing, to her experience of working in psychiatry. We hear the voices of both caregivers and patients, and flit back and forth between these two roles, contrasting and unraveling their meaning.
Moving from hospitals to museums, the poems in Section 2, "Preservation", explore the tensions between antiquity and modernity, and how we collect and display artifacts, preserving life in frozen morgue-like containment. Ideas on hoarding are touched upon, how even assembling a collection of poetry is a type of acquisition—of imagery, words, ideas, and other texts.
In the final section, “Liminal”, lovers hastily improvise make-believe homes in hotel rooms, temporary harbours that provide a fleeting freedom within their anonymous settings. Other poems are situated in airplanes—the quintessential “no-man’s land” betwixt and between time and territory. Architectural imagery recurs throughout the collection, linking the themes of shelter and refuge with bridges, stairs, and corridors.
Harbour—the noun and the verb are interchangeable—illuminates the human drive to nest, gathering together ideas on how we seek refuge, a sanctuary, a keep. How we harbour.
Cover photo by Christopher Grabowski - www.mediumlight.com
Connected by the element of air, the poems in The Aviary raise questions about desire, the spirit and the unconscious juxtaposed against the everyday, beautiful and absurd, the surface of “things”. These poems propose an aesthetic of profound anxiety. Like caged birds, they clamour for escape even as they mourn loss. The poems circle ideas of impermanence, of our inner and outer landscapes with all their diverse freedoms and imprisonments.
The poems in this collection also reflect on the intimate power dynamics between men and women, employing an audacious tone of self-mockery to question the value of confession, and taking a mournfully wry view of the lyric and romantic tradition. Infidelity and betrayal are explored with stark and resolute determination, defining a philosophy of loss and attempting to delineate the ways and means of jealousy, grief and ironic ecstasy. Throughout this collection landscape is invoked as balm, a touchstone more reliable than any human relationship. In The Aviary, we fly above the boundaries of countries, in and out of time, and our notions of sanity. We play with the imperfect process of remembrance, where artifice is defense against loss.
I delight in these poems. Their verbal strategies, their echoes and replies, their life-givingness.
Cover photo “Tatsfield 1963” by Michael Pearson
Gritty and darkly humorous, Pearsons verses address modern myths head-on in a world where love watches itself critically and consciously. Everything is unravelled in poems that disentangle pregnancy from motherhood, custody from caregiving, marriage from love, sex from gender, only to weave these concepts back together in startling new patterns. Pearson deliberately trips over the picket fences of proprieties and sensitivities that surround the New Age marriage. The sacred and profane are crossed daily with frankness, toughness, and warmth. In Prime, British humour and psychoanalytic and feminist theory meet under the poets steady gaze.
In Prime, Miranda Pearson's first collection of poetry, the narratives of female identity, the white wedding, and the enshrined position of the mother are interrogated, using the lyric as a form of cultural critique in an examination and mockery of romantic love and heterosexual relationships. At the same time, the poems constitute an irreverent, lush romp, a celebration of friendship and absurdity.
Cover painting by Angela Grossman www.angelagrossmann.com
Nadine Shelley, The Gig
Miranda Pearson’s collection of poetry, entitled simply Prime, is immediately and irrestibly engaging. The book begins with poems about pregnancy; taut and breathy pieces that seethe with sensual details. In the first poem, “Falling in Love with Myself” Pearson describes her metamorphosed body, “hilly as Henry Moore”, with unaffected affection. She concludes that: “I have always suspected/this was my true self/emerging from hesitant bones/Queen-sized/undisguised/by vanity.”
Perhaps I would not love these poems so much if I were not a mother myself. But I like to think that I would, because the poems are so rich and delicate and full of incandescent moments that they welcome anyone who is open to reading intimate descriptions of what it is like to be in a woman’s body. Pearson’s exquisite examination of her experience of pregnancy, birth and nurturing in these poems are especially satisfying to me because I can relate so well to them. Lying in bed with my own nursing babe, reading “her breast like starts/like birds/ that have found their home” (“3.00 a.m.” was both personally validating and aesthetically delightful.
Pearson’s images vibrate with authenticity and originality, and her language manages to be simple and direct yet sophisticated in its usage. It is hard to believe that this is Person’s first book, so confidently and carefully constructed is the writing. I particularly enjoyed the physicality of the work, the attention to sensual experience which grounds Pearson’s observations throughout the book, and the atmospheric charge that many of the pieces convey.
Often autobiographical in tone, Prime manages to weave intensely personal observations into timeless, accessible themes. Prime is not just a collection of poems about mothering, but also about friendship and love. Disappointment and “grief’s long gestation”. Pearson’s ability to conjure deep feeling without falling into sentiment or self-indulgence is evidence of her abundant talent.
Pearson demonstrates a remarkable range of tone in these poems; from humorous and celebratory to dark and dreamy to earthy and reflective. While there is a certain unevenness in the book that accompanies this emotion undulation, the movement from joy to pain and back is honestly conveyed, what is captured in his book are not just portraits of “women/in their brief prime/smiling, smiling” (Mat. Leave) but a voice that is keen, convincing and utterly captivating.
in 2012 a CD of Selected poems was recorded in Vancouver, with music by Paul Plimley.