Friday, April 5, 2013

Blog Review: 40-Word Years

Photo by Pearl Pirie
(Creative Commons)

I recently wrote a feature on Pearl Pirie, an eclectic and prolific blogger whose posts, photographs, poems and articles can be found in more than a dozen online sites.  While I highlighted her numerous projects, I did not describe any of her blogs in detail, partly due to space constraints, but also because the feature was about her and not a review of a specific site.

Of the numerous blogs that I reviewed, however, some stood out more than others.  In the coming months, I hope to write two or three reviews of my favourite Pirie-managed sites, so I can write at greater length on why I like these blogs.

I want to start with 40-Word Years, which is the blog that intrigues me the most. In my feature on Pirie, I described this site as follows: "Her blog 40-Word Years is an ingenious collection of poem-posts, each 40-words long, that celebrate people who have impacted her life."

After publishing the feature, Pirie clarified that she does not view this site as a collection of poems. "I've got a few disclaimers over the length of the posts that I don't consider that blog poetry," she told me in an email.  "It's a writing/thinking project.  Some entries use poetic devices for compression but I don't conceive of them as poems.  Some may be in effect but that's not the aim.  That project's been useful for me to build a story of self and to learn to distill."

This email response made me think about why I like this blog.  The answer that I came up with is that each 40-word post is akin to a literary photograph that captures a unique person, moment and/or thought.  For instance, consider tribute # 341 - Hog:
One from the family surveyed, went eye-
to-equal-eye as I sat in the dim
pen. Our focus and interest fluxed. My
not striking raised her trust. In her white-lash-trimmed
gaze she became resigned, curious. See?
Without words consigned to speak directly.
This tender-sounding post made me think of a child who is seeking to communicate with an animal, and finding that it is possible.  My favourite "photograph", however, is tribute # 242 - farmer (1980s), which reads as follows:

whenever dad and I went cross-country near Almonte we passed:barn near Almonte
the farmer living-out-loud made me feel ashamed, cowardly
for not making some similarly public act. why should I too
not elicit derision? keeping my light under a safe
overheating basket...

Reading the post about the farmer, I could imagine Pirie travelling by this farm, looking out the car window, and thinking about how to live a good life, even if it resulted in being ridiculed. This ability of Pirie to create a clear imagine in the reader's head is why I call these posts literary "photographs" that are 40-words long, and which provide a unique lens for viewing the world.  That being said, other readers may have a different insight, so I encourage you to go and read these 40-word snapshots on your own.

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