|Elise Partridge, 1958-2015|
Dear Elise, your answer is already here, and has been all along: in your own brilliant voice, in your poems and your life.
|Anansi, Spring 2015|
"A couple of years later, a scholarly uncle who had discovered I loved to read sent me my first adult modern poetry anthology, a collection called Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle.
"The next illumination came when I was in Grade Six or so and the minister at our church gave a series of sermons based on W.H. Auden's 'A Christmas Oratorio.' This minister was the first person I ever encountered outside of school who loved poetry -- he was an enthusiastic member of the Browning Society all his life, and once told me his favorite George Herbert poem was 'Bitter-Sweet'; he knew it by heart and recited it to me. I remember him also quoting from 'In Memory of W. B. Yeats':
Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice....
"This minister's Oratorio sermons were the first time I'd heard Auden's name, and after that I sought out Auden's work. When I discovered his 'The Unknown Citizen,' it made a deep impression on me. I memorized it for a recitation contest at school. Though I stumbled a bit in the declamation and two other girls had prepared a spectacular co-presentation of 'Casey at the Bat,' to my surprise the contest judges gave me the prize, I think mostly because I'd chosen such a good poem.
"And then during my high-school years, I had a remarkable teacher who introduced us to Prufrock, Donne, Lear and many others. One day she gave us an assignment to write a poem, and I turned in something awful about a dead seagull. This teacher was a very tough grader who didn't hesitate to flunk students, and when she handed my effort back, I saw she had written at the bottom in red ink, 'I recognize poetry here.' I thought she was being sardonic, but when we next met she said no, she thought I had a gift. She encouraged me for years afterward, until she died much too young of cancer."
--Elise Partridge, on how she first came to poetry, in conversation with Susan Gillis, November 2014.
Read about Elise Partridge at Quill and Quire and The Globe and Mail. More, including some of her poems, is available at The Poetry Foundation.