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"A Friend in the Art": For Elise Partridge

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Galanthus, 31 January 2015
Weeks early,
snowdrop clusters poke
through moss and unraked, rotted leaves:
green, fetal fingertips,
small-scale
backyard congregations, the chewed
ends of some child’s coloured pencils,
spring stubs.
Friends in the vernal art,
they’ve already
managed to start
unclosing their glandular blooms,
split, mute bells
inclined to tremour
in this one winter’s milky breath.

This piece is for Elise Partridge, who died a week ago. Her poems and her friendship over the past twenty years have meant a great deal to me. I hope my brief elegy pays some tribute to her life and work by attending to the kinds of small, often unremarked things, like snowbells, that her poems often did, in a mode that wants to approach her own careful craft. Hers is a poetics of care — in its senses of close attention and rapt formalism, of respectful humility and warm concern. I last heard Elise Partridge read her poetry in January 2012, at the Vancouver Public Library on a triple bill with Stephanie Bolster and Barbara Nickel, two other members of the Vancouver Poetry Dogs. That night, I bought a copy of her chapbook, which was a supplement to her second book, Chameleon Hours, and she autographed it for me, as “a friend in the art.” Elise had done readings with me many years ago — I recall presenting on poetry and translation with her at Brock House (Esther Birney and Miriam Waddington were in the audience) in, maybe, 1998, and she had also invited me to several meetings of the Poetry Dogs, though I soon fell away from attending. In the past year or so, I hadn’t seen very much of her at all, and I regret my negligence. She was a deeply kind, warmly engaged person, and a truly gifted poet. 



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