Three Poems by Elise Partridge

Elise Partridge (1958–2015) was born in Philadelphia and grew up nearby. After graduating from Harvard in 1981, she received a second Bachelor of Arts from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, as a Marshall Scholar. She returned to Harvard for a Master of Arts and then took a degree in writing from Boston University. In 1992 she moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she lived with her husband, for the rest of her life. She taught writing and literature at several universities. Her work includes Fielder's Choice (Véhicule, 2002), which was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for the best first book of poems published in Canada; Chameleon Hours (Anansi and University of Chicago, 2008) won the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry in 2009 and was a finalist for the BC Book Prize that year, and The Exiles' Gallery (Anansi, 2015). 

The new NYRB/Poets collected poems, The If Borderlands, includes work from these three volumes as well additional poems. Stephen Partridge notes in his afterward to the collection: "Elise asked that the content of the present collection not extend far beyond those three books. From a set of around twenty poems, consisting of those she had published in journals but not in any of her books, together with some unpublished poems removed in the last stages of preparation from The Exiles' Gallery, I have chosen the seven additional poems that appear here." This includes the three previously unpublished poems presented below.



Test-bay, midnight:

a versatile instrumentalist's

eager fingers

arrange the first collision.


Your destination: a shed.

A scruffy dog shuffles across the road;

cows lumber along.

You always have the Baby all to yourself

(he's of course on the standard tour)

for virtually nothing.


Taste of peaches all summer

          then cider on your mouth

Hard to recall now




                                     the drowsing


some edging

Sixties Folksinger


Anonymous in family smelters
of brotherfathermother,

she made her own camp;
desk, lamp,

room with a lockable door;


—Like sifting a haystack
with a fork,

finding the answers. Halls
blocked by voice throwing trolls—

but finally she overthrew
the kingdom
of designated flap
in designated slot;

brought on the polyglot
harlequins, wrote a
new plot,

scoured the turf for her gigs,
ran up a flag.





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