"How a Poem Makes Meaning with Music" -- Adam Sol on Patridge's poetry in The Toronto Star

“April is National Poetry Month — and you’ll be encountering poetry everywhere. HINT: If you’ve never been to a poetry reading, this is the month to do it. 

And the first book you should pick up is Adam Sol’s How Poetry Moves (ECW Press) — a fabulous guide that brings poetry to life. Each of the 30 or so entries includes a poem, and a way to read it. In this excerpt, he looks at “How A Poem Makes Meaning With Music.” HINT #2: Read this particular poem aloud (don’t be self-conscious!). You’ll experience it in a whole new way. Here’s what he writes:

Momentum and Breath: on Elise Partridge’s The If Borderlands & Stephen Kampa’s Articulate as Rain (Review by Kjerstin Kauffman in Literary Matters 11.1, Fall 2018)

The If Borderlands: Collected Poems
By Elise Partridge
(New York Review of Books, 272pp., $16.00)

Articulate as Rain
By Stephen Kampa
(Waywiser Press, 96pp., $14.25)

It’s been a long time since I’ve been as riveted by a poetry collection as I was by The If Borderlands. Elise Partridge’s work is mostly new to me, but it possesses such meticulous, formally attentive understatement, such a range of subject matter, and such philosophical curiosity and wisdom, that it is surely the equal, to my mind, of poetic thinkers like Clampitt, Bishop, and Schnackenberg.

Here are the “endless heroic observations” which Bishop so admires, the minute and almost indiscriminate detailing which lead the reader up to the brink of a wild “unknown.”1Partridge shares Bishop’s uncanny ability to notice and record, unpacking the natural world, the essential character of a friend, or the bewildering sensations of chemotherapy with, as Bishop praises, “self-forgetful” verbal precision.

Yet though her detailing brings Bishop to mind, Partridge’s music and movement strike me as peculiar, idiosyncratic. Her poems have a kind of static or iconic quality, as of something animate permanently immobilized, yet still, against the odds, proliferating. For her, it is not momentum, but lack of momentum that proves fruitful…more

Christopher Levenson's review of "The Exiles' Gallery" and Miranda Pearson's "The Fire Extinguisher"

From Miranda Pearson's website, Christopher Levenson's review in Event Magazine of The Exiles' Gallery, The Fire Extinguisher, and My Shoes Are Killing Me by Robyn Sarah:  

Review in Event Magazine, 2016

Elise Partridge, The Exiles’ Gallery, House of Anansi, 2015 Miranda Pearson, The Fire Extinguisher, Oolichan, 2015 Robyn Sarah, My Shoes Are KillingMe, Biblioasis, 2015 Unlike novels, where events and characters usually inhabit a recognizable world, no necessary correlation exists between poetry and our everyday existence. These three poets, all of comparable age, negotiate that relationship and their common concerns with family, disease, death, travel and, above all, memory in fascinating ways. Having first encountered Elise Partridge’s poems in Fiona Lam’s excellent anthology about cancer, The Bright Well, I knew her work was highly sophisticated and literate. In The Exiles’ Gallery, with its densely allusive grasp of history, archeology and the visual arts, Partridge’s inquiring mind finds almost everything interesting and discovers connectedness between many discrete activities going on simultaneously. This in turn produces a kind of wit not often encountered in Canadian poetry ...more

Imagining a Legacy: Elise Partridge's "The Exiles' Gallery"

Phoebe Wang reviews The Exiles' Gallery in Arc Poetry Magazine:

"In a sea­son of debuts, Elise Partridge’s The Exiles’ Gallery builds like a grand finale. It is her third and final book, the last we will ever receive from this mae­stro of the fine­ly-tuned image. We may nev­er under­stand how Partridge’s qui­et econ­o­my can also be dan­ger­ous­ly unset­tling. In these poems there is a voice sure of its own pitch, telling us of life’s missed chances and the griefs which careen out of our con­trol. It’s like being tak­en to a cliff’s edge by a guide who calm­ly elu­ci­dates its poten­tial ter­rors...more

"The Virtuoso of Upheaval" in Partisan Magazine: Abigail Deutsch reviews the third and final book of a poet worth remembering

In The Exile’s Gallery, the late Elise Partridge’s third, final, and very fine book of poems, nothing stays still. Boats sail and heel. A father swoops his daughter toward the ceiling. A balloon drifts away from earth. And other kinds of drifters seize Partridge’s attention, too...more

Adam Sol on "Domestic Interior: Child Watching Mother," by Elise Partridge

The last couple of poems I’ve posted about have required some rather professorial explanations about the hows and whys and wherefores, so this time I want to turn to a poem that I love mostly because of its exquisite music. The dramatic situation of the poem is not hard to grasp, and the average reader shouldn’t be put off by its approach to its material. So today I’m going to act less like a prof who needs to teach and more like an enthusiastic park ranger who at most might be able to hear and identify a few extra sounds in the field...more

Adam Tavel on "Transfer of Power" on Lyric Essentials on The Sundress Blog

Welcome to Lyric Essentials, where writers and poets share with us a passage or poem which is “essential” to their bookshelf and who they are as a writer. Today Adam Tavel reads “Transfer of Power” by Elise Partridge.

"The poem’s concision, expansive diction, formal control, and irony are marvelous. It reminds me of Philip Larkin, but Partridge’s voice remains distinctly her own..." more



In her final book of poems, Partridge’s inspired diction and generous appraisal of life in all of its terrible brevity is a masterstroke ending to a beautiful career. Having finished these poems shortly before dying of cancer, the straightforward poet writes about the terrible darkness with a remarkably guileless lack of cynicism.  See list

Globe and Mail Obituary: Respected Poet Elise Partridge was Meticulous to the End

One day last July, the poet David O’Meara received an e-mail from his friend Elise Partridge. They’d known one another since 2002, when her first book of poems was published. Her note contained a request: She wanted him to edit her new collection, which she had just sold to a publisher, and which was scheduled to be released the following spring.

There was a catch. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer in February, and this, she knew, would be her last book.

“We had a small time frame of a few months, so it was intense, candid and very focused,” Mr. O’Meara says. “Elise has always been a very meticulous poet, and her illness didn’t change this. Through the chemo and late-stage treatments, she was writing to me fastidiously about punctuation and line breaks, wanting every word choice to be in its best place. Her dedication was always deeply moving, but so much amplified by the situation. She was brave and generous to the end.”

The end came on Jan. 31, when Ms. Partridge died in the Palliative Care Unit at Vancouver General Hospital. She was 56 years old.

“It doesn’t surprise me that the discussion on social media of Elise’s death has centred as much on her as a person as on her as a poet,” says the writer Stephanie Bolster. “The two were inseparable. The generosity of spirit, the deep humanity, the ability to see each person or thing clearly and for its own qualities, marked both Elise and her work. ...more

Damian Rogers on Elise Partridge


I think the exile of poetry is also the exile of the best of humankind. —Octavio Paz

Why shouldn’t I drift off
like a lost balloon?
But you gave me another gift:
“I’ll carry you in my heart
till my last day on earth.”
—Elise Partridge

One week ago today [February 7], the poet Elise Partridge died. She was 56. In about six weeks, finished copies of her third book, The Exiles’ Gallery, will be printed. It breaks my heart that she wasn’t able to hold one in her hand.

All week I’ve been trying to find a way to write about Elise, to communicate something more substantial than what I could fit into a social media post or official statement. I thought maybe I would write a “last letter” to her, since one of my first thoughts was that I owed her a letter. But it’s too stagey a conceit. I’m not writing to her, I’m writing to you....more

Poem & Tribute by Frank Styles

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....more