I sometimes marvel at how the right books find us at the right time. I discovered [Elise] Partridge when I was in a deep formalist phase, writing lots of poems with meter and rhyme, and her body of work is a compelling reminder that form and relevance aren’t mutually exclusive values. I encounter a lot of poets, mostly youngish, who have convinced themselves that formal poetry is doomed to be tepid, sniveling odes to birds. I thought that way at nineteen. Certainly these trying times cry out for risk, rule-breaking, and crosspollination with other media in poetry, but in the end I’m committed to a larger ecumenical vision of our art where all of us—and all of our aesthetic values—can be granted voice, space, and respect. As Miles Davis once said, it doesn’t matter if you’re green with red breath, as long as you can play.
Partridge’s poems are about this messy world and this one wild life we’ve been given, yet they display a remarkable attention to what one might call architectural considerations. “Transfer of Power” in particular reflects the ambiguities of hope and morality in our politics, but the various techniques we’ve already discussed crystalize its artfulness and arc. The poem never devolves into an unvarnished expression of outrage, nor does it dissolve into an oversimplified propagandist moral. As with the study of any great poem, these pond ripples flow into my own writing. As with any great poet, Partridge’s legacy endures.
- Adam Tavel, in conversation about Elise Partridge's poem "Transfer of Power" on The Sundress Blog. You can read the whole thing here.