Tuesday, 26 August 2014


In a new interview, Evan Jones asks Elise Partridge about her lines “let me be a waterfall / pouring a heedless mile” and how the wish squares up with her self-possessed and scrupulously controlled poetry. Her answer:
The wish I mentioned here was about trying to be authentic, unencumbered and generous—to live headlong without clinging to things I might sometimes think I wanted, much less to the trivial—about life being constantly unpredictable, and wanting to live with as much spontaneity and vitality as possible. The poem did grow out of the illness, though the wish had been there before; I think perhaps the illness made it stronger. After wondering whether or not my life was going to end much earlier than it might have otherwise, naturally, I had to think about how I wanted to live from then on. Things I had wanted to happen were not going to happen because of the cancer, and this at first seemed catastrophic; and yet other things that turned out to be important did happen because of the cancer. This put paid to the idea that one can always trust what one wishes for. Nobody would wish to have cancer, yet it undeniably brought things to my life that were, to my great surprise, valuable. Also, after having been so ill, I found I wanted to be bolder about many experiences. Fearing one might be deprived of chances can of course motivate one to take more chances. The heedlessness was about being freer—not constraining oneself in any defeating way—and simultaneously about being ‘freer’ in the medieval sense of the word: open-handed, generous. As far as not being heedless in terms of writing poetry, I sometimes wish I could work faster, but most of the poems I eventually publish take me a long time to finish. There are a couple of remarks I keep in mind about being heedful. Szymborska was once asked why she hadn’t published more. She replied, “I have a trashcan in my house.” And then there’s Théophile Gautier: “Anything which is not well-made doesn’t exist.”
(Painting of waterfall by Hiroshi Senju.)

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