Chameleon Hours

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Chameleon Hours

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Overview

 
From Ways of Going
for Steve

Will it be like paragliding
gossamer takeoff, seedlike drifting down
into a sunlit, unexpected grove?

Or ski-jumping—headlong soaring,
ski-tips piercing clouds,
crystal revelations astonishing my goggles?

. . . . Skittery flicker of a glare-weary lizard
startled into the sheltering wings of a leaf,

rusting freighter with a brimming hold
shimmering onto a crimson edge. . . .

Sad rower pushed from shore,
I'll disappear like circles summoned
by an oar's dip.

However I burn through to the next atmosphere,
let your dear face be the last thing I see.
 

 
Whether writing poems about North American life and landscape; or love poems; or elegies for family and friends; or poems on serious, debilitating illness and the transformations it can effect—Elise Partridge offers in Chameleon Hours words forged by suffering and courage. Full of wit and empathy, Partridge’s poems draw inspiration from sources as whimsical as tortoises and pontoons, as poignant as a homeless woman taking shelter inside a post office on a winter night, and as deeply personal as her own cancer diagnosis at a young age. Chameleon Hours is a book about the rewards of being reminded of one’s own mortality and the lyric expression of life in all its intensity.
 

“In their ample, embracing, nuanced appetite for sensory experience, [Partridge’s] poems achieve an ardent, compassionate and unsentimental vision.”—Robert Pinsky, Washington Post
 

“Partridge’s impressive poems pursue a careful thinker’s yearning for abandon, a loyal friend and partner’s wish for change. Attentive to fact, to what she sees and knows, Partridge nonetheless makes space for what is wild, outside and within us—for the fears and the blanks of chemotherapy, for sharp variations within (and without) frames of metre and rhyme, and for the welcome consistencies of married love. She has learned detail-work, and patience, from Elizabeth Bishop, but she has made other virtues her own: riffs on familiar phrases open startling vistas and even her love poems get attractively practical. Hers is a welcome invitation: let’s listen in.”—Stephen Burt
 

“Reading Chameleon Hours, I find myself marveling at the luck of each heron, mosquito, field of Queen Anne’s Lace, each person, place, thing or circumstance in this beautiful book, to have Elise Partridge’s exquisite and precise attention. And how lucky we are to get to listen in as she offers each of them her flawless ear; the book is full of understated sonic gems like ‘a kickball straight into pink lilac.’ In ‘Chemo Side Effects: Memory,’ after describing ‘groping in the thicket’ for ‘the word I want . . . scrabbling like a squirrel on the oak’s far side,’ she tells us ‘I could always pull the gift / from the lucky-dip barrel; scoop the right jewel / from my dragon’s trove. . . .’ We of course already know this. It’s evident in every one of these poems.”—Jacqueline Osherow

 
Praise for Fielder’s Choice
“Partridge is a technical wizard for whom thinking and feeling are not separate activities. She is a hawk-like observer of the particular . . . many times ascending to pitch-perfect verse.”—Ken Babstock, Globe and Mail (Canada)
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
In their ample, embracing, nuanced appetite for sensory experience, [Partridge’s] poems achieve an ardent, compassionate and unsentimental vision.”

— Robert Pinsky

Washington Post - Robert Pinsky

“In their ample, embracing, nuanced appetite for sensory experience, [Partridge’s] poems achieve an ardent, compassionate and unsentimental vision.”
Stephen Burt

“Partridge’s impressive poems pursue a careful thinker’s yearning for abandon, a loyal friend and partner’s wish for change. Attentive to fact, to what she sees and knows, Partridge nonetheless makes space for what is wild, outside and within us—for the fears and the blanks of chemotherapy, for sharp variations within (and without) frames of metre and rhyme, and for the welcome consistencies of married love. She has learned detail-work, and patience, from Elizabeth Bishop, but she has made other virtues her own: riffs on familiar phrases open startling vistas and even her love poems get attractively practical. Hers is a welcome invitation: let’s listen in.”
Jacqueline Osherow

“Reading Chameleon Hours, I find myself marveling at the luck of each heron, mosquito, field of Queen Anne’s Lace, each person, place, thing or circumstance in this beautiful book, to have Elise Partridge’s exquisite and precise attention. And how lucky we are to get to listen in as she offers each of them her flawless ear; the book is full of understated sonic gems like ‘a kickball straight into pink lilac.’ In ‘Chemo Side Effects: Memory,’ after describing ‘groping in the thicket’ for ‘the word I want . . . scrabbling like a squirrel on the oak’s far side,’ she tells us ‘I could always pull the gift / from the lucky-dip barrel; scoop the right jewel / from my dragon’s trove. . . .’ We of course already know this. It’s evident in every one of these poems.”
Rosanna Warren

“Elise Partridge is a poet of brilliant precisions. Each line presents a new, glinting angle of thought. Whether she’s contemplating relics of World War II, or a mosquito struggling in a spider web like ‘a fast-forward Rockette,’ or shirts spinning in a dryer, their arms flailing, Partridge’s coolly surprising intelligence rediscovers the worlds she remakes in words. These poems—good, tangy and chunky on the tongue—somehow reflect life’s plenitude while maintaining their own spareness and balance. The result is an art of eerie compassion and an almost hyper-realist perception of the small, like the snail seen rippling and gliding its way across a paved road: ‘Bow sprit-antennae plunge, rise:/ safety’s ten lifetimes ahead.’”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226647920
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2008
  • Series: Phoenix Poets Series Series
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Elise Partridge is a teacher and editor.  She is the author of Fielder’s Choice.
 
 

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Table of Contents

Everglades 3

Two Scenes from Philadelphia 4

Phoenixville Farm 6

1959 8

Group Portrait 9

The Artists' House 11

In the Barn 13

Thirteen 14

Two Monuments 15

First Death 16

Miss Peters 18

Mia's House 19

Supermarket Scanner 21

Temp 23

For a Father 25

Elegy 26

The Secret House 27

Caught 29

One Calvinist's God 30

Plague 31

Gnomic Verses from the Anglo-Saxon 35

Four Lectures by Robert Lowell, 1977 36

Sisyphus: The Sequel 40

Philosophical Arguments 42

Depends on the Angle 44

Insights 45

As I Was Saying 47

Arcadia 48

Rural Route 49

Dislocations 50

Song: The Messenger 52

The Book of Steve 53

August 58

Buying the Farm 59

Cancer Surgery 63

Prognosis: 50-50 64

A Valediction 65

Room 238: Old Woman and Hummingbird 67

Chemo Side Effects: Memory 68

Chemo Side Effects: Vision 70

Childless 72

Forty-Eight Years 73

Granted a Stay 75

First Days Back at Work 76

Chameleon Hours 77

Ways of Going 78

Farewell Desires 80

Home Is the Sailor 83

For Jenny 84

The Runt Lily 85

Since I Last Saw You 86

World War II Watchtower 91

Crux 92

Pauper, Boston, 1988 94

Vuillard Interior 96

Where Your Treasure Is 97

US Post Office, December 22 98

Two Cowboys 100

Ruin 101

Heron, Tampa 104

Tested 106

Epitaph for Diane 108

Edwin Partridge 109

Snail Halfway Across the Road 110

From Feste's Self-Help Book 112

Unknown Artists 114

Phoenix 116

Snapshots of Our Afterlife 117

Small Vessel 118

Notes 119

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