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Poet's Choice

By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page BW12

Here are two poems that create a feeling like sympathy, through the method of observation. One is by the 19th-century poet John Clare, who was a self-educated, impoverished farm worker. The other is by Elise Partridge, a young American poet living in Canada, whose first book, Fielder's Choice, is published by the Canadian press Signal Editions. Partridge first:


One wing-tip was stuck to one silk thread.

He ran his six legs through thin air

like a cartoon character,


his abdomen to his jerking head.

But the shivering web wouldn't give way.

It had been spun in a couple of hours,

wired casually to a flower.

The fly

writhed above the vetch for half a day.

The spinner was nowhere to be found.

A woodchuck had ripped the web at dawn,

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