About Elizabeth Bartlett
Elizabeth Bartlett (1924 - 2008) grew up in Deal, Kent. Her childhood was one of hardship and although she gained a grammar school scholarship she left education at fifteen. At nineteen she married and had one son. She worked for a long time in the health service, as a doctor's receptionist, and for the Home Care Service, an environment which provided her with material for some of her most moving poems. She published eight collections including in 1995 the acclaimed retrospective Two Women Dancing: New & Selected Poems which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.
Elizabeth Bartlett lived in the same house in West Sussex for fifty years and in her poem 'Painting of a Bedroom with Cats' she describes the room where she wrote throughout that time. It was a space where figures from the arts and history were as much living presences as the cats snoozing on the quilt, and in its hushed atmosphere and scrupulous observation the poem suggests a lifetime of dedication to poetry. Not that her poems have an air of seclusion: on the contrary they are fully engaged in life, her own and those of others. There are powerful poems borne out of the deprivations she suffered growing up, her experience of motherhood and marriage, and of the five years she spent in psychoanalysis. In particular, Bartlett has an affinity for the lost and lonely, like the hallucinating patient in 'The Visitors' or the man who embraces a sunflower in the absence of a woman. Throughout her work, there is a refusal to rely on the vision of others, expressed with defiance in poems like 'Art Class' in which the meddling teacher criticises the student's work because "it seems to have a life of its own." Moments of satire aside, the abiding impression is of a poet prepared to chronicle damaged and disregarded lives, of a "night-nurse of the soul" (John Mole, Encounter).
Bartlett reads her work in a measured way, allowing each word its weight, without being ponderous. Her voice shares the humane quality of her poetry, its steady gaze on a sometimes dismaying world.
Her recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 14 August 2001 at the poet's home in Sussex, UK and was produced by Richard Carrington.
Elizabeth Bartlett's Favourite Poetry Sayings:
"When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for its work, it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the ordinary man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary." - T. S. Eliot
"Between them, Eliot, Frost and Owen cleared the way for a new kind of poetry in which the material of modern life could find a voice commensurate with the speaking voice." - Peter Forbes
Mrs Perkins and Oedipus, Bloodaxe, 2005Buy
Appetites of Love, Bloodaxe, 2001Buy
Two Women Dancing: New and Selected Poems, Newcastle-...Buy
Look, No Face, Bradford, West Yorkshire, Redbeck Press,...Buy
Instead of a Mass, West Kirby, Wirral, Headland, 1991Buy
The Czar is Dead, Hungerford, Berkshire, Rivelin...
Strange Territory, Peterloo Poets, 1983 - out of print
A Lifetime of Dying, Liskeard, Cornwall, Peterloo Poets...
Elizabeth Bartlett Reading from her poems
1My Five Gentleman
2Painting of a Bedroom with Cats
4Disposing of Ashes
7Charlotte, Her Book
9To Tracy with Love
13Themes for Women
14The Limbo Line
15Notes for a Thesis on the Thirties
16The Winter Gardens
18The Harrods of Porth
19Deutschmarks and Lemon Trees
20Legends and Realities
22The Winter's Tale
25The Lace Maker
26The Beautiful Knees of the Visiting Lay Preacher
My short tour of the Poetry Archive is designed to show its range, as well as the strength-in-depth of its holdings...