Despite never having met her, I’ll always remember Evangeline Paterson with gratitude – she gave me my first decent magazine credits as editor of Other Poetry several years ago, backing my work every time I sent her off a batch. That encouragement was crucial to me at the time.
I chased down a copy of her New and Selected, titled Lucifer, with Angels and published by Dedalus (1994), enjoyed her poetry and desperately hoped she saw something of herself in my own incipient voice.
Perhaps the dispiriting part of this story is that news of her death reached me as I was immersed in her book, wondering how such talent had been sidelined by the contemporary poetry scene. Evangeline wrote clearly, imparting music and life to specific examples of universal issues. She was an excellent storyteller, squeezing her tales into concise verse, an undervalued attribute. Her self-effacing wit stood out, as in the ending to “A Wish For My Children”:
“and may you grow strong
all webs of my weaving.”
Any educated reader not used to poetry could engage with her work immediately, which is an acid test that I ask any poet to pass. Evangeline Paterson deserves a wider readership now, just as she did during her lifetime. If you can get hold of her poetry, I thoroughly recommend it.
Maybe this is where it all started, the business of islands and their stories, and, eventually, by circuitous routes to the revisionist histories of writer...