A poet in search of “home”
Retired English professor Elizabeth Greene’s second book of poetry, Moving (Inanna Publications, $18.95), is full of elegantly elucidated gems. Beginning with her childhood home in New York, and continuing throughout the travels and moves of her adult life, she tells through her poems, the stories of her emotional, spiritual, and physical quest to find “home.”
Greene moved to Canada in 1965 to do graduate work at the University of Toronto and arrived at Queen’s in 1969. Over the course of her academic career she taught a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses from Anglo-Saxon to Contemporary Women Writers.
Uxbridge, Ontario, writer-editor Hollay Ghadery, Artsci’04, a former student, describes Dr. Greene as “One of the most powerful influences in my life.” Hollay adds, “Her enthusiasm about the material was contagious. All of her students loved her. She always had time for us, during her office hours or even at her house, where she’d invite us for salon-like evenings.”
A founding member of Women’s Studies at Queen’s, Greene was also instrumental in establishing courses in Creative Writing. During her years at Queen’s she was highly involved with the Ban Righ Centre, and she chaired the Ban Righ Board for the thirtieth anniversary celebrations.
Over the years Greene has seen her poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction published in numerous journals including The Queen’s Feminist Review, the Antigonish Review, Quarry, and First Writes. Her first book of poetry, The Iron Shoes (Hidden Brook Press) was published in 2007. She has also edited several books and is the recipient of the Betty and Morris Aaron Prize (Jewish Book Awards) for We Who Can Fly: Poems, Essays and Memories in Honour of Adele Wiseman (Cormorant, 1997).
Asked if she feels that there is a poetry renaissance underway nowadays, Greene says she is too close to the subject matter to know for sure. “Poetry does not translate into cash, and people may long for that. Poetry is about the inner life.” She says, adding, “Poetry at its best, can be a very bright condensed moment”.
There are many of those moments in her own work. Moving is full of references to literature, spirituality, tarot, exotic travel, mythological figures and goddesses, but Greene is at her best when she discloses with nearly heartbreaking honesty the mundane minutiae of daily life. In the poem “Thresholds”, she writes, “I began in certainty, grew towards mystery.” And in “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Searcher”, she sums with, “That nothingness: yes, it’s something. Makes my mind spin. I’m still searching. After sixty years, a little less lonely."
What’s next for Elizabeth? “More poetry” she says, with poetic simplicity.