Elisavietta Ritchie’s poem “Sorting Laundry” appears in her books “Awaiting Permission to Land” and “Spirit of the Walrus.” Ritchie wrote “Sorting Laundry” while she was deciding whether to marry New York Times correspondent Clyde Farnsworth. The poem traces the course of the decision by asking what would be lost if the speaker’s lover leaves her.
Although not widely reviewed, “Sorting Laundry” is an accessible poem. Its controlling metaphor, the act of sorting laundry, serves to take inventory of a relationship in flux. The speaker is sorting both men’s and women’s clothes. Clearly the lover in question is a partner of long standing, as some of the clothing is well worn. Other items, like king-size sheets and gaudy towels, illustrate purchases made deliberately as a couple. A question hangs in the air: Do we gain more than we lose if we get married? The speaker’s answer is yes.
Born in 1932 to Russian immigrants, Ritchie lives in Maryland. She has read at the Library of Congress and the Folger Library in Washington, D.C. Her poetry has been translated into a dozen languages, and her work has been published in newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, National Geographic, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association and Kalliope. She teaches creative writing courses for adults and works as a poet-in-the-schools.