emerson

Claudia Emerson

Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • An Evening with Claudia Emerson


“Like the estranged lover in one of her poems who pitches horseshoes in the dark with preternatural precision, so Emerson sends her words into a different kind of darkness with steely exactness, their arc of perception over and over striking true.”-Deborah Pope

Claudia Emerson received the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her book Late Wife: Poems (LSU Press, 2005). Secure the Shadow, her newest collection, was published in 2012. She is also the author of Figure Studies: Poems, Pinion: An Elegy, and Pharaoh, Pharaoh; all volumes are published in Dave Smith’s Southern Messenger Poets series. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Southern Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, New England Review, and other journals.

Emerson is the recipient of a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. She was the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2008-2010.

She is professor of English in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA.

Claudia Emerson’s website


Claudia Emerson is the author of several collections of poetry, including Secure the Shadow, Figure Studies: Poems, Late Wife: Poems, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2006. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Southern Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, and New England Review, and she is the recipient of a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.


SECURE THE SHADOW (2012)
Daringly realistic and artfully mediated by past and present, Claudia Emerson’s Secure the Shadow contains historical pieces as well as poems centering on the deaths of the poet’s brother and father. Emerson covers all aspects of the tragedies that, as Keats believed, contribute to our human collective of soul-making, in which each death accrues into an immortal web of ongoing love and meaning for the living. Emerson’s unwavering gaze shows that loss cannot be eluded, but can be embraced in elegies as devastating as they are beautiful.

LATE WIFE (2005)

“Claudia Emerson’s Late Wife tells the story of love lost and redeemed. Her poetry explores the way we attach meaning to things without us and connect them with our inner lives. In her hands heartbreak and healing turn as tangible as the material world she observes with such love and such precision.”-Mark Jarman

In the Pulitzer Prize winning book, Late Wife, a woman explores her disappearance from one life and reappearance in another as she addresses her former husband, herself, and her new husband in a series of epistolary poems. Though not satisfied in her first marriage, she laments vanishing from the life she and her husband shared for years. She then describes the unexpected joys of solitude during her recovery and emotional convalescence. Finally, in a sequence of sonnets, she speaks to her new husband, whose first wife died from lung cancer. The poems highlight how the speaker’s rebeginning in this relationship has come about in part because of two couples’ respective losses. The most personal of Claudia Emerson’s poetry collections, Late Wife is both an elegy and a celebration of a rich present informed by a complex past.


BIOLOGY LESSON

It seems impossible that there could be
any anscestral link between the turtle-

plodding, benevolent creature they keep
in a glass terrairium-and any bird,

but once the teacher suggests it, they begin to see-
in the blunt beak stained with mulberry juice,

the low brow, the scales on its legs-certain,
if, at first, strained resemblance. Then, even

in its poor posture, they are convinced of another
sky into which it withdraws, not to become

invisible, but to soar, fearless, inside
itself-small dome of safe, starless heaven.

-from Figure Studies

ARTIFACT

For three years you lived in your house
just as it was before she died: your wedding
portrait on the mantel, her clothes hanging
in the closet, her hair still in the brush.
You have told me you gave it all away
then, sold the house, keeping only the confirmation
cross she wore, her name in cursive chased
on the gold underside, your ring in the same

box, those photographs you still avoid,
and the quilt you spread on your borrowed bed-
small things. Months after we met, you told me she had
made it, after we had slept already beneath its loft
and thinning, raveled pattern, as though beneath
her shadow, moving with us, that dark, that soft.

-from Late Wife

Content for the tab Interviews & Articles