Now from beneath the days the hospital claimed,
her first, latent words emerge, faint but certain
as images of ribs, cradling milky lungs, the flesh forgotten
as water you can see through to the bottom. — from “Daybook”
Poet Claudia Emerson has died of cancer at age 57.
Emerson was the author of five volumes of poetry. A sixth book, The Opposite House, is forthcoming from Louisiana State University Press in 2015. She was a recipient of many honors, including two additional Pulitzer Prize nominations and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. From 2008-2010 she served as Poet Laureate of Virginia.
A Virginia native, Emerson was a graduate of the University of Virginia, as well as the MFA writing program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She taught for 15 years at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia until she joined the faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University last year. Emerson was also a singer/songwriter and performed often with her husband, musician Kent Ippolito.
About her most recent book Secure the Shadow, poet David Ribsbee wrote,”Something claimed “in the ear”—a phrase with a Rilkean echo—returns us to the fine way Emerson’s poems deliver fidelity and exactitude of detail, the image, often nested or interwoven, of things passing from one state to another. It is a hallmark of her work, and it has the feel of work, as if she were offering up something real to the unreal and uncanny situations that are the occasions of the strongest poems…”
Four of her poems are linked below, including three from Late Wife (2005), her Pulitzer-winning collection, and “Student Conference” from her most recent book, Secure the Shadow (2012).