Oklahoma City University | Claudia Emerson | 2012 Featured Poet Skip to content

Claudia Emerson | 2012 Featured Poet

Poet will be on campus for Workshop/Poetry Reading on Wednesday, April 04, 2012.


Born and raised in Virginia, Claudia Emerson won the won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her collection Late Wife. Her other volumes of poetry include Pharaoh, Pharaoh (1997), Pinion: An Elegy (2002), and Figure Studies: Poems (2008). Her honors include two additional Pulitzer Prize nominations as well as fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She was poet laureate of Virginia from 2008-2010.

She earned her BA from the University of Virginia and her MFA at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was poetry editor for The Greensboro Review. She is a Professor of English at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Of the collection Late Wife (2005), poet Deborah Pope observes, “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.” In this collection, 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.

Her three other collections are rich too. Pharaoh, Pharaoh is a meditation on time, memory, inheritance, and the irony of loss—loss of one’s land, of one’s past, of love itself. In Pinion: An Elegy, Emerson employs the voices of two family members on a small southern farm to examine the universal complexities of place, generation, memory, and identity. Figure Studies upholds Emerson's place among contemporary poetry's elite through offering studies of women and men in situations in which gender, with all of its complexities, figures powerfully.

Poet Mark Jarman observes that Emerson’s poetry is steeped in the Southern narrative tradition of William Faulkner: “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.”

Join us for one of our country’s most talented poets and one of its most eloquent communicators. Emerson will be on campus to read some of her poems, talk about her writing process, and respond to questions at a 10:00 AM session on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. She will read her poetry at an 8:00 PM session. Both will be in the Kerr McGee Auditorium of the Meinders School of Business, at NW 27th Street and McKinley. Both sessions are free and open to the public for those who arrive first. Full Circle Bookstore will be at the events selling Emerson’s books, and she will sign books after both sessions. An Open-Mic Poetry Reading will be held in the Kerr McGee Auditorium from 6:15 PM to 7:30 PM.

Please plan to be at Oklahoma City University for the Fourteenth Annual Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series on April 4, 2012: Conversations with Claudia Emerson. The Center for Interpersonal Studies will collaborate with the Petree College of Arts and Sciences, the OCU English Department, The Oklahoma Humanities Council, The Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English, the Oklahoma Arts Institute and Full Circle Bookstore to make these events possible.

Back to all blog
Back to Top