Distinguished Poet Claudia Emerson Dies

I'm not a poetry reader, in any regular sense of the word. If you look at my shelves, I have a small and not terribly surprising collection of old-school poets: Milton, Shelley, Donne, Plath, Dickinson. But right in the center, the heart if you will, of that shelf are three barely discernible little volumes by Claudia Emerson.

 

You see, Emerson was a professor at my college, the University of Mary Washington, and I picked up her books on a whim. I knew of her- what student at a small liberal arts college could not be aware that one of their professors was a Pulitzer Prize winner?- but I did not know her work as a reader back then. I'm so glad I found them on the school bookstore shelves; her poems are beautiful, in the least hackneyed use of that word possible. Small and light as the pinion one of her volumes are named for, they carry huge themes (the end of love, the renewal of life) in simple, spare verse.

 

I'm a little ashamed to admit I was too intimidated to try to get into any of her creative writing classes. That, and the admission was cutthroat- all the English majors wanted in. I didn't even have any inkling to be a writer back then, but I passed her class on the way to the many, many non-required English classes I stuffed into my art major schedule and I remember speaking to so many students that absolutely loved her. It's so very sad to know that she won't be there anymore.

 

(I discovered this news, and the article, thanks to Rita Mead of Bookriot and the Dear Book Nerd podcast)