Friday, June 19, 2015

Claudia Emerson

Claudia Emerson
The University of Mary Washington
(my alma mater)

Isn't that a great smile? I was prompted to share a poem by Pulitzer-prizewinner Claudia Emerson today by my older daughter, who was reading Late Wife and said, "Listen to her description of a turtle!" ("All is defense: the mud-covered shell, the ragged blade of the mouth, /the head thicker than your clenched fist.") I am sad to say that Ms. Emerson died last year at the age of 57.

Great Depression Story
by Claudia Emerson

Sometimes the season changed in the telling,
sometimes the state, but it was always during

the Depression, and he was alone in the boxcar,
the train stalled beneath a sky wider

than any he'd seen so far, the fields of grass
wider than the sky. He'd been curious

to see if things were as bad somewhere else
as they were at home. They were—and worse,

he said, places with no trees, no water.
He hadn't eaten all day, all week, his hunger

hard-fixed, doubled, gleaming as the rails. A lone
house broke the sharp horizon, the train dreaming

beneath him, so he climbed down, walked out,
the grass parting at his knees. The windows

were open, curtainless, and the screendoor,
unlatched, moved to open, too, when he knocked.

read the rest here


Two more:

Spring Ice Storm
Animal Funerals, 1964


Mary Lee at A Year of Reading has the Poetry Friday round-up. We are on the road today, but I look forward to catching up with the round-up over the weekend.


jama said...

Thanks for the introduction to Claudia Emerson -- yes, a beautiful smile, and sorry to hear she passed away last year.

Enjoyed her poem, what a vivid description, a haunting incident. You can feel the desolation of the times.

Bridget Magee said...

This poem leaves an impression of what Depression was for so many. Hunger that was "gleaming as the rails" - Wow! Thanks you for sharing Emerson's poetry today, Tabatha.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

My favorite of these is Animal Funerals. What a way she had with weaving details into something extraordinary.

Margaret Simon said...

I have this book. What a treasure! I am moved now to find it and read it again for the first time. This is how it is with poetry.

Carol said...

I read this poem and wondered who the "he" was. Was it biographical? I imagined myself coming back to the kitchen and looking for the pot. ls that weird? And then I read "Ice Storms" and wondered at that one too. I didn't know Claudia Emerson's work and now I want to find out more. Thanks for this introduction to her.

Diane Mayr said...

Such a loss. Dead at 57. Fortunately she left these beauties behind so we can ponder our own mortality. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Lee said...

What a distinct voice, taken from us so early, but, thankfully, not lost.

Keri said...

She sets each scene so vividly!! I've added 2 books to my wish list -- tell me if you have a preference of any of her works over another! What a treat these all are, though haunting.

Becky Shillington said...

These are great, Tabatha. I especially liked "Animal Funerals." Emerson had such an amazing voice!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Again, Tabatha, a great find. I really enjoyed the extremely close focus of these poems, in "fields wider than the sky." She does something fascinating with perspective.

Donna Smith said...

Now I have to read the other two poems and maybe more. The "Great Depression Story" left me wondering what the woman was going to do now. He'd left her in the state he was in. But, sadly, that is how it gets to be when in great desperation/depression, I guess.
I loved the descriptions, and could feel the hunger.