I've only read this book once, which isn't really enough for most poetry - or for these poems - but the fleeting impression of something deeply wrong, something radiantly right, something lost but always retained leads me to write about it now. This book haunts you the way an old love affair, a failed marriage, or a missed opportunity lingers in your mind after the second cup of coffee. I read these poems in a parking lot waiting for someone to return, in an airport waiting for a loved one to arrive, and in bed when I couldn't fall asleep. Claudia Emerson was there with me - or actually it felt like she had been there before and I heard her echo, felt her departed presence. The language of the poems felt intentional, concrete, full of meaning and suggestion. The poems tingle, poised between death and renewal, loss and discovery, and that owes something to the language. I haven't lived with them long enough to know how they work, but this is a group of poems worth the time.
Wow-- an incredible book2006/5/31
Timeless poems that reveal, through domestic detail, the complexities of the heart. I am so glad this book won the pulitzer. Deeply heartfelt, yet complicated and brave enough to resist declining into the sentimental. I can think of no recent book that writes of the shadowy emotions of loss and hope as this.
Needs a second readthrough...2006/8/7
Chris A. Humston
This is the first Clauidia Emerson book I've read and it makes me want to read her others. I have to admit though, that on my first reading, I thought, "Big whoop." But after sitting and really digesting it, it started to win me over. She has the great poetic ability to capture, with candid detail, those rare emotional moments we have in life, like: divorce, death, lost love, fear of being lonely, etc.
There's no questioning her poetic skill. She uses all the tools and uses them well. But I think what turned me off initially was her ryhme scheme and use of white space. Sometimes her ryhming is too thick and noticeable, which gets in the way of what she is trying to convey. Also, many of her poems are long and structured using tercets (3 line stanzas). After reading five or six poems that look the same, you begin to grow weary and lose interest. Other than those considerations, "Late Wife" is an excellent collection. I am looking forward to her next piece of work.
Favorite poems and quotes from "Late Wife":
1. The Autobon Collection- "There will always be/such things I regret knowing."
2. House-Sitting- "Evenings/I lit candles as though for guests/and danced with my own vanishing/as the prisms moved in the draft/my body made of the stillness."
3. Rent- "But I imagine the walls still disappear inside/themselves, vacant forms, and the house grows/lighter, a deceitful ruin that lingers, rising//longer than it should above you and the fertile/hunger that will, with enough time, consume it-/before going on to another survival."
One of my best reads of the year2008/7/19
Claudia Emerson, Late Wife (Louisiana State University Press, 2005)
I've had very little patience with review-writing for the past six weeks or so, and thus I let this review go unconscionably long (I finished the book on April 30th and am writing this on June 10th). Thus, I've forgotten most of the phrases I was turning over in my mind. I do know, however, they all involved heaping a great deal of praise on Late Wife, Claudia Emerson's most recent book and the winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. I often find myself wondering what the judges were thinking giving the prize to book X instead of book Y; not in this case. The details may be a little fuzzy in my head this far after the fact, but the book itself is pure gold, that much I remember. Emerson has a wonderful eye for detail and that all-too-rare quality in a poet of not letting the story get in the way of the description:
"I'd run that course/so many times I imagined myself/a goat encircling an invisible stake//of the baseball diamond's off-season/desolation, scoreboard blank before/the lightening sky." ("The Practice Cage")
That, right there, is some language, folks. This is a book you want to read. Likely to be on my ten best reads of the year list. **** ½
GOod for a non poetry reading person2006/7/14
Jimbo in Virginia
I almost exclusively read nonfiction, but saw this author on tv after winning a pulitzer. I decided to give it a try, and find her poetry to be very moving.