Claudia Emerson: Substitute Teacher, Rural Letter Carrier, Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet
Not a whole lot of jobs for poets these days. So Claudia Emerson, who didn't start writing seriously until she was 28, worked in other fields. She was a substitute teacher, a librarian, a rural mail carrier, and owner of a used books shop. These days, she is a poet and a teacher of poetry at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, and, as of Monday, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry.
She writes about love and loss in "Late Wife," the book that won her the prize. The poems in the book tell the story of the collapse of her marriage after 19 years, and of the new love that she found with a man who had lost his first wife to lung cancer.
Here's a poem from the book:
The Spanish Lover
There were warnings: he had, at forty, never
married; he was too close to his mother,
calling her by her given name, Manuela,
ah, Manuela -- like a lover; even her face
had bled, even the walls, giving birth to him;
she still had saved all of his baby teeth
except the one he had yet to lose, a small
eyetooth embedded, stubborn in the gum.
I would eat an artichoke down to its heart,
then feed the heart to him. It was enough
that he was not you -- and utterly foreign,
related to no one. So it was not love.
So it ended badly, but to some relief.
I was again alone in my bed, but not
invisible as I had been to you --
and I had learned that when I drank sherry
I was drinking a chalk-white landscape, a distant
poor soil; that such vines have to suffer; and that
champagne can be kept effervescent by putting
a knife in the open mouth of the bottle.
Check out that last bit, the sudden quotidian specificity, the shocking sexual imagery, the burst of humor and joy. Pretty cool stuff. Kids, think about that the next time you walk into class and face the horror of a substitute teacher.
By Marc Fisher |
April 19, 2006; 6:25 AM ET
Previous: From High Atop the Hay-Adams Hotel, the Glories of Washington | Next: Props to the Peeps Man
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Stick | April 19, 2006 10:38 AM
Posted by: BigBoi | April 19, 2006 12:25 PM
Posted by: Not an English Major . . | April 19, 2006 2:07 PM
Posted by: Late Bloomer | April 19, 2006 3:06 PM
Posted by: My take | April 19, 2006 6:45 PM
Posted by: Not an English Major . . | April 19, 2006 7:00 PM
Posted by: umw alum | April 20, 2006 9:02 AM
Posted by: Not an English Major . . | April 20, 2006 10:23 AM
Posted by: Gardner Campbell | May 5, 2006 6:30 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.