Claudia Emerson

1957–2014
Claudia Emerson

Born and raised in Chatham, Virginia, Claudia Emerson studied writing at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Her poetry, steeped in the Southern Narrative tradition, bears the influences of Ellen Bryant Voigt, Betty Adcock, and William Faulkner. Of the collection Late Wife (2005), poet Deborah Pope observed, “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.”

Emerson’s volumes of poetry include Pharaoh, Pharaoh (1997); Pinion: An Elegy (2002); Late Wife (2005), which won the Pulitzer Prize; Figure Studies (2008); and Secure the Shadow (2012).

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. In 2008 she was appointed poet laureate of Virginia, a two-year role.

Emerson was poetry editor for the Greensboro Review and a contributing editor for Shenandoah. She taught at Washington and Lee University, Randolph-Macon Women’s College, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Commonwealth University. She died in 2014.

What People are Saying

"I learned just how much deeper your understanding of a poem is when you memorize it than when you just read it a couple of times, and how you understand it a little better every single time you recite it."
Alex Hanesworth
2015 WA POL Champion