This week, we explore the poetry of Claudia Emerson (1957-2014). Emerson served as the 2008-2010 Poet Laureate of Virginia, and won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her volume Late Wife in 2005 with two subsequent nominations. Emerson earned fellowships from the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Virginia Commission of the Arts.

Emerson, a native of Chatham, Virginia, was educated at the University of North Carolina but returned to Virginia to share her gifts at Washington and Lee University, Randolph College, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Commonwealth University. A four time finalist in the Virginia Literary Awards and the 2007 Carole Weinstein Prize in Poetry winner, Emerson’s posthumously published Claude, Before Space and Time is a 2019 Winner of the Virginia Literary Award. Get to know Claudia in this 2012 video in which she shared about her writing life.

Claudia Emerson
Photo Courtesy of Claudia Emerson


Reading poetry is unlike reading any other type of work. To get the most out of your reading, visit PBS Newshour’s How to read a Poem.

Reprinted thanks to permission from Kent Ippolito.

Questions to ponder:

  • What feelings are evoked when you read this poem?
  • Have you ever had a teacher, a coach, a faith leader, a parent whose personal story was so compelling?
  • What do you now, as an adult, realize about your own perceptions of your teachers?
  • If you could, would you remedy your “boring mistake?”
  • If you were a teacher, what story would define you to your students?

Next week, in our last installment for National Poetry Month, we will explore the poetry of finalists Erika Meitner and Bob Hicok.

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