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Late Wife: Poems by Claudia Emerson

Late Wife: Poems

by Claudia Emerson

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read 2014, poetry
  gaeta1 | Dec 29, 2014 |
I loved this intense poems of daily life, which over the course of the collection, tells the story of a marriage that disintegrates. The poet sees her replacement in mirrors, and eventually replaces a "late wife" of another man. Beautiful language, strong images, I turned down many pages with favorite poems. ( )
  Lcwilson45 | Feb 12, 2011 |
(Claudia is a former professor of mine, so be warned – this is a totally, 100% biased review.)

I read this book shortly after the end of a very bad relationship and at the very beginning of wonderful but risky one. Now, clearly, the life events described in the book are much more weighty than mine were – I had no marriage, no divorce, no death - but the fears, the anxieties, the atmosphere... oh, I knew them well. And these poems gave me comfort at a point when nothing else really could. Maybe that's not the best standard for analyzing poetry, but it works for me, for this book. ( )
  rmariem | Oct 22, 2009 |
2006 Pulitzer Pirze for Poetry
  rbarber | May 20, 2007 |
There's a long running joke that any book can be summed up in one sentence. The example that seems to get the most laughs is a college professor summing up The Illiad as "guy comes home from work." It's glib and cute, but the point is that the essence of most books will fit into a single sentence.

Late Wife would go something like: woman divorces, splits, remarries, feels awkward. When it was first described to me it sounded like it was going to be melodramatic and angsty. The subject matter itself could easily pull most well written books into a category where the narrator's plights seem laughable-- like their too much. The reason this book is getting so much attention is because Claudia Emerson never loses her audience. The poems are incredibly mature without being stolid. They're lyrical without being meaningless. This book is perfectly balanced, and the product is beautiful.

The divorce epistles work together to form a great series of poems, as well as standing alone. In a volume of poetry it's incredibly difficult to provide a convincing narrative. The poet takes on the task of the poet and the novel writer, only that the novel writer has the luxury of pacing. Each poem in a book like this needs to stand alone-- the same can't be said for a novel. Late Wife does it, and it does it well.

The hype over this book is well deserved. Late Wife manages to be so many things at once-- even handed, detached, sensitive, nostalgic, bitter, narrative, lyrical, and it tells a story. Late Wife is everything a collection of poetry should be. Late Wife has set the bar, hopefully other poets will follow Emerson's example and produce collections with enough thought behind them to tell a story, to move an audience regardless of the reader's own background, to use their collections for something outside of showcasing a couple of great poems buffered by a bunch of mediocre ones. ( )
1 vote misirlou | Sep 22, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807130842, Paperback)

Winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In Late Wife, a woman explores her disappearance from one life and reappearance in another as she addresses her former husband, herself, and her new husband in a series of epistolary poems. Though not satisfied in her first marriage, she laments vanishing from the life she and her husband shared for years. She then describes the unexpected joys of solitude during her recovery and emotional convalescence. Finally, in a sequence of sonnets, she speaks to her new husband, whose first wife died from lung cancer. The poems highlight how the speaker's rebeginning in this relationship has come about in part because of two couples' respective losses.

The most personal of Claudia Emerson's poetry collections, Late Wife is both an elegy and a celebration of a rich present informed by a complex past.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:16 -0400)

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