blackbirdonline journalSpring 2019  Vol. 18 No. 1

Introduction & Table of Contents

spacerspacer Claudia Emerson
   Face Blindness
   Single Shot

Lena Moses-Schmitt
   Reading Claudia Emerson’s “Eschatologies”

Photos & Commentary by Kent Ippolito

  A link to Blackbird’s “Claudia Emerson Reading Loop” menu appears at the bottom of every page of related content. You may also return to this menu at any time by visiting Features. 

Welcome to the Claudia Emerson Reading Loop, materials gathered to recognize the life, work, and mentorship of Claudia Emerson. Here, Blackbird seeks to support her legacy through her poetry and other related content.

This particular loop calls attention to three previously unpublished poems by Emerson. “Face Blindness” and “Single Shot” appear in Poetry. “Eschatologies” appears in Lena Moses-Schmitt’s short essay about reading the poem.

All three poems exhibit Emerson’s particular gift for intense focus and observation—on how she uses apparently minor details of a scene (basil bolting while she’s away, a chicken nesting in the back of a piano) to tether you to her poem, to wall you into her territory, to, so very subtly, command your attention.

“Face Blindness” and “Single Shot” both recall Emerson’s adeptness at pressing her family and her small hometown into poetic service. The poems are rooted in anecdote, and the tone in which the stories are presented is thoughtful, nonthreatening. Yet, in their last thirds, the poems expand, and an entire universe walks as purposefully into the poems as a rabid skunk walks into a yard.

In her reading of “Eschatologies,” Moses-Schmitt sets her sights more on how Emerson built a poem, concentrating on how in many of her late poems she “uses short unpunctuated lines and white space within those lines—a style notably different from the rest of her work—introducing both ambiguity and the sort of liminal space often induced by illness.”

The essay is part reading and part personal remembrance, as Moses-Schmitt was Emerson’s student at both University of Mary Washington and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Emerson, she says

lends me the opportunity to give the same thoughtful and careful consideration to a line or image that she in turn used to give to the world. It is a forced way of being present, of being alive. This is the gift Claudia has left us.

Photographs of Claudia Emerson and members of her family are provided by Kent Ippolito.

Please continue to take pleasure in, and be inspired by, Claudia Emerson’s poetry and the work of countless others she influenced, taught, or mentored.  end