Claudia Emerson

Early Elegy: Telephone Booth | Early Elegy: Cursive
March 14, 2013 Emerson Claudia

Early Elegy: Telephone Booth


Its remains: a plexiglass crypt robbed

of confession, apology, despair, its half

of all conversation now a narrow

column of strictest clarity, a coinless

reliquary where the receiver dangles

like an unwatched hook, and the phonebook

hangs from its chain—obedient

to the numbered gravity of names.



Early Elegy: Cursive


Children train instead the small muscles

in their hands to strike—uniform, precise—

preformed fonts of their choice. Frail evidence

of ornamental scripts (and cloven nibs, hairline

serifs), the signature, still required, survives,

though poorly executed, its likely demise

the scan of a single fingertip—loops, inkless

whorls—one, incorruptible exemplar.

Claudia Emerson received the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her book Late Wife: Poems (LSU Press, 2005). Secure the Shadow, her newest collection, was published in 2012. She is also the author of Figure Studies: Poems, Pinion: An Elegy, and Pharaoh, Pharaoh; all volumes are published in Dave Smith’s Southern Messenger Poets series. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Southern Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, New England Review, and other journals. Emerson is the recipient of a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. She was the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2008-2010. She is professor of English and Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia.