Watch the Cortland Review’s Poets in Person with Claudia Emerson and her husband, musician Kent Ippolito, for a delightful introduction to one of our 2014 Festival Poets.
The tour of her home is, in many ways, a brief tour of the sensibility behind her poems. Pointing out an antique roll-top desk her mother used as a child and her father’s boyhood pencil box she says, “As you can see, we like old things.”
This sense of the history alive in old objects and places is present in much of Emerson’s work, particularly in earlier books like Pharoah, Pharoah and Pinion: An Elegy. In those collections, she took on personas to tell stories of loss deeply rooted in a sense of a particular place. More recently, this sense of history has become more personal. Like her mother’s desk and father’s pencil box, the objects she explores in poems like “Artifact” and “Daybook” unfold deep, often intimate connections.
Emerson herself comments on how surprised she is by the personal nature of these poems. We often expect younger poets to start out writing autobiographically and become more objective as they mature. But Emerson, like Henri Cole and Stanley Kunitz among others, is one of those poets whose work has become more intimate over time. These newer poems are all the more powerful for the long apprenticeship to craft that preceded them.
Emerson seems equally surprised that she became a poet at all, having expected to be a writer of fiction. But the reader of her poems is not surprised by this. “Pitching Horseshoes” is only one example of her clear narrative voice and gifts as a natural storyteller.
Add to this her love of music, which informs the structure of her every line, and you have a good sense of her approach to her work which, like her yard, welcomes all kinds of creatures from the natural world, including animals, birds, insects, plants and humans, too. This is not to suggest that these are comfortable or easy poems. The beloved old object often carries a story of profound loss, and increased intimacy means we may be touched in ways we had not expected.
Claudia Emerson and Kent Ippolito will be performing together during an exploration of poetry and song at the 2014 Dodge Festival.
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For more information on the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival and Program,
visit our website dodgepoetry.org