"Gossips," the second section, is a shorter sequence narrated by women as they talk about other women in a variety of isolations; these poems, told from the outside looking in, highlight a speculative voicing of all the gossips cannot know. In "Early Lessons," the third section, children narrate as they also observe similarly solitary women, the children's innocence allowing them to see in farther than the gossips can. The fourth section offers studies of women and men in situations in which gender, with all of its complexities, figures powerfully.
The follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning collection Late Wife, Figure Studies upholds Emerson's place among contemporary poetry's elite.The Mannequin above Main Street MotorsWhen the only ladies' dress shop closed, she was left on the street for trash, unsalvageable, one arm missing, lost at the shoulder, one leg at the hip. But she was wearing a blue-sequined negligee and blonde wig, so they helped themselves to her on a lark--drunken impulse--and for years kept her leaning in a corner, beside an attic window, rendered invisible. The dusk was also perpetual in the garage below,punctuated only by bare bulbs hung close over the engines. An oily grime coated the walls, and a decade of calendars promoted stock-car drivers, women in dated swimsuits, even their bodies out of fashion. Radio distorted there; cigarette smoke moaned, the pedal steel conceding to that place a greater, echoing sorrow. So, lame, forgotten prank, she remained,back turned forever to the dark storagebehind her, gaze leveled just above anyone's who could have looked up to mistake in the cast of her face fresh longing--her expression still reluctant figure for it.
Claudia Emerson published six poetry collections with LSU Press, including Late Wife, Secure the Shadow, and The Opposite House. A professor of English and member of the creative writing faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Emerson served as the poet laureate of Virginia and won numerous awards for teaching and writing—including the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry—before her death in 2014.
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